COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The only drama in the second half of Missouri's 42-10 victory over Troy on Saturday revolved around a player who was in the locker room.
Senior quarterback Kelly Bryant was knocked out of the game late in the first half with an apparent knee injury, and the Tigers' dreams of contending with the heavyweights of the SEC East hinged on his health.
After the game, coach Barry Odom was cautiously optimistic.
"Kelly is getting checked out now, and I'll hopefully find out something later tonight," Odom said after the Tigers improved to 4-1. "He was in great spirits, and our docs seemed like it was good news, but I don't want to go there until I get it confirmed."
Multiple Missouri players said they spoke with Bryant and were encouraged.
"I wanted to make sure he was OK, and he is OK," said wide receiver Jonathan Nance, who had two catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
After he released a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Knox, Bryant was hit low from behind by Troy defensive tackle Travis Sailo and immediately clutched his left knee. Sailo was penalized for a personal foul on the play. The senior quarterback, a transfer from Clemson, eventually walked to the locker room but didn't return to the game or the sideline.
Bryant completed 12 of 19 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another touchdown. Taylor Powell, a sophomore, took over at quarterback in the second half and completed 6 of 8 passes for 57 yards but didn't guide the Tigers to any points. Nance and Albert Okwuegbunam joined Knox with touchdown catches, and Larry Rountree III rushed for a touchdown.
The way Missouri's defense is scoring, it might not matter who is playing quarterback. Senior linebacker Cale Garrett intercepted passes on consecutive drives in the second quarter and returned the second one 33 yards for a touchdown. Garrett has scored touchdowns in three straight games. The Tigers, who entered the game ranked third nationally in total defense, held Troy (2-3) to 211 total yards.
"His instinctual feeling of how to play is off the charts," Odom said of Garrett, who also had two tackles for loss in the game. "He's the heart and soul of our team."
The Trojans scored first on Kaleb Barker's 15-yard touchdown pass to Khalil McClain on their first drive of the game. Missouri scored six straight touchdowns to take a 42-7 halftime lead.
"We didn't take advantage of some opportunities we had. We missed a protection or two and just couldn't get back in rhythm," Troy coach Chip Lindsey said. "Hats off to Missouri, they have a really good football team."
BACKUP PLAN: Powell got the most extended playing time of his career. Although he didn't guide Missouri to any points, Odom said the focus in the second half was running out the clock.
"We called like three plays in the second half," Odom said. "So was it a fair assessment of what he can do? Not really."
Powell said he is prepared if he's needed next week.
"I'm pretty confident in myself," Powell said. "I'm ready to go if Coach needs me,"
JEFFCOAT OFF TEAM: Sophomore defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat is no longer enrolled in school or part of the team, Missouri announced. Jeffcoat played in every game as a true freshman. He missed the first four games of this season because of an elbow injury, but Odom said Tuesday he expected Jeffcoat to play against Troy. Odom said he could not comment on the reason for Jeffcoat's departure.
Missouri: The Tigers' pass-catchers made two highlight plays in the first half. Nance caught a pass near the right sideline, broke a tackle and raced toward the end zone. He launched from the 3-yard line and touched the ball to the pylon in midair for a 64-yard touchdown. Okwuegbunam snagged a high pass in the right corner of the end zone and tapped a foot down before he was shoved out of bounds by Troy's Dell Pettus.
Troy: Barker entered the day averaging 341.8 passing yards per game. But he hadn't faced a defense like Missouri's. Barker completed 15 of 26 passes for 92 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, before leaving the game with an injury late in the second quarter. Gunnar Watson finished the game, completing 5 of 9 passes for 58 yards.
Troy: The Trojans will play host to South Alabama on Oct. 16.
Missouri: The Tigers finish a five-game homestand against Mississippi on Saturday.
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