football Edit

Sunday grade card: West Virginia

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Each Sunday, PowerMizzou.com will hand out a position-by-position grade card for Missouri from Saturday's game. Here are the marks from the Tigers’ bounce back win over West Virginia.

Quarterback: We knew Kelly Bryant’s legs would be an asset to Missouri’s offense. As he showed Saturday, that can be the case without him carrying the ball much. He’s very difficult to bring down and might even be at his best when forced to escape from pressure and keep a play alive. Bryant’s passing ability has been more of a revelation. He wasn’t asked to do a ton of downfield passing against West Virginia, but he was efficient, completing 17 of 25 passes for 150 yards and three scores. Most important, he did not turn the ball over after losing a fumble and throwing an interception last week. Backup quarterback Taylor Powell did not complete a pass in his limited action. GRADE: A

Running backs: Welcome back, Larry Rountree III. After a rough outing in the season-opener, the veteran among Missouri’s running back corps ran with a purpose Saturday. Rountree finished the game with 99 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts. He also added 16 yards on two catches and eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards for his career. Backup Tyler Badie looked solid as well, gaining 86 yards on 15 total touches. He also had at least one impressive pickup of an unblocked blitzer. Dawson Downing provided one solid series in the second quarter as well. After averaging just three yards per carry last week, the tailback group combined to average 5.7 yards per tote this week, and that number would have been higher had the backups not played for the entire fourth quarter. GRADE: A

Larry Rountree III ran for 99 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia.
Larry Rountree III ran for 99 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia. (Jordan Kodner)

Wide receivers: Missouri didn’t ask its receivers to do a ton against West Virginia. The highlight for the group came when Barrett Banister caught his first career touchdown. Johnathon Johnson and Jalen Knox each added three grabs. No one in the position group appeared to get a lot of separation from the Mountaineer defensive backs, but at the same time the Tigers didn’t give them a ton of opportunities to make plays, so it’s hard to be too critical. GRADE: C

Tight Ends: Albert Okwuegbunam only had two catches, but he made them count. The first came when he faked a block and used his speed to beat a West Virginia defender, then made an agile catch and stretched the ball across the goal line for a 26-yard touchdown. Okwuegbunam’s first score since last November showed why he was picked as a first-team all-American in the preseason. He later added a 16-yard score. As Odom said in his postgame press conference, the next step is a bit more consistency, but it’s good to see those big plays again from Okwuegbunam. Daniel Parker Jr. also made a nice catch but dropped one on the goal line as well. GRADE: B+

Offensive line: A week after getting largely dominated at the point of attack, Missouri’s offensive line looked better against West Virginia, particularly in the running game. There’s still a few areas that need to be cleaned up — West Virginia finished with seven tackles for loss and two sacks, and that could have been four or five sacks were it not for Bryant’s elusiveness — but the performance was definitely an improvement from last week. GRADE: B

Defensive line: This was the position group under the biggest microscope after last week’s loss, and they delivered. West Virginia finished the game with 30 rushes for 32 yards. That’s not a misprint. Even if you adjust for sacks, the Mountaineers ran for just 1.8 yards per carry. That’s a vast improvement from the 297 yards and 7.0 yards per carry Missouri allowed on the ground to Wyoming. Plus, a week after recording just two tackles for loss, Missouri made 13 stops for negative yardage against West Virginia. Jordan Elliott looked like the player he was billed to be in the offseason, finishing with two tackles for loss and disrupting several other plays. Finally, the pass rush showed signs of life as well, as the Tigers recorded three sacks. It’s worth noting that West Virginia’s offensive line has looked inept all season — the Mountaineers rushed for 34 yards on 24 carries against James Madison in Week One — but this assuages the concerns about Missouri’s defensive front a bit. GRADE: A

Linebackers: Until Saturday, sophomore Nick Bolton had received a lot of praise for little on-field production. Well, he produced Saturday. Bolton intercepted two passes, the second of which he returned 20 yards for a touchdown, and he tied for the team lead with seven tackles. Middle linebacker Cale Garrett also made seven tackles, including a sack, and tipped a pass that was eventually intercepted. Another position group that had a big bounce back from a week ago. GRADE: A

Cale Garrett and the Missouri linebackers had a better performance than last week.
Cale Garrett and the Missouri linebackers had a better performance than last week. (Jordan Kodner)

Secondary: Missouri surrendered a few downfield completions, including one for a conversion on third and long (I’m not counting the 46-yard passing touchdown against the second unit in the fourth quarter). Any time you hold an opponent to 5.2 yards per passing attempt, though, it’s a good game for the secondary, especially considering the Tigers were without starting cornerback Jarvis Ware. Props to Adam Sparks for making a few impressive plays. Really, the main knock on the unit is its hands. The Tigers could have had two or three more interceptions that were dropped by defensive backs. GRADE: A-

Special Teams: The kickoff unit has a bit to work on. The Tigers had two offsides penalties on the kick coverage team, and in the only instance Tucker McCann has not kicked the ball through the end zone this season, West Virginia had a 39-yard return. McCann also missed a 37-yard field goal, though he made a 45-yarder. While there are things to clean up, it’s not the type of disastrous errors that plagued the unit last season. GRADE: C

Coaching: Barry Odom and his staff deserve credit for getting the team to bounce back from a crushing season-opening loss. The defense especially looked like a totally rejuvenated unit. Penalties are a concern, as Missouri was flagged 10 times for 100 yards in the first half, but the Tigers at least cleaned it up in the second half, when they did not commit a penalty. As coaches often say, it’s easier to fix issues like that after a win than a loss. GRADE: A-

Final Overall Grade: A