Missouri drops season-opener 31-37 at Wyoming

Despite a near fourth quarter comeback, the Cowboys nabbed their first win over a Power 5 team since 2008.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant looks for a receiver downfield during practice on Faurot Field on Friday, Aug. 9. Missouri lost its season-opener in Wyoming 31-37 with Bryant at the helm for the first time. Madeline Carter

Missouri graduate quarterback Kelly Bryant connected with fellow grad transfer Johnathan Nance with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter for a 53-yard play that resulted in Missouri’s second touchdown of the quarter.

It was a pivotal moment in a game that had seen a second-quarter Missouri meltdown put the Tigers down by 10 against the Cowboys heading into half.

Following Nance’s touchdown, the Tigers were back to a one-score differential. Sophomore running back Tyler Badie had scored on a short run early in the half to spark Missouri’s near-comeback.

A sack by senior defensive end Josiah Hall followed by two incomplete passes on Missouri’s final drive effectively ended the game for the Tigers.

Missouri (0-1, 0-0 SEC) lost Saturday’s season-opener 31-37 against Wyoming (1-0, 0-0 MWC) at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming. It was the Cowboys’ first win over a Power 5 opponent since 2008.

Bryant finished his first game in a Missouri uniform 31-48 for 423 yards, almost four times as many as Wyoming’s redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Chambers. Redshirt junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam led the Tigers in receiving yards with 72 despite grabbing just three passes from Bryant. Seniors Johnathon Johnson and sophomore Kam Scott along with Nance all finished with more than 60 yards.

In the backfield, Badie led with 53 yards. Chambers and sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay both had over 100 for the Cowboys.

An early 14-point lead and shutout first quarter seemed promising for Missouri in Bryant’s debut. Bryant had 87 yards on seven completions, including a 3-yard touchdown to Nance to conclude the opening drive.

Wyoming went three-and-out on all of its possessions in the quarter, but was able to adjust -- especially on defense -- in the second.

Junior safety Esaias Gandy forced a Bryant fumble during Wyoming’s first possession, which sophomore cornerback C.J. Coldon recovered and returned 30 yards for the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the game. Senior kicker Cooper Rothe had cleared a 19-yard field goal on the previous drive.

The Tiger offense couldn’t seem to shake the Cowboy defense throughout the rest of the quarter, and the defense couldn’t do much better. Valladay broke away from Missouri for a 61-yard touchdown to give Wyoming its first lead.

A 13-play, 70-yard Missouri drive drained four minutes from the clock and tied the game with a 22-yard Tucker McCann field goal, his first of the season.

Missouri lost control once again right before halftime, though, when Wyoming senior linebacker Ben Wisdorf forced another fumble -- this time from junior Larry Rountree III -- and senior safety Alijah Halliburton picked up the ball and brought it 79 yards down the field, only to be stopped by Bryant.

The tackle was flagged as a personal foul, and the ball was moved to Missouri’s six-yard line. Rothe closed out the half with a 23-yard field goal to extend Wyoming’s lead.

Bryant completed 14 passes for 192 yards in the first half, while Chambers completed only 2 for 27 yards. The Cowboys out-rushed the Tigers by 129 yards in the second quarter.

Halftime adjustments weren’t immediately evident in the third quarter, as Missouri’s first drive ended with an interception by senior linebacker Cassh Maluia for a touchback. The following Wyoming drive finished with a 1-yard touchdown run by graduate running back Trey Smith.

Both teams had another drive in the quarter. Both proved fruitless.

Missouri will return to Columbia for its home-opener next weekend against West Virginia. It will be the first game with beer and wine sales at Memorial Stadium.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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