BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Kony Ealy was starting to get frustrated.
It was the second quarter, and the defensive line still hadn't been able to bring down Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who was driving to tie the game at 21. The number was looming large. Two sacks for Missouri's defensive line through two games and not a single one for Ealy.
What came next took patience, amid the frustration. With a clear lane to Sudfeld, Ealy took a step back and clogged the freshman quarterback's passing lane. Sudfeld threw it anyway, just like Ealy was hoping for.
Already standing 6 feet 5 inches tall, Ealy jumped a bit higher and pulled in the interception. With nothing but green grass in front of him, the 275-pound defensive end sprinted 49 yards for the touchdown to put the Tigers up 28-14, a lead they wouldn't relinquish in a 45-28 win over the Hoosiers on Saturday.
The interception return was reminiscent of the decisive play in Missouri's win over Toledo, in which defensive end Markus Golden intercepted a pass and returned it for a 70-yard touchdown. Missouri's defensive line now has as many interceptions returned for touchdowns as they do sacks through three games after another game without a sack.
Coming into the game, Missouri's focus was on Indiana's up-tempo offense. The quick-hit passing game and no-huddle attack slowed down the Tigers' pass rush, but three first-half turnovers from Missouri's offense also contributed to the defense's fatigue.
Indiana's offense generated the pregame hype and had a few big passing plays, but for the Hoosier offense, it was mostly a mirage. Missouri forced Indiana to punt on all four of its possessions in the first quarter before intercepting two passes in the second quarter, which gives the Tigers eight interceptions on the season, one more than they had in 2012.
Indiana's final results of 475 yards of offense and 28 points may look ugly, but Missouri's defense did enough early to make sure Missouri's offense left no doubt.
The offense was prolific, but not perfect.
Three early turnovers — including two overthrown interceptions by James Franklin — kept Indiana in the game before Ealy’s big play. But the Tigers’ aerial attack turned it on in a game that was billed as a potential shootout.
Franklin was 32-for-47 with 343 yards and three total touchdowns. And he spread the ball around. Marcus Lucas (10 catches for 101 yards) and Dorial Green-Beckham (8 for 105) became the first pair of Missouri receivers to top 100 yards since T.J. Moe and Jerrell Jackson at the 2010 Insight Bowl. The game was also Green-Beckham's first career 100-yard receiving performance.
The run game was crucial late, as Franklin tallied many of his 61 rushing yards in the final quarter, and Russell Hansbrough sealed the win with a 45-yard touchdown run.
The Tigers open the season 3-0 for the first time since 2010, when Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith led Missouri to seven straight wins and a No. 7 national ranking.
This time, it's Franklin and Ealy leading, coming up with the key plays despite some frustrating moments.