COLUMBIA — Missouri's offense scored 31 points against West Virginia last Saturday in 11 drives, and would have had 34 if not for a missed 37-yard field goal that went wide right.
The Tigers (1-1) scored a respectable 2.82 points per possession, and 4.43 points per scoring opportunity (drives that advance inside the opponent's 40), but all of those points came in the first half.
Missouri scored 5.17 points per possession and 6.2 points per scoring opportunity in the first half, settling just once for a 43-yard field goal after two straight incompletions, a drop by Albert Okwuegbunam on second-and-six from the Mountaineers' 19 and an incomplete pass to Johnathan Nance after Kelly Bryant was pressured.
Up 31 at the start of the second half, the Tigers were more conservative out of the break, running the ball more frequently and generally playing to protect that lead, which they did. Missouri also played its second-string offense for most of the second half, and Bryant went back to the locker room after he overheated late in the third quarter.
"It was just a weird feeling, just wanted to check and make sure everything was good," Bryant said Tuesday. "I really can't describe it, but everything checked out good, just making sure, mentally, and things, that I was great. It was one of those, not really sure what was going on, just wanted to take extra precaution."
"No," he added when asked if there was any concern of a concussion. "They just wanted to take me in, make sure I was good. So no, I was fine."
What was not fine, for Bryant and the rest of the offense, was the lack of second-half execution. It's something they want fixed for Saturday's 6:30 p.m. kick against Southeast Missouri State (1-1) at Faurot Field.
The Tigers gained 274 first-half yards on 50 plays, a 5.48 per-play average. The first-team offense gained 47 yards on 13 plays in the second half (3.62 average), and the second snap of the second half was a botched handoff between Bryant and Larry Rountree III. Rountree was officially given the fumble in the box score, but also fell on the ball to recover it.
"Got to get better," Bryant said. "Like I was saying, playing four complete quarters, better decision-making, giving my receivers chances, little things like that. And also, with my footwork in the run game, I felt like I was sloppy at times."
Missouri's defense was lights-out in the third quarter, holding West Virginia to four total yards, minus-3 on the ground on eight attempts, and 3-for-4 passing for seven yards through the air. The Tigers swapped out defensive starters for second-stringers in the third quarter, and West Virginia had more fourth-quarter yards, 89, than it had through the first three quarters, 82.
More than half of those yards came on the 46-yard touchdown pass from Austin Kendall to George Campbell. Backup cornerback Adam Sparks, who has starting experience as a junior, was third on the team in tackles against the Mountaineers with five, led the team with 2.5 tackles for loss, broke up a pass and tied with Cale Garrett and DeMarkus Acy for a team-high four solo tackles, but made a mistake against Campbell. Sparks tried to jam Campbell at the line but missed towards Campbell's outside shoulder as Campbell went inside on a post route, and there was no help over the top, as Missouri lined up in Cover-0.
"I don't think we kept the same intensity, especially on the offensive side (in the second half)," Odom said. "And I know a number of guys are rolling in but the standard of what we need to do when those guys get in the game, there shouldn't be a drop off, so we've got to hopefully get in that position again and sure hope that's the case. And then we'll learn from it no matter who's in the game, the standard of playing and finishing the game.
"And then it is really hard to get a shutout in college football, we had one going and they gave up the long post play. So we'll learn from those. The improvement we made from week one to week two is huge, and now we've got to make the next step and I think we can be a lot better football team than we were Saturday."
Saturday was a banner day for Nick Bolton, but it was also a good one for Barrett Banister. He caught his first-career touchdown in the win and put Missouri ahead 31-0 with 25 seconds left in the first half.
A former walk-on with a knack for converting tough third downs, the sophomore now has 13 receptions for 125 yards through the 13 games he's played. His score came on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line.
"It was a thrill," Banister said after the game. "I've been looking forward to that. It was a lot of fun out there, Kelly made a great throw, we had great protection and all that, you know, it was a team effort, and it was a lot of fun."
Offensive coordinator Derek Dooley had Bryant in shotgun with Okwuegbunam and Banister split left and Johnathon Johnson and Nance right, then Bryant motioned Banister over to the right pre-snap. Johnson went to the front pylon and Nance routed to the back of the end zone, which opened up a small pocket for Banister to slipstream behind Nance into.
"Is that his first touchdown? I should have made mention of that," Odom said Tuesday. "He does it every day in practice, his habits are aligning, they show up on game day, and the things that he continues to do is, he's accountable. Quarterback knows exactly where he's going to be on his routes and he is fairly trustworthy in catching the ball, you know, he's not going to run out there and have a bunch of drops. So usually those things align with being a pretty good receiver. And I'm glad that that he got a score. And it's good play design, good execution. And hopefully, that's the first of many."
Notes: Sophomore cornerback Jarvis Ware, who missed the West Virginia game with an ankle injury, is expected to be back against SEMO. Ware sprained his ankle in practice last Wednesday and was not fully healthy by Saturday. Defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (elbow) is not expected back for Saturday's game. Jeffcoat has been in an elbow brace since the first week of fall camp, and Odom said Tuesday that Jeffcoat was, "really, really close" to playing, but will likely be held out at least another week. Defensive back Chris Mills and linebacker Aubrey Miller are both out "indefinitely" with knee injuries, according to Odom. Miller had surgery Thursday, and Mills was injured against the Mountaineers playing special teams.