COLUMBIA — The Missouri football team was on a bye last week, but even with the open date to heal, self-reflect and address issues on offense, the Tigers may be without a crucial player.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant, who injured his hamstring in a 29-7 loss at Kentucky two weeks ago, put himself at "75 percent" Tuesday, as Missouri (5-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) prepares to play its third consecutive road game Saturday night at No. 6 Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC).
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.
Bryant pulled up near the end of a scramble in the first quarter and reached back to grab his right hamstring, but played into the third quarter.
Bryant was listed as the starter Tuesday's depth chart.
"If I'm going to play, I'm going to make sure I can do all the things I've done all year," Bryant said. "So if I can't, if I don't feel confident, I'm not going to put myself out there.
"Still gotta play it day-by-day, so I've still gotta talk to the doctors later this week, see what they say, and just go off how I feel later in the week," he added.
After six games in which Missouri's passing attack looked as good as ever in the last few years, the Tigers struggled against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the latter a rain-soaked game that made throwing and catching difficult. Bryant was 13-for-26 for 140 yards against the Commodores, with a passing touchdown but also a pivotal red zone interception.
At Kentucky, while clearly not 100 percent and in adverse conditions, Bryant was 10-of-19 for 130 yards, 74 of which came on a short screen Tyler Badie broke for a long touchdown. Without that play, he was 9-of-18 for 56 yards passing, averaging 3.11 yards per attempt.
The receiving corps was plagued by drops for both Bryant and Taylor Powell, who was 4-of-10 for 34 yards after Bryant exited the game.
It's been an up-and-down year for Bryant, who transferred to Missouri in January after sitting out Clemson's final 11 games to preserve a season of eligibility once he lost the starting quarterback job to Trevor Lawrence.
Bryant injured his left hamstring before the season after slipping on a practice field, and had his left knee buckled in a tackle during the Oct. 5 game against Troy that looked more serious than it ended up being.
Coach Barry Odom was asked Tuesday how confident he was Bryant would be the starter Saturday.
"I would say, sitting on Tuesday, I thought he did some things today much better than last week," Odom said. "I also know that the efficiency on how you can play that position and what it takes, if we played today he wouldn't be out there. We'll take it day to day.
"I think he is a fast healer, I've learned that, and I know he was anxious during practice today to do a lot more. So we kind of edged it on and had him do more than maybe I anticipated going into today, he'll do more tomorrow, and then we'll take it from there."
Powell will be asked to play, or even start, if Bryant is not fully healthy. This season, Powell is 11-of-26 for 108 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. Of that yardage total, 57 yards came in the second half against Troy.
Powell's most impressive drive against Kentucky was a 12-play, 62-yard drive in the third quarter that ended on downs at the Wildcat 17 after an incompletion on fourth-and-2.
"I've got great confidence in (Powell), and he's worked extremely hard, he's always prepared like he's going to be the starter," Odom said. "He's got the respect of his teammates, I know he'll go play really well, we need the guys around him to play well, and and he'll efficiently run the offense the way we need to.
"I talked to him today, just out on the practice field, 'You don't have to do anything special, OK? We need to efficiently move the ball and find ways, don't force a throw if it's not there, throw the checkdown if that's where we need to go, and more than anything, show the confidence that you've trained and you're ready to go.'"
The Tigers can help out whoever takes the snaps in two ways. First, cut down on penalties. Missouri had two holding penalties and two false starts, as well as an ineligible receiver downfield call against Kentucky, and a holding, two false starts and several unsportsmanlike or personal foul flags on offense against Vanderbilt.
The other way is to simply run the ball better, which is the biggest issue affecting the pass game as identified by the coaches.
"We don't have to run out there and run for 250 (yards)," Odom said of the run game. "That's not what I'm saying. We've got to be able to extend the drive and every third down can't come down to third-and-7, you got to complete a pass to go get it. If we get into third-and-short, then we're going to have an opportunity to get more of those conversions that we need to.
"But the run game also opens up the pass game for us. Play actions, moving the pocket, some of the boot and the naked, some of those things that have been really good for us. If you're not running the ball and you haven't established that, then they don't have any respect for it. So, got to find a way to run it."
Through its first two games of the season, Missouri averaged 199.5 rushing yards per game and 4.52 yards per carry. The games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky are two of the four worst games by average yards per carry the Tigers have had this season, at 3.83 and 3.68, respectively.
Saturday, Missouri will face the 11th-best rushing defense in the nation by yards per carry. Georgia allows 2.85 yards per carry, and is holding teams to less than 80 yards per game on the ground, and has yet to concede a rushing score.
Kentucky, which gained 160 yards on 35 carries, is the only team to average better than four yards per carry against the Bulldogs this season.