Missouri running game struggles, but produces big plays

Saturday, September 26, 2009 | 12:40 a.m. CDT; updated 8:19 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 26, 2009
Missouri's Brandon Gerau tries to get through the Nevada defense on Friday night in Reno, Nevada. The Tigers beat the Wolfpack 31-21.

RENO, Nev. - Derrick Washington called it a “three-headed monster,” after Missouri’s win against Bowling Green. Washington was referring to Missouri’s rushing attack, referring to himself, De’Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence. Unfortunately for Washington, his “three-headed monster” has been only two-headed.

Moore had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, an injury that came in the team’s opener against Illinois. Washington was eagerly awaiting Friday’s game, when he thought Moore would be back and Missouri could use a three-man running attack again.

He didn’t get his wish. Moore got just one carry for three yards. He re-aggravated the injury on a block in the first half and had to sit the rest of the game in order to be ready for the team’s game against Nebraska Oct. 8.

In the first half, the three running backs combined for just 15 yards. The Tigers held onto a 12-7 halftime lead.

The running game wasn’t needed much in the second half. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert passed for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns in the second half in Missouri’s 31-21 win.

“Blaine’s a tremendous athlete,” Washington said. “He going to make the plays regardless of what’s going on. He kept his composure.”

The running backs did provide two big plays in the second half. Lawrence had a 33-yard catch in the third quarter, helping Missouri get into field goal range for Grant Ressel and expand its lead to eight. It came on a somewhat chaotic play. Gabbert was forced to run to his right to evade the pass rush. Lawrence then needed to jump higher than a defender in front of him to make the catch.

“I knew we were on third down, we needed the first down,” Lawrence said. “And I seen him scramble so I just went to the open spot on the field and I realized it was a linebacker covering me so I had to beat him and just get past him.”

In the fourth quarter, Washington broke a 42-yard run, getting Missouri inside the 10-yard line. A touchdown pass to Jared Perry two plays later gave Missouri a two-score lead.

“We just have to be patient,” Washington said. “I keep telling Kendial ‘it’s going to come, we just have to be patient’, take our time with it and make the right reads. It opened up and there it was.”

Washington finished the game with 16 carries for 75 yards. Lawrence had six carries for eight yards. The team kicked four field goals, and coach Gary Pinkel said he would like to see the running backs help the score more touchdowns and kick fewer field goals. Missouri scored all three of its touchdowns through the air, none of them came from the running backs.

“I just think we’ve got to be able to run the ball better,”  Pinkel said. “We had the ball on the three-yard line and we had to kick a field goal.”

The return of Moore would give the team a deeper running attack.

“DWash(Washington), power, power, and more power,” Moore said. “Kendial, Kendial’s fast. He quick. He move. And I’d like to think I bring a little bit of the combination of power and speed.”



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