Columbia dodged the worst of a storm that was brewing Saturday.
For any lightning strikes that didn’t happen in the city limits, the Tigers made up for it with an electric performance on the field. Barry Odom’s squad was a 26.5 point favorite over Troy and played like it.
“Our kids are hungry to be better than we’ve been at any point. We’re gonna keep working to get there,” Odom said.
Missouri’s defense limited Troy’s ground game through the first half holding the Trojans to 23 yards. But through the air, Troy caught the Tigers off guard. Quarterback Kaleb Barker slung it for 80 yards in the first quarter and a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Those seven points would be the only ones the Tigers gave up the entire first half.
When Kelly Bryant and his squad got the ball back for their second drive, they seemed to be more settled in. In ten plays the Tigers took it 85 yards and ended the drive with a Bryant rushing touchdown and a big smile out of the senior quarterback.
Short passes met with great downfield blocking was the story of the first quarter. Kam Scott and Jonathan Nance both took advantage of yards after the catch with 49 and 64 yard touchdowns, respectively. They gave the explosive power behind the Mizzou offense that both sides of the ball fed off.
Coach Odom was pleased with Bryant’s first half performance.
“I thought he played a little better than the previous time we were out there and he’s done that each week,” he said. “I think next week he’ll play a little better than he did this week.”
Odom said he doesn’t know if Bryant will make it back for Ole Miss but he hopes the quarterback is able to.
Up 21-7, the Tigers sat comfortably going into the second quarter when offensive dominance was a change of pace from the defensive performances displayed in previous weeks.
Memories of Cale Garrett interceptions were sure to be days of old, right? Not exactly, the senior captain let not just Tiger fans but the entire SEC know why he’s regarded as one of the best linebackers in the country.
With one hand bobbling the ball as he was twisting, Garrett picked off a Troy pass and took it back to the 1-yard line.
“His instinctual feeling of how to go play is off the charts,” Odom said. “He’s the heart and soul of our team.”
Bryant would find Okwuegbunam in the back right corner of the end zone for a toe tap beauty.
Garrett would then go back to back. The following drive, on the opposite sideline, Garrett found the ball again, this time jumping the route and taking it to the house with a group of blockers surrounding him. Garrett stuck the ball out in front of him, knowing a touchdown lay ahead as Memorial Stadium erupted.
The Tigers went up 35-7 off the spark of Garrett’s two interceptions.
When asked if the Tiger defense has any symbol for turnovers like Miami does with the turnover chain, Adam Sparks said he doesn’t exactly think they need one.
“Our symbol for turnovers is actually getting the ball.”
Missouri pieced together another offensive touchdown with the ball being evenly spread around.
Bryant found Jalen Knox for a six yard touchdown, but after the ball left Bryant’s hand, Troy defensive lineman Travis Sailo lunged at the quarterback’s legs. Bryant rolled over and stayed on the ground. After attention from the medical staff, Bryant limped off the field and made his way back to the locker room.
“I don’t have any injury updates at this point other than I know that Kelly is getting checked out now,” he said. “He was in great spirits and our doc seemed like it was good news but I don’t want to go there until I get it confirmed.”
The Tigers went into halftime with a commanding 42-7 lead.
Kelly Bryant did not return for the second half, and Taylor Powell took over at quarterback. Mizzou announced Bryant would not return for the game with a left leg injury. For this weekend, it wouldn’t matter. Missouri’s defense continued its strong performance in the second half. They only gave up an additional field goal to the Trojans in the third, but other than that appeared in control.
Powell and the offense didn’t put up any points in the second half. It was mainly a time to play the backups on both sides of the ball, and hope more than anything that Kelly Bryant’s injury will be minor.
Odom admitted that he pulled the starters in the second half not only to give everybody reps but because he also sensed how chippy the game was getting.
“I felt good,” Powell said about his performance. “I just kinda went out there and trust my preparation. Trust my reads and keys. Trust Coach Dooley’s calling. Just go out there and execute. It’s just football.”
Missouri walked away with a 42-10 win over the Trojans. The Tigers advance to 4-1 (1-0) to begin the middle stretch of the season. It was an all around dominant performance that was everything the Tigers needed. Missouri showed they can play well and do it consistently. Now, all that lies ahead is the remainder of the SEC schedule.
“Proud of the win, proud of the guys’ effort and the things that they did to put us into position to win a game,” Odom said. “And now we’re onto the next one.”