Seven days changed everything for the Missouri defense.

One week after a disastrous second quarter spiraled into a loss at Wyoming, the Tigers’ ball-stoppers did just that to disrupt West Virginia on Saturday.

Missouri held the Mountaineers to 171 total yards and forced three takeaways en route to a 38-7 win in its home opener at Faurot Field. As a result, the 51,215 announced in attendance now have reason for renewed hope in the 2019 season — beyond the rollout of beer and wine sales.

Nick Bolton made a pair of interceptions for MU, including one he returned 20 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Tigers locked down for four defensive three-and-outs, one turnover on downs and 13 tackles for loss.

West Virginia somehow managed negative rushing yardage in the first half and finished its trip to Columbia with 30 yards on the ground on 32 attempts.

This, of course, after Wyoming thrashed Missouri for 297 yards rushing seven days prior.

Different opponent, different venue, different day. But what changed, exactly?

“Last week people were trying to do a little bit too much, possibly,” Bolton said Saturday after the game of his life, “but this week everybody just did their job, their 1/11, and it ended up with a bunch of tackles for loss and really shut out the running game for the most part.”

“Just a mentality change and an obsession with wanting to do a job and wanting to do it at a high level,” Missouri senior co-captain Cale Garrett said after the win. “That attitude and effort can take you a long way.”

The Tigers were sunk by their minus-three mark in turnover margin last weekend in Laramie, but their plus-three advantage Saturday paid direct dividends in the form of 21 points.

Likewise, after being flat-out exposed on a number of backbreaking big plays in its opening loss, Missouri's defense limited West Virginia to just one play that gained more than 16 yards.

Garrett, Chris Turner and Kobie Whiteside each had one sack in the stout effort.

“Anytime you can control the line of scrimmage you control the game,” said Jordan Elliott, a junior ringleader on the defensive line who made two stops for loss. “That plus the takeaways our guys had on the back end, those things just really all came together.”

Bolton made a perfect read on a throw from Mountaineers quarterback Austin Kendall midway through the opening quarter for his first interception.

The sophomore entered his name into program history with his second pick, when West Virginia backup Jack Allison threw a pass that seemed intended for Bolton as much as any receiver. Bolton snagged the ball at the WVU 20 and enjoyed a cakewalk to the end zone.

He is the first MU player to make two interceptions and return one for a score in the same game since Sean Weatherspoon did so against Illinois in 2008.

“All of us knew he had that type of game inside of him,” Garrett said of his fellow linebacker after they tied for the team lead with seven tackles each.

Bolton credited his standout game to defensive coordinator Ryan Walters and learning from former MU linebacker Terez Hall, whose role Bolton assumed for the Tigers after Hall’s graduation.

The interceptions were the first of Bolton’s career in black and gold.

“I’ve been really working on that day since the time I got here,” Bolton said. “I’ve been working every day. I learned from Terez for a year, and he helped me. … Coach Walters put in a great scheme, and then we went out there and executed at a very high level today.”

Senior Ronnell Perkins also joined the interception club for Missouri, making his first pick as a Tiger after Garrett tipped a pass late in the first quarter.

The only blemish on the scoreboard Saturday came on a 46-yard pass from Kendall to George Campbell to break up the shutout with five minutes left.

That touchdown, along with the Tigers’ six defensive penalties for 65 yards — including three personal fouls, two offsides and one holding call — leaves Missouri with plenty to work on ahead of Southeastern Conference play despite the much-improved performance.

The Tigers (1-1) host SEMO next weekend in what should serve as a tuneup for South Carolina two weeks from now.

“We honestly had so many penalties and things we could work on, never being satisfied,” Elliott said, adding the best has yet to come for the defense. “We had a bust at the end when they scored. But those are things that are correctable.”

In a weird way, Saturday’s home opener had the feel of a must-win game, and the Tigers' defense helped take care of business in convincing fashion.

Now the challenge becomes being even better Week 3 than Week 2.

“We’re not going to be defined by one game, just like we’re not defined by this game,” Missouri head coach Barry Odom said Saturday. “We’re defined by how we respond from every opportunity that we get.”

kgraeler@columbiatribune.com