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West Virginia Mountaineers vs Missouri Tigers

Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (81) is congratulated on scoring a touchdown against West Virginia. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. — After a shaky opening game at Wyoming, Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam didn’t get off to an ideal start Saturday against West Virginia. He dropped what would have been a first-down reception in the red zone on MU’s second series.

He quickly made amends in the Tigers’ 38-7 win.

A series later, the preseason All-American did what he does best. Split out wide, he initially blocked safety Kerry Martin Jr. off the line of scrimmage, then released and separated downfield, snagged Kelly Bryant’s pass and got his leg just inside the pylon for a 26-yard touchdown.

He wasn’t done. He added a 16-yard touchdown catch, giving him 19 for his MU career. That moves him into fifth place on the school’s all-time list. He came into the game tied with former receiver Dorial Green-Beckham with 17, and with the first TD matched former tight end Martin Rucker and receive Justin Gage with 18. He’s now two behind former wideout J’Mon Moore, who’s in fourth place with 21.

“We need that every week (from Okwuegbunam),” MU coach Barry Odom said. “I don’t want just one of them. They’ve got to keep coming..”

Asked about his star tight end’s game, Odom was quick to point out the early drop. Okwuegbunam had a critical drop last week that was initially ruled a fumble only to be overturned by replay review.

“Albert is a great player,” Odom said. “We’ve got to have great consistently. We’ll get there.”

“I love Coach Odom because he expects nothing but greatness out of me,” Okwuegbunam said. “Anything less is unacceptable. I ask for nothing less than for him to expect that from me.”

DON’T DOUBT DOWNING

Missouri played only two running backs last week at Wyoming, leaving a mystery as to who’s next in line in the rotation behind starter Larry Rountree and backup Tyler Badie. Sophomore Simi Bikare? Freshman Anthony Watkins? No and no.

The answer came in the second quarter when junior Dawson Downing entered the game and played the bulk of a series in the backfield. The former walk-on finished with 57 yards on 10 carries, just short of his career-best 60-yard day at Connecticut two years ago.

“He’s 225, 228 pounds and he runs with some punch,” Odom said. “Our staff did a good job on putting him in (the game) in times that we needed it. And also those other two I don't know if we can get through the entire season with just two runners. So I don't think that's possible in this league. We’ve got to continue to develop those guys and Dawson is as accountable and trustworthy and a Mizzou Tigers as there is in our in our program. He did a great job today.”

TIGER TALES

Cornerback Jarvis Ware, who made his first career start last week at Wyoming, was sidelined Saturday with a sprained ankle he suffered in practice Wednesday. Defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat (elbow) missed his second straight game. … Six members of the St. Louis Blues were honored during a TV break in the first half: Vince Dunn, Colton Parayko, Sammy Blais, Joel Edmundson, Robert Thomas and Zach Sanford. ... SEC commissioner Greg Sankey attended the game. He spent Friday in Columbia meeting with MU chancellor Alex Cartwright and athletics director Jim Sterk. … Penalties were a problem for the Tigers — but only in the first half. The Tigers were flagged 10 times for 100 yards, but didn’t draw any penalties in the second half. Twice the Tigers were flagged for two defensive penalties on the same play.

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