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Missouri overcomes slow start in blowout of Wyoming

A surprising first quarter ended in just a 3-0 Tigers lead, but Missouri outscored the Cowboys 37-13 the rest of the way to take a dominating victory over Wyoming.

NCAA Football: Wyoming at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

At the halfway point of the second quarter, Missouri’s offense was struggling.

The Tigers had mustered just six first downs, as they could not capitalize on multiple drives that started in Wyoming territory. When they did, they couldn’t convert — kicker Tucker McCann was just 1-3 on field goal attempts while Missouri held a slim 3-0 over the Cowboys.

The ball was pinned inside the Tigers’ 10 with just over eight minutes to go, forcing quarterback Drew Lock to take the snap in the end zone. Lock took a snap from the shotgun, looked wide left, saw receiver Emanuel Hall running down the side line and tossed a 38-yard dime for a Missouri first down.

Lock took the game into his own hands five plays later, running through a hole and avoiding two defenders on a 12-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 10.

“It was a good drive. I think you wouldn’t have seen that from us last year starting off,” Lock said. “I think seeing us push the ball down the field and take some time off the clock, it’s what we spoke about our offense being in the summer. It’s just kind of coming to life now.”

The arm and legs Lock showcased on that drive awoke a dormant Missouri offense and the defense locked down Wyoming’s attack throughout the game en route to an impressive 40-13 rout of the Cowboys.

Missouri expected a better defense than the one it faced in Week 1, but nobody predicted the Tigers would struggle like they did in the first quarter.

The Tigers’ four full drives ended in a missed field goal, a punt, a made field goal and a fumble by tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. Lock had a few passes that could have (and probably should have) been picked off, three running backs combined for just 29 yards on the ground, and the offense as a whole was looking for a spark.

The defense, meanwhile, picked up the slack, with linebacker Terez Hall taking over almost immediately. The senior had four tackles and a quarterback hit in the quarter, and he forced a fumble on the Cowboys’ first drive of the game.

Defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. also put up two tackles for a loss, and the defense forced Wyoming into four punts in the next four drives after the fumble.

“Defensively, I thought they started exceptional,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “They did a lot of really good things creatively on third downs that gave us a chance to get off the field. I thought, for the most part, we were fairly assignment sound.”

The first half of the second quarter went by in pretty similar fashion. Both defenses tightened up, not allowing any more scoring until Lock’s run. The offense came alive after that, though, with Lock throwing for 172 more yards and adding 24 yards on the ground to give him 260 all-purpose yards in the half.

Okwuegbunam pulled in Lock’s first touchdown of the half, Emanuel Hall had 134 yards on 8 receptions, and the pass rush contributed to a shut out as the Tigers took a 16-0 lead to the locker room.

Missouri received the ball to start the third quarter, and it picked up right where it left off in the second.

Running back Damarea Crockett had 20 yards on four carries in the first drive of the half with running back Larry Rountree III adding 12 yards of his own, and Lock connected on a 28-yard pass to Emanuel Hall on the left side of the end zone to put the Tigers up 23-0.

Wyoming finally got on the board following a 51-yard field goal from Cooper Rothe, but Missouri answered back on its next drive with a 12-yard touchdown reception for tight end Kendall Blanton. A few penalties on the Tigers during the next Cowboys’ drive — including a targeting penalty on linebacker Brandon Lee that disqualified him for the rest of the game and the first half of Week 3 against Purdue — hurt Missouri, and Wyoming scored its first touchdown to bring the lead back down to 20.

By then, though, the Tigers had the game in hand.

Lock threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game to receiver Johnathon Johnson just two minutes into the fourth quarter and McCann added another field goal six minutes later to make it a 40-10 game. Missouri allowed just one more field goal in garbage time before running out the clock, and the Tigers come out of Week 2 with its second straight blowout win.

“This is how it’s supposed to be,” Terez Hall said. “This was how the plan was supposed to be. We’re on to the next week, we got Purdue. That’s a good team. They got after us last year. We got a chance to go down there in their house and keep doing what we’re doing.”