COLUMBIA — Missouri sophomore linebacker Nick Bolton hasn't waited long to make an impact.
The standout freshman played in all 13 games a year ago, and Saturday, in his second career start, he had seven tackles, two interceptions and two tackles for loss in the Tigers' 38-7 win against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Faurot Field.
Bolton returned his second interception of the game, which was also the second of his career, 20 yards for a touchdown.
Bolton is the first Missouri player with two interceptions and an interception return for a touchdown in the same game since Sean Weatherspoon did it in 2008 against Illinois.
"I've been waiting on that day from about the time I got here," Bolton said. "I've been working every day. I learned from Terez (Hall) for a year, I think that kind of also helped me have a great day as well."
Bolton set the tone with his first interception, which cut short a promising West Virginia drive after Austin Kendall threw behind his receiver. The ball bounced off the receiver's hand and Bolton bobbled it a few times before collecting the ball.
Bolton's second interception, the pick-six, put the Tigers ahead 38-0 with 12:07 to play to cap the team's scoring, and Missouri, a week after a disappointing loss at Wyoming, blew out the Mountaineers.
"Nick made two great plays, and he found the end zone, which is so huge, if we can get a pick-six," Missouri coach Barry Odom said.
The Tigers (1-1) led 31-0 at halftime, and after the first drive of the game stalled out in five plays and ended in a punt, Missouri's first-half drive chart went: field goal, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown.
Kelly Bryant was 17-for-25 for 150 yards and three scores in his first win as a starter at Missouri. He extended plays and avoided at least two sacks with his strength and his legs, carried the ball 10 times for five yards and was sacked twice.
Bryant, however, took a few hits and went back to the locker room late in the third quarter with what a Missouri official said was due to overheating. Bryant was not made available to media after the game, but Odom said he didn't think it was anything more serious.
Albert Okwuegbunam was the Tigers' leading receiver with two catches for 46 yards, both for touchdowns, including a very difficult 26-yard over-the-shoulder catch at the front corner of the end zone against man coverage. Tyler Badie, Johnathon Johnson and Jalen Knox shared the team lead in receptions, with three each, and Barrett Banister, a former walk-on, caught his first career touchdown just before the half.
But perhaps most crucially for Missouri's offense, Larry Rountree III looked more like his usual self after a rough opener. He carried the ball 18 times for 99 yards and had the team's only rushing touchdown of the day. He also caught two passes for 16 yards.
All three Tigers running backs — Rountree, Badie and Dawson Downing — averaged 5.5 yards per carry or better, and each had at least 10 carries.
"(Running backs coach Cornell Ford) always says, 'If we run the ball, we'll win the game. If we don't run the ball, might as well go home,'" Rountree said. "So we know we set the tone, the running backs, we set the tone of how the game is going to be."
The Mountaineers (1-1), knowing they would need every possession they could steal, started the game with a pooch kick, which was recovered at the Missouri 35-yard line by Jerney Jones. West Virginia also punted on its first possession, and after Tucker McCann hit a 43-yard field goal, the Mountaineers had three of their next four possessions result in turnovers, the first two consecutive interceptions by Bolton and Ronnell Perkins, and the fourth a turnover on downs.
"The hardest part was we had to wait a whole week for redemption," Missouri linebacker Cale Garrett said. "I was talking about it with our guys last night, excited just because it was an 11 a.m. kick, we didn't have to wait around all day to go out there and prove ourselves, redeem ourselves. Really proud of the way we played."
It was far from perfect. The Missouri secondary had chances at more than the two first-half interceptions it came away with, and the Tigers had more penalty yards at halftime, 100, than West Virginia had total yards (78).
Missouri's defense and special teams were responsible for 75 of those yards, and though the team committed no penalties in the second half, they were sloppy in all three phases, including a chop block, two offside penalty calls against the kickoff unit and a completely unnecessary roughing the passer, to name a few.
"That's hard to overcome," Odom said. "I'm glad that our team responded in the fashion and the way that they did. We've got to clean that up. That's another thing we've got to have in our favor."
West Virginia's only points of the game came on a busted coverage with 5:13 remaining, as George Campbell broke free on a double move for a 46-yard touchdown reception.
Before the fourth-quarter defensive miscue, Missouri had not allowed an opponent to score at home since Vanderbilt's Kalija Lipscomb scored a touchdown in the third quarter of a 33-28 come-from-behind Missouri win. The Tigers shut out Arkansas 38-0 last year in the regular-season finale.
Missouri hosts Southeast Missouri State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Redhawks (1-1), ranked No. 13 in the FCS Top 25 poll, lost 38-17 to FCS No. 19 Montana State on Saturday night.