COLUMBIA — Missouri started the first half against Troy by allowing the Trojans to score a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time all season.
The Tigers (4-1, 1-0 SEC) ended the first half with 42 unanswered points, three straight takeaways, two of them interceptions by linebacker Cale Garrett, to emphatically seal a 42-10 blowout Saturday at Faurot Field.
The second of Garrett's back-to-back interceptions, a 33-yard pick-six, makes Garrett the first player in program history to score a defensive touchdown in three consecutive games and this is the first Missouri team to score a defensive touchdown in four consecutive games.
But the Tigers won without starting quarterback Kelly Bryant in the second half, and will be without him for an unknown amount of time. After throwing a 6-yard touchdown to Jalen Knox to put the Tigers up by five scores just before halftime, Bryant's left ankle was hooked by Troy defensive lineman Travis Sailo, and Bryant fell backward awkwardly. The play was flagged for roughing the passer, but trainers came out to check on Bryant, who was down and holding his left knee, and he walked back into the locker room.
After the game Missouri coach Barry Odom said, "I don't have any injury updates at this point, other than I know Kelly is getting checked out, and he did at halftime, he's getting checked out now. Hopefully find out something later tonight. 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."
Bryant, who was 12-of-19 for 221 yards and three touchdowns and had six carries for 20 yards and his first career rushing touchdown in a Missouri uniform, was held out of the second half with a left leg injury and was not on the sideline in the second half.
His teammates echoed Odom's message, saying they spoke with Bryant after the game and he seemed fine, but nothing on the Clemson transfer's status is official yet.
Troy head coach Chip Lindsey, when asked by the Columbia Missourian for his thoughts on Sailo's hit said, "I don't know. I didn't see it. I would have a hard time believing it was intentional."
The Tigers scored 21 points in each of the first two quarters and did not do much else after. Missouri had 209 first-quarter yards, 321 first-half yards and 122 second-half yards. After Bryant left the game, Troy put backup quarterback Gunnar Watson in, and Odom played the second-string offense the entire second half and the second-string defense for most of it.
"Both," Odom said when asked if the decision was made because of the score or because the game was getting chippy. "Yeah, whatever it was at half, 42, there's really — I want some other guys getting work, because we're going to need them down the stretch. Kinda went wholesale change at halftime and got the other guys in. Anytime you've got the opportunity to do that, it's good. It's positive, No. 1, but also the standard of play, you don't want to dip off too far."
If Bryant misses next week's Homecoming game against Mississippi, or more, it would be a big hit to a team that has won four straight home games, but the defense's surge in recent weeks is an indicator the issues present against Wyoming have been mostly eliminated. The Tigers allowed just three plays of 20 or more yards to Troy, all passing, and two of them, completions of 22 and 25 yards, came from Watson on his team's only other scoring drive, a 43-yard field goal with 4:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Garrett looks like the favorite to win SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after five tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, two interceptions and one defensive score. His first interception he tipped to himself looked a lot like fellow linebacker Nick Bolton's pick-six against West Virginia, but Garrett was tackled at the 2-yard line. His three defensive scores ties him for the most by a single player since Eric McMillan had three interception returns for Missouri in 1987 in non-consecutive games.
"He's playing at a very high level, and he's a special talent," Bolton said.
"He's the heart and soul of this team," Odom said.
Albert Okwuegbunam caught a touchdown in his fourth-straight game, a beautiful connection with Bryant on a throw to the back corner of the end zone Okwuegbunam hauled in while tapping his right foot as cornerback Dell Pettus pushed him out of bounds.
The Tigers answered Troy's opening score with a 49-yard catch-and-run by Kam Scott after he was wide open on a crossing route and got tackled at the 2-yard line. Two plays later Larry Rountree III, who finished with nine carries for 56 yards, scored from one yard out. Missouri followed that with a 10-play drive Bryant capped with his rushing score, and scored on the second play of its third possession on a 64-yard touchdown to Johnathan Nance. Nance broke a tackle and sprinted down the sideline, and was initially ruled out at the two, like Scott, but after a review he was credited with his third receiving touchdown of the season.
"I had to make sure," Nance said with a laugh. "I was like, 'I can't get stopped right here.' It felt good."
The Tigers punted on their next two drives before Bryant and Okwuegbunam connected after Garrett's first interception, and the offense scored a fifth time on a 6-yard completion from Bryant to Jalen Knox to make it 41-7 when Bryant was tackled and got hurt.
Backup Taylor Powell showed flashes and played his best game as he played the entire second half, completing 6-of-8 passes for 57 yards. Odom said after the game Missouri was intentionally conservative, saying, "we called, like, three plays in the second half."
The Tigers host Mississippi next Saturday for Missouri's Homecoming, with a 6 p.m. kick on ESPN2. The Rebels (3-3) won 31-6 against Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
Notes: Defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat, who had missed the first four games of the season with an elbow injury, was not on the sidelines and did not play Saturday. Missouri media relations staff passed out a statement at kickoff that read, "Trajan Jeffcoat is not currently enrolled at Mizzou and will not be with the football program for the remainder of the season. In consideration of student privacy rights, we will not comment further on this matter." Jeffcoat, a sophomore from Columbia, S.C., played in 13 games as a true freshman, recording seven tackles and one sack. Defensive back and punt return specialist Richaud Floyd returned one punt for two yards but injured his left hamstring on the play, and was listed as questionable during the second quarter.