COLUMBIA — Derrick Washington saw something in freshman running back Kendial Lawrence this summer. He was particularly impressed with Lawrence’s quickness.
“All camp I knew Kendial was going to be able to play,” Washington said. “I just didn’t know when he was going to show up.”
Lawrence’s time to show up came Saturday in the team’s home opener against Bowling Green. Washington, Lawrence’s roommate in the team hotel Friday night, said he sensed Lawrence was nervous because of the amount of carries he expected to get.
De’Vion Moore, a backup running back who got eight carries in the Tigers' win against Illinois, was out with an ankle injury, leaving Lawrence, who had four carries for -2 yards in the Illinois game, to serve as the primary complement to Washington in the running game.
To make things more intimidating, it would be Lawrence’s first time playing at Memorial Stadium in front of the more than 60,000 fans .
“I just told him, ‘It’s going to be crazy,’” Washington said. “’It’s going to be great to play at home, just calm yourself down once you get in there and do what you do.’”
Lawrence gained 49 yards on seven carries Saturday, helping the Tigers to a 27-20 comeback win.
“I was very excited,” Lawrence said. “I thought I did good overall.”
Lawrence said he is still studying what Washington does.
“I’m just learning from him and learning from his moves ,” Lawrence said. “I’m just learning each rep I see him.”
Lawrence has yet to score a touchdown in his time at Missouri. He came close in the second quarter. He broke free on a run from the Bowling Green 31-yard line, getting to the three-yard line and falling forward into the end zone after the play was dead. It was called back due to a holding penalty.
“I was upset,” Lawrence said. “But stuff happens like that.”
Lawrence didn’t show any disappointment the rest of the game. He had a 10-yard run on the team’s fourth-quarter go-ahead drive.
“He can run the ball as well as anybody on the team,” Washington said. “He’s going to be great in the long run.”
Washington said having Lawrence helps keep the running game balanced and keeps defenses guessing, especially since they have two different styles.
“Kendial, he’s more of a scat back,” Washington said. “He’s a lot quicker than I am. But when I get the ball, I’m going straight downhill trying to make something happen.
On several occasions, Washington and Lawrence were on the field at the same time. On Washington’s touchdown run that gave the Tigers the winning lead, Blaine Gabbert faked a handoff to Lawrence before going to Washington.
“And if they try to stop the run, we go to the pass game,” Washington said. “It’s kind of a pick your poison thing.”
Pinkel said Lawrence’s performance doesn’t change his plan for what will happen when Moore returns. He said all three running backs will play.
“It’s going to be a three-headed monster,” Washington said. “We all can make something happen, bring something different to the table. We’re going to look forward to doing this this year, I can’t wait until De’Vion get back healthy.”