Bryant running shows off more versatility in offense

The quarterback rushed for 77 yards in Missouri’s win over South Carolina.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant pushes through a group of South Carolina defenders on Saturday, Sept. 21. Bryant was the second leading rusher in Missouri's 34-14 win. Madeline Carter

Early in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, quarterback Kelly Bryant dropped back to pass. Surveying the field, he couldn’t find any open receivers in a crowded Gamecock secondary.

So he took off running.

The graduate transfer went up the middle, slipped past a defender and was tackled after a gain of 16 yards. It was nothing out of the ordinary for Bryant, who finished the game with 77 rushing yards on 17 attempts, both the second most on the team.

“There’s been a couple [set run plays for Bryant] built in to the game plan the last couple weeks,” coach Barry Odom said. “We just haven’t been able to get to them. Obviously, we needed it today. We needed every inch we could get and that was part of it.”

Junior running back Larry Rountree III led Missouri in rushing with 88 yards. 67 of those came in the second half.

“His versatility just helps us better,” fellow running back Tyler Badie said of Bryant. “It just gives us more opportunities, gives us more space because the defense — they just have to respect Kelly.”

Having a quarterback who runs as often as Bryant is new to Missouri. In 2018, Drew Lock topped out at 51 yards in a game. His career high in four years as a starter was 67 in 2016.

“It’s just different because whenever [Bryant] feels like he can scramble and extend plays with his feet, he always do it,” redshirt senior receiver Johnathon Johnson said. “It’s a big part of our offense that we look for him to do more of.”

Trystan Colon-Castillo is another player who played with the traditional drop-back passer in Lock before adjusting to Bryant’s less predictable game.

“At times, it can get you out of position, things like that,” Colon-Castillo said. “But he makes so many plays with his feet ... it’s really easy to overlook those kinds of things. Yeah, there’ll be times he bounces outside, you have no idea.”

While Bryant finished the game having thrown for 227 yards on 19-33 passing, he started slowly, completing 10 of 20 attempts in the first half. While his arm may not have been up to his normal standards, he made up for it on the ground, running for 75 yards, 36 more than Rountree and Badie combined in the half.

“I just continued to try to focus [on] what was going on,” Bryant said. “And then I just started making plays with my legs. It just got me settled in. I just feel like I was trying to press, trying to force the little things instead of just letting it rip and throwing it.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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