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Bryant bounces back to lead Missouri over Mississippi

Missouri running back Dawson Downing scores a touchdown last Saturday against Ole Miss. (AP Photo)

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Dawson Downing didn’t notice that the officials were reviewing his first career touchdown. After breaking a tackle and running 54 yards for a score in Missouri’s 38-27 homecoming win over Ole Miss, Downing stuck his arm out to just get the ball across the goal line as he went down. In the celebration that ensued, the replay review was the least important thing.

“I couldn't get to him because everybody was grabbing him,” running back Larry Rountree said. “I'm surprised we didn't get a flag or a sideline warning.”

Rountree claimed he jumped a 42-inch vertical when he saw Dawson’s hand cross the goal line. Running back Tyler Badie swore he ran a 4.2-second 40-yard dash to get to Downing for the celebration. Downing just savored the moment.

“Everyone's hitting me in the helmet on the sidelines,” he said. “I knew I was in, so I was just happy when (the officials) signaled it again.”

Downing was once a walk-on for the Tigers. He earned a scholarship last fall. He’s earned more playing time this season, and his 181 rushing yards through the Tigers’ first six games has already eclipsed his rushing totals from the past two seasons combined. After the game Saturday, Downing’s yards per attempt sit at 7.0.

Dawson’s father, Ken Downing, played for Missouri in the 1970s. The former Tiger was in attendance for the homecoming game to see his son’s first touchdown at Faurot Field. Downing said he had a chance to hug both of his parents after the game. Their presence made the moment all the more meaningful, he said.

“Dawson is one of the reasons that our program is moving the direction it is,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “He is so selfless and continues to work. … He runs hard, he runs tough, he’s assignment-sound. You know what you're going to get every day from him.”

All three of Missouri’s running backs scored in the win. Rountree led the charge with 126 yards on 21 carries. At the start of the second half, he found a hole and raced through for a 41-yard touchdown that put Missouri up 18-7 after a missed PAT. Late in the third quarter, Rountree scored again on a 1-yard run.

Badie finished with 24 yards on five carries and a touchdown catch. His one score came in the second quarter on an unusual play. Left tackle Yasir Durant lined up in the slot and tight end Logan Christopherson filled in on the line. Badie caught a screen and escaped down the sideline for a 17-yard touchdown.

Odom and his players were tight-lipped about the secrets of the trick play, but Durant said he would’ve been ready had the ball come his way.

“If everything was covered, I was the check-down, and I was going to score,” he said.

Split wide in the third quarter, Badie got open for a 49-yard reception and finished the game as the Tigers’ second leading receiver with 69 yards on three catches.

“That's the one thing that we've talked about doing more, just our versatility as an offense,” Badie said of his pass-catching performance. “We have so much talent as an offensive group and to just get out there and just showing everything that we can do, that really keeps (the defense) on their heels.”

In a game that featured quarterback Kelly Bryant’s legs less than Missouri’s previous outings, the Tigers’ three running backs more than made up for the deficit. But Downing’s touchdown and what Rountree called a “beautiful” celebration afterward were the star of the show.

“Dawson is another weapon force that we got to continue to use because we won't be able to get through the season, I don't think, just with playing two tailbacks,” Odom said. “Dawson continues to earn the reps. … He's hung in there and continues to battle.”

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