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Post-game: Five takeaways from Mizzou’s 34-14 win over South Carolina

Barry Odom’s defense looks like it’s turned the corner.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

You won’t see many more dominant performances from a defense than what we’ve seen from Missouri’s over the last three weeks.

Missouri’s run defense was absolutely gashed in the first game of the season against Wyoming. The Cowboys ran for 297 yards on 7.1 yards per carry. West Virgnina, SEMO and South Carolina combined to rush for 86 yards on 88 carries.

In fact, the Gamecocks’ 16 rushing yards were the fewest allowed by the Tigers in a game in nearly a decade.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Tigers also have 7 takeaways over the last three weeks, including two that directly resulted in touchdowns Saturday against South Carolina.

Oh, and remember when Missouri’s defense struggled to get off the field on third down? Not so much the last three weeks. In the Tigers’ three wins, their opponents have converted on just 12 of 50 third down attempts.

I wrote about this coming into the season - this is the first time Barry Odom truly has complete ownership over the defense. It didn’t look good in week one, but they’ve responded in a big way.

I really liked the way Kelly Bryant rebounded after his worst half in a Missouri uniform

Kelly Bryant’s stat line says he finished the first half completing 10 of 20 pass attempts for 120 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

It feels like that doesn’t really tell the story.

Bryant’s throws were erratic— he missed a handful of wide open receivers in a way you would expect to see if there were wind gusts of 60mph (or a monsoon last like season). We thought coming into the game there might be weather concerns, but they never materialized. So it wasn’t the weather. Bryant was just... off.

But he found a way to rebound, and some of the credit for that should go to Derek Dooley. Dooley seemed to switch up the game plan near the end of the first half.

Dooley got Bryant more involved in the running game and schemed some easy throws at or near the line of scrimmage to rebuild some confidence for his quarterback.

It worked.

Bryant completed 9 of 13 pass attempts for 107 yards and another touchdown in the second half. His accuracy returned, the offense became more efficient and the team was able to put away a much-needed victory.

Missouri’s offense has found one thing it can consistently lean on.

The more we see of this Missouri team, the more puzzling that loss at Wyoming becomes. The Tigers averaged just 2.7 yards per carry against the Cowboys. They followed that up with 232 yards on the ground against West Virginia, 259 yards on the ground last week against SEMO, and another 194 yards on the ground Saturday against South Carolina.

Yes, they did this against the same South Carolina team that held Alabama to just 76 rushing yards and just three yards per carry a week ago.

It was really encouraging to see Bryant get involved on the ground. He had just 26 rushing yards through the first three weeks of the season. He nearly tripled that with 77 yards on the ground against the Gamecocks.

The running game was expected to be a strength for Mizzou coming into the year. It didn’t materialize against Wyoming, but it’s returned to form ever since.

This game did nothing to change my opinion of this wacky Mizzou vs. South Carolina series.

There’s something new in this matchup every year. Something we’ve never seen before. This time around, it was one of the strangest first halves of football I’ve ever seen.

Ryan Hilinski was so lost that at one point he caught his own pass, and threw it backwards (?!?!) into the end zone only to watch Cale Garrett pick the ball up for a touchdown. I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.

Mizzou finished the first half out-gaining South Carolina 247 to 30, but only held a 17-7 lead. I didn’t recognize the teams we were watching. The quarterbacks were missing wide open targets. It was strange to watch.

It’s time for Mizzou fans to get back on board with this team.

It’s time to believe again. Missouri fans were understandably blindsided by the first game of the season against Wyoming. Nobody could have seen that coming.

But the team has proven in the three games since that this is still a good team that deserves your backing. No, they’re not perfect. But they have the chance to put together a pretty special season.

The game against South Carolina was the “prove-it” game for me. Sure, you can look good against West Virginia and SEMO. But what can you do against a quality opponent? Well, we just found out to the tune of a convincing 34-14 win at home.

The next two games are at home against two teams the Tigers should be expected to beat. The division (sans Georgia) looks every bit as vulnerable as we anticipated.

It all sets up for Mizzou to put together a season to remember. If things break right, this team could easily finish 10-2 or 9-3. Missouri’s only finished with a winning percentage better than a 9-3 season five times in the last 50 years (‘69, ‘07, ‘10, ‘13 & ‘14).

Don’t miss out on what could be a potentially special season because you wanted to see Mizzou ‘prove it’ until it was too late.

Come one, come all. It’s time to jump on the bandwagon.