After the first drive of the game, one may have wondered whether Missouri’s bye-week hangover had returned.
Troy moved down the field without much interruption, triggering memories of the last time the Tigers played a Group of Five team in Wyoming and of previous years in the Barry Odom tenure where MU had racked up a 0-5 record after an idle week.
For the rest of the first half, however, Missouri eliminated any doubt as to how it prepared the past two weeks, scoring six unanswered touchdowns to pull away from the Trojans for good.
Missouri decimated Troy 42-10 on Saturday afternoon in front of a poncho-filled crowd of 50,023 at Faurot Field.
The Tigers improve to 4-1 by winning their nonconference finale and will face Ole Miss next Saturday in the final contest of their five-game homestand. Troy falls to 2-3.
“Our kids are hungry to be better than we’ve been at any point,” Odom said. “We’re going to keep working to get there.”
To begin the game, the Trojans used 12 plays to drive 75 yards for a touchdown. Their next nine drives all had 15 yards of total offense or less. Seven drives ended with eight yards or less, and three ended in turnovers.
Offensively, the Tigers recorded 321 yards in the first half — 100 rushing yards and 221 through the air.
The Tigers’ last play of the first half — a 6-yard touchdown pass from Kelly Bryant to Jalen Knox — saw Bryant go down with an injury after being hit late on the back of his leg. Bryant needed a few minutes to get up off the turf, but he walked to the sideline under his own power.
Bryant was held out the rest of the game, but his status was not immediately clear. Odom said Bryant would be checked out later Saturday night, but the quarterback was in “good spirits” after exiting the game and indications from the team doctor “seemed like it was good news.”
"Kelly's an upbeat guy, he's never going to let anybody see him sweat,” MU offensive lineman Yasir Durant said. “I just got done talking to him. He's still smiling and laughing with me."
Tigers wide receiver Jonathan Nance, who caught a 64-yard touchdown from Bryant in the first quarter, said he didn’t see the play where Bryant was injured, but he made sure Bryant was OK.
Nance is Bryant’s roommate and committed to Missouri 10 minutes after him last December. If anyone on the team knows if Bryant is acting abnormal, it would be Nance.
Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said after the game he didn’t see the hit on Bryant but hoped for a quick recovery for the Clemson transfer.
Taylor Powell served as Bryant’s backup and played each Tigers’ offensive series in the second half. Odom said after the game that many starters were pulled for the third and fourth quarters because of not only the score, but his belief that the game could take a nasty turn.
"It starts with self-confidence at the quarterback position, I'm pretty confident in myself,” Powell said. “I'm ready to go. If coach needs me and team needs me, I'm ready to go.”
Eleven Missouri players caught a pass in the game, led by Kam Scott with five catches for 88 yards. Tauskie Dove also caught the first pass of his Tiger career in the fourth quarter.
Despite being viewed as arguably the best quarterback Missouri has faced this season, Troy’s Kaleb Barker mustered just 92 yards passing and was picked off twice — both times by Cale Garrett.
Garrett’s second interception was returned for a touchdown, tying the MU single-season record for defensive touchdowns in a season by a team (five) and individual (three, Erik McMillan in 1987).
"Cale, he's going to be an All-Pro for years to come,” Missouri defensive lineman Jordan Elliott said. “Anytime he's on the field, there's always good things happening."
Garrett’s touchdown also means that for the last four games, the Tigers defense has generated as many or more points than the opposing offense.
“This is a first for me, coming from a school that we were decent, but we never had a defense like this,” said Elliott, a Texas transfer. “It’s something new to me.”
At kickoff, Missouri announced defensive lineman Trajan Jeffcoat isn’t currently enrolled at the school and will not be with the program for the remainder of this season. There was no further explanation provided. Jeffcoat suffered an elbow injury early in fall camp and hadn’t played in a game this season. He saw action in all 13 games a year ago. Odom didn’t comment further postgame on Jeffcoat when asked.
Tigers senior defensive back and punt returner Richaud Floyd left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. He was seen on the sidelines during the second half standing with crutches. Odom also didn’t provide an update on Floyd’s status.