COLUMBIA — After two straight losses on the road, a home victory over Kansas State considerably lightened the mood Monday at the Missouri football team's media day. But, the Tigers are still dealing with the disagreeable topic of injuries.
When Missouri goes back on the road Saturday for a game at Iowa State, the Tigers will be without linebacker Luke Lambert. The senior will miss his fifth straight game because of a week-to-week knee strain. Lambert missed seven games in 2009, and after two consecutive injury-plagued seasons, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Lambert could apply for a medical redshirt in hopes of gaining another year of eligibility.
"It's a possibility," Pinkel said. "There's a discussion going on in regards to that, so we'll see where it goes."
Even with the talk of medical redshirt, Pinkel wouldn't rule out Lambert for the rest of the season.
"We just go week by week, and we'll just kind of see where it's at," Pinkel said. "It's certainly unfortunate for him, but he's done a great job from the leadership standpoint."
Linebacker Will Ebner missed Missouri's win over Kansas State because of a neck strain he suffered against Texas Tech. Pinkel said the team expected Ebner to play against the Wildcats, but when Ebner wasn't ready, safety Jerrell Harrison took his place.
Pinkel called three different players "company men" on Monday, praising Harrison, wide receiver Wes Kemp and tailback De'Vion Moore's selflessness and team-first attitudes.
Pinkel said he expects Ebner to play this week, and with his return Harrison should see playing time as both safety and linebacker against Iowa State.
The linebacker position has been decimated by injuries for the Tigers. Missouri had only four linebackers in uniform against Kansas State. Pinkel said he couldn't remember coaching a team with so many injuries at one position, but he refused to make excuses.
"We don't do that. You just have to find a way, but it's been significant," Pinkel said. "The story will be written in a couple of weeks ... There is certainly significance to having injuries, there's no question about it, but on the other hand nobody cares, there's no asterisk."
Missouri's offense found a rhythm against Kansas State with the Tigers adding a few new elements to their offensive game plan. Pinkel's team used the Pistol formation for the first time this season and freshman quarterback James Franklin took two snaps as an option quarterback.
"If the new looks work, it's pretty good, if they don't work, it's not very good, so we all know how that goes," Pinkel said. "We really wanted to utilize (Franklin) more in some special situations, and still might this week, that would be nice, a good alternative to us.
"I don't want to blow this out of proportion in any way. Those were OK, but the reason we played better is because we blocked better, threw the ball better, caught the ball better, we made better decisions, and we were a better focused football team."
Despite a strong game, Pinkel said that giving up 14 points to Kansas State in the fourth quarter was a teaching moment for him and his team.
"Who and the heck are we to be overconfident in anything, are you kidding me?" Pinkel said. "To me that's absurd. That just tells you a story that obviously I'm not coaching well enough, and we're not mature enough yet. It's a work in progress to become a better football team."
Iowa State has had an up-and-down season and needs a win in its final regular season game to be bowl-eligible for the second straight season. Pinkel said that the Tigers won't have it easy on Saturday.
"Paul Rhoads has done a real good job with that program in a short amount of time," Pinkel said. "You know they are a football team that beat Texas. They're a team that went down to the last play against Nebraska, a team that dominated us, so it is certainly going to be a challenge for us."