Notebook: Black and Gold game serves as finale for growth throughout spring

Coach Barry Odom spoke positively of new quarterback Kelly Bryant, his potential backups and the special teams.
Quarterback Kelly Bryant signs a young fan's football after the Missouri football spring game on Saturday, April 13, 2019, at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo.

Missouri’s annual Black and Gold Spring Game saw the Black squad — composed entirely of first and second string players — come out on top by a score of 21-3 on Saturday. The Gold squad was made up of the reserve players.

The low scoring, scrimmage style game featured as much sideline dancing and on-field fan contests as it did football, but coach Barry Odom thought it was a solid finale to spring practices.

“I thought throughout the course of what we did this spring was positive in a lot of ways for both sides of the ball,” Odom said. “Offensively, we made a lot of ground up with new faces in key spots. Defensively, I think we got better as the spring went on.”

With a strong group of returning players and a sizeable group of new ones, Odom felt the progress made in the past several weeks was noticeable across the entire roster.

“Excited to see some of the veteran guys, so to speak, that picked up where they left off last year and improved throughout the course of the spring,” Odom said. “But then also some of the new faces that were in the spots that we needed them to be, the things that they did this spring really helped our team.”

Bryant attracts crowd

While Missouri’s new starting quarterback may not have gotten the packed stadium he was hoping for at the Spring Game, Kelly Bryant did have a crowd that was excited to see him.

On his first drive as a Missouri Tiger, Bryant passed for 53 yards, including a 36-yard pass to wideout Dominic Gicinto, which elicited a roar from the east side of the stadium.

“It was surreal,” Bryant said in a written statement about his first time in front of Mizzou’s fans. “Especially with a good turn-out from the fans for the Spring Game. Everything was good.”

The senior quarterback did not appear for interviews following the game.

Bryant played the entirety of the first half, throwing 12-for-17 on 150 yards. In his final season at Clemson, Bryant played four games before deciding to transfer, going 36-for-54 for 461 yards and two touchdowns.

Memorial Stadium noticeably cleared out during halftime, making Bryant’s impact more obvious. The second half began with a redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Powell interception three plays in, his first passing attempt of the game.

Backing up Kelly

While Powell was listed as the second string quarterback on the spring depth chart, Odom said he’s not quite sure who will be the first to enter a game after Bryant come fall.

Powell completed 50% of his passes in the spring game, throwing for 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He played the entirety of the second half for the Black squad, taking Bryant’s place.

Junior Lindsey Scott, Jr. started in the quarterback position for the Gold squad, finishing the game 6-for-11 for only 38 yards.

“Taylor and Lindsey battled all spring,” Odom said. “If you go back and look at the entire body of work, both made a lot of improvement, did some good things. It’d be foolish to think that Kelly’s gonna take every snap of the season.”

Junior quarterback Shawn Robinson also saw the field during the game, throwing 3-for-10 for 44 yards in the second half. The transfer from Texas Christian University has to sit out this season.

Special teams struggles

Sophomore kicker Sean Koetting hit the crossbar on a 46 yard field goal attempt, bouncing the ball back into the endzone, but earning the three points nonetheless.

It was Missouri’s third field goal attempt of the day, and its farthest, but still barely made it through the uprights. Koetting and senior Tucker McCann’s two previous attempts, both for the Black squad, went wide from the 28 and 27 yard lines, respectively.

In comparison, a fan had his kick ricochet off the left upright from 25 yards out during a fan contest in the first quarter.

“Obviously it wasn’t very good on the actual field goal opportunities,” Odom said.

Three of MU’s rostered kickers punted during the game, led off by McCann, who punted 54 yards following the Gold squad’s first drive. He later punted for 45 yards, while Koetting punted for 55 and sophomore punter Josh Dodge punted for 41 yards.

It is unclear who will take the position as first string punter come fall, however, McCann held the place on the spring depth chart.

Although the rest of the special team positions weren’t put on display during the game, Odom feels confident in the progress the players have made collectively this spring.

“I thought throughout the course of the spring, I thought our teams were better,” Odom said. “Our coverage teams were better, our return unit and punt return and also kickoff return, we made some fundamental changes there which helped us. But we’ve gotta get better.

Injury updates

Senior wide receiver Johnathon Johnson suffered from a sore hamstring throughout the week. He had limited participation in practice on Thursday, but wasn’t ready to go during pregame warm-ups Saturday afternoon.

Junior center Trystan Colon-Castillo exited the game after the first drive with a sprained ankle.

Redshirt junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was still inactive on Saturday. He injured his shoulder early last season and was forced to redshirt.

“I think other than that we were pretty healthy,” Odom said. “So that’s good.”

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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