COLUMBIA, Mo. (WVU Athletics) -- Kelly Bryant threw three first-half touchdown passes and West Virginia's running woes continued in today's 38-7 loss to Missouri at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri.
In last week's 20-13 season-opening victory over FCS James Madison, West Virginia generated 34 yards rushing on 24 attempts.
Today, WVU running backs had even less room to operate against the Tigers, netting only 30 yards on 32 attempts - all of it coming in the second half after Missouri had jumped out to a commanding 31-0 halftime lead.
At one point, West Virginia (1-1) had at least one negative yardage play on nine of 11 offensive possessions with six of those possessions starting with a loss. Before the game, co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Moore chose to move Josh Sills back to guard and start Chase Behrndt at center. Sills was moved to center following the first scrimmage of fall camp.
"We've got to get movement and without watching the film I just know it was bad," Moore said of West Virginia's blocking today. "I don't know if it was miscommunication, whether it was guys trying too hard and falling down. At this point we've just got to keep working. We've got to go to work when we get home tonight and keep grinding. We'll get to that point, but it's never easy getting there."
Missouri's defense was credited with 13 tackles for losses for minus 45 yards. Four different Tiger defenders had multiple TFLs.
"It wasn't a case where our guys weren't ready, we just got outplayed," Brown said.
Brown said defenses are going to continue to crowd the line of scrimmage and play press-man coverage on the outside until his offensive linemen can handle one-on-one blocks. He expects to see the same thing from NC State next weekend in Morgantown.
"We've got to start winning some one-on-one blocks at the point of contact," Brown said.
Consequently, Missouri's defenders were able to pin their ears back and come after West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall. The Tigers got to him three times and knocked him to the ground on several other occasions.
Kendall finished the afternoon completing 15-of-25 passes for 137 yards, including a late 48-yard touchdown strike to a wide-open George Campbell, West Virginia's leading receiver with 59 yards.
Freshman Sam James had a team-best five catches for 35 yards, all of those coming in the first half.
Kendall returned to the field to throw his touchdown pass to Campbell after backup Jack Allison got into the game the series prior.
Allison's second pass attempt went right into the arms of Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton, who returned it 20 yards for a touchdown – Missouri's lone touchdown of the second half.
Bryant's passing was responsible for three Missouri touchdowns, two going to massive tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and the other a short one to slot receiver Barrett Banister right before halftime.
The senior completed 17-of-25 passes for 150 yards before giving way to backup Taylor Powell late in the third quarter, while Larry Rountree just missed reaching 100 yards rushing with 99 yards on 18 carries.
Rountree added a 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and Tucker McCann booted a 43-yard field goal on the game's opening possession.
Freshman Trey Lowe III finished the game at quarterback for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia's defense, which had allowed Missouri to score on five of its six offensive possessions in the first half, tightened up considerably in the second half, especially once Bryant left the game late in the third quarter with what was termed as "overheating."
Brown thought his defense performed much better in the second half.
"Our guys on defense and on special teams competed in the second half," he said.
Missouri (1-1) outgained West Virginia 382 to 171 and had a 26 to 13 advantage in first downs.
Sophomore linebacker Josh Chandler led the WVU defense with six total tackles while junior defensive lineman Darius Stills was credited with both quarterback sacks. He now has a team-best three for the season. The Mountaineers produced eight more TFLs this afternoon and now show 14 negative yardage plays in two games this season.
It appears one promising defender sustained a significant injury, however, when junior defensive end Taijh Alston was taken off the field on a golf cart in the second quarter. Brown said afterward that he will have more information on Alston's injury early next week.
Today's game was West Virginia's first appearance in Columbia since 1994 when the Mountaineers defeated the Tigers 34-10.
West Virginia returns to Morgantown next Saturday to face NC State, which defeated Western Carolina earlier today to improve to 2-0. Former Mountaineer defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is now a member of the Wolfpack coaching staff.
"This is the first real adversity we've had," Brown said. "I asked our guys, 'What are we made of?'
"We've just got to get these young guys better," Brown concluded.