Powell fails to capitalize on starting opportunity

The redshirt sophomore threw for fewer than 100 yards as Missouri was shut out.
Quarterback Taylor Powell is sacked in the third quarter of Missouri's 27-0 loss to Georgia. Photo by Andrew Moore

ATHENS, Ga. — Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant walked onto Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium with his right leg wrapped up as a precaution after he suffered a hamstring injury two weeks earlier against Kentucky.

Bryant then stretched and warmed up with his fellow quarterbacks in the end zone like he does before every game.

As one of Missouri’s captains, he even went to midfield for the coin toss just before kickoff.

But after kickoff, it wasn’t Bryant leading his team onto the field in a crucial Southeastern Conference road matchup. It was backup quarterback Taylor Powell, who said he had known he was starting since Wednesday. Bryant couldn’t convince coach Barry Odom and the team medical staff he was healthy enough to play.

Powell struggled in the first meaningful snaps of his career, completing 10 of 22 passes for 84 yards with no touchdowns and an interception before being pulled in favor of third-stringer Connor Bazelak in the fourth quarter. Missouri lost its third game in a row.

“Obviously didn’t get the job done,” Powell said. “A lot of things to improve on. [I] thought we did some good things, just seemed like every time we got a drive going, something would happen. [I] put a lot of that on me. I’ve got to be a lot better.”

When the redshirt sophomore began the evening with a swing pass behind the line of scrimmage, it was clear the offense was going to look different than usual with Bryant under center. Gone were the designed quarterback runs along with any attempt to stretch the field. Many of Powell’s attempts were 10 yards or less.

“We didn’t move the pocket as much,” Odom said. “It was more getting the ball out quicker, or try to anyway, than extending the play as Kelly has the opportunity to do with the ability he has in running the ball.”

The lowlight of Powell’s night and a prime example of having a good drive before “something would happen” came in the second quarter. Down 10-0, the Fayetteville, Arkansas native pieced together his first productive series of the game. Back-to-back completions to tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, followed by a ten-yard toss to receiver Kam Scott brought Missouri to Georgia’s 27, the closest it had been to the end zone all evening. Facing pressure, Powell rolled out of the pocket and threw in the direction of Okwuegbunam, who had Georgia defenders on either side of him. Powell couldn’t fit the ball in the tight window, throwing it over Okwuegbunam’s outstretched arms and into those of Georgia defensive back Richard LeCounte.

“The guy was on his hip,” Powell said. “I knew it was just him and [Okwuegbunam], and then I threw it late, shouldn’t have. Just tried to give Albert a chance. Bad mistake.”

The pick stifled any momentum Missouri had on offense. The Tigers didn’t match the seven plays or 30 yards on the drive at any point the rest of the game.

The conditions at Sanford Stadium are difficult for any football player: over 92,000 fans with peak noise reaching over 100 decibels — at least according to the scoreboard — not to mention a top 10 team in the nation on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

With of all that to deal with, Missouri also had to worry about working a relatively new quarterback into the offense. Putting Powell in the best position to succeed while also keeping the playbook sophisticated enough to beat a team as good as Georgia turned out to be too tall of a task.

“Early on, you maybe try to get him some easy throws and completions,” receiver Barrett Banister said. “But you can’t come down to Georgia and play conservative football and expect to come out here and win this game. You gotta come out here and make plays, and we just didn’t make enough of them today.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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