DB Jarvis Ware checks his phone while leading his teammates

Cornerback Jarvis Ware checks his phone while leading his teammates on the Tiger Walk into Memorial Stadium ahead of Missouri’s game against West Virginia. Ware, recovering from a sprained ankle, didn’t play, but his replacements — Christian Holmes and Adam Sparks — filled in admirably on Saturday.

Missouri routed West Virginia on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers played mistake-free. Penalties were a glaring issue early in the game, even for a defense that was otherwise stellar.

MU committed 10 penalties that were worth 100 yards. All of them came in the first half.

“That’s hard to overcome,” Barry Odom said. “I’m glad our team responded, but we’ve got to get that cleaned up.”

The team’s first drive stalled because of flags, thrown for two chop blocks on the same play. On one West Virginia series, Missouri committed four penalties in a matter of three snaps. Missouri has been using referees in its practices whenever possible this season and through fall camp, as Odom noted after Saturday’s game.

The players also acknowledged the penalty issues. Center Trystan Colon-Castillo was flagged for holding at one point.

“Can’t wait to hear about that one in film,” he said.

Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott echoed his coach’s words.

“We can do better,” Elliott said. “Small mistakes last week cost us. That same trend can’t continue. We’ve got to correct those small mistakes.”

Ware injury provides opportunity for Sparks

Missouri came close to a shutout even without one of its starting corners, Jarvis Ware.

Ware warmed up, but did not play. He sprained his ankle in practice Wednesday.

“Tried to get him ready but he wasn’t in position when we started the game to go to the level we needed to, so he was out,” Odom said.

It gave Christian Holmes the chance to start and then rotate with Adam Sparks, who has not seen significant time on defense since the Kentucky game last year.

“You know how that went,” Sparks said. “I was just real happy to be back out there.”

Sparks finished with five total tackles, 2.5 for loss. He also broke up a pass, one he could have picked off.

“He played really well,” Odom said. “He controlled the perimeter in the run game when they ran his side, and I thought he covered pretty well too.”

Dawson Downing impresses

Last year, Missouri had a reliable three-running back system comprised of Damarea Crockett, Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie. It appeared to be whittled down to two alternating options this season — Rountree and Badie have called themselves “thunder and lighting” — after Crockett left for the NFL, but a new third name was in the mix Saturday.

That would be Dawson Downing, a redshirt junior from Mission, Kansas, who was added on scholarship during 2018 fall camp. Downing had 10 carries for 57 yards Saturday, including an impressive series in the second quarter.

“I was so happy to see him out there,” Rountree said. “He’s third (on the depth chart), so that’s good.”

MU spread 227 yards among the three tailbacks.

“He runs with some punch,” Odom said of Downing. “Staff did a good job on putting him in on times that we needed it. I don’t know that we can get through the entire season with just those two runners. I don’t think that’s possible in this league. So we’ve got to continue to develop those guys, and Dawson is as accountable and trustworthy and a Mizzou Tiger as there is in our program.”

Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.

  • Liam Quinn is covering Missouri football. He is a senior from New Jersey studying magazine journalism.

  • Bennett Durando covers Missouri football for the Columbia Missourian. He is an MU junior from St. Louis, studying sports journalism. Reach him at bdurando@outlook.com, or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

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