COLUMBIA — Missouri's football game against No. 12 Georgia has been postponed by the Southeastern Conference a day after the Tigers had one positive coronavirus test within the program.
The team's round of testing Tuesday revealed another positive test result, which changed the outlook of Saturday's game, as the team fell below the required number of scholarship defensive linemen due to contact tracing.
"We got a test result back," Eli Drinkwitz said Wednesday on the weekly media teleconference. "We got our test results from yesterday back, and it just continued to compound the same issue that we were facing. We were gonna do our dead level best, we tried yesterday, we went out there and practiced and tried to see if it was possible to make it work, and it just wasn't gonna happen."
Because of positive coronavirus tests and contact tracing in October at Vanderbilt, Missouri's game against the Commodores was rescheduled for Dec. 12. In a release, Missouri said the SEC was still evaluating using Dec. 19, the same day as the SEC Championship Game, as a make-up date for teams that did not win their division, and instructed fans to "hold onto both their Vanderbilt and UGA tickets at this time."
Drinkwitz said Tuesday contact tracing was still ongoing and was "significant", but was still optimistic the Tigers could play the Bulldogs. A second positive test from Tuesday's round of testing and the isolation protocols required by the SEC put Missouri below a position group cutoff established by the SEC, which includes at least one quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen on scholarship available at kickoff.
As a result of a fight at halftime of the Florida game on Halloween night, the Tigers had three players suspended for the first half of the Georgia game, including one player on both the offensive and defensive line, though Drinkwitz said Missouri's suspensions would not have impacted the team's ability to play Georgia. Because of opt-outs, injuries and an NCAA penalty on scholarships for this season, the Tigers have been sitting at 64 scholarship players, 11 above the SEC's 53-man minimum.
"We just got to the point where, for the sake of player safety and our threshold, you take your emotions out of it and say this is what everybody's deemed as being safe, and go from there," Drinkwitz said.
Because there have been two positive tests, and a position group in isolation is what postponed the game, Missouri will continue to practice this week. Players in isolation can still participate in team meetings via Zoom and receive individual workout plans from the training staff. Players who return a positive test must go through a four-day re-acclimation period after their 10-day isolation to ensure there are no lingering effects of the virus before they can fully participate in a practice or game.
Drinkwitz said the team would go through a meeting Wednesday to discuss next steps as well as practice, and would hold practice Friday and Saturday as well to prepare for whoever the next opponent is. Missouri is scheduled to play Nov. 21 at South Carolina, but the SEC could shuffle games around because four of the league's seven scheduled games this weekend have been postponed.
"We test every three days, and every three days you get a new set of problems or issues if they arise," Drinkwitz said when asked about playing the Gamecocks. "The plan is to do everything possible in order to play at South Carolina. That will be our goal and intention, but, to try to answer, I believe that would be 10 days out from right now, (which) I think with this pandemic is just too far of an unknown. But we will do everything in our power to play, and should have guys back in time to play."