COLUMBIA — Luke Lambert couldn't keep from laughing when asked to address the bevy of Texas running backs he and the Missouri defense will be facing this weekend.
"Yeah, they've got a whole stable of them," Lambert said, shaking his head.
It was a surprising way for the senior linebacker to act after the performance the Tigers had in Waco, Texas, this past weekend. The Missouri defense surrendered 697 yards to Baylor, the most yardage in a Big 12 game this season.
But Monday, Lambert didn't want to think about it. He was laughing and joking. He was antsy and excited. He wanted to get back on the field.
Lambert was smiling because Texas isn't Baylor. Texas isn't really even Texas anymore. These aren't your older brother's Longhorns. These Horns run the ball, and they run it a lot.
"It's awesome. I like the run game," Lambert said. "Practice is going to be different this week. It's going to be a great challenge for our defense. I'm excited for it."
The past two times out against Texas — in Austin in 2008 and in Columbia in 2009 — the Tigers saw teams that met the Big 12 stereotype: Throw the ball, throw it often and score more points than was previously thought possible. And Texas wasn't alone. That was Missouri's style of play when quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert led the Tigers.
Well, forget about a flurry of throws in Saturday's game. These teams don't do that anymore. This time, you will see two teams that run the ball effectively.
"In the past, it's been how many yards are you going to throw for, how many touchdowns you're going to throw for," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said Monday. "It's changed quite a bit."
Whether it's the challenges facing first-year quarterback James Franklin, just a sophomore, or the emergence of running back Henry Josey, who stills reigns as the conference's leading rusher, Missouri has a much more run-oriented attack this season.
Texas' transformation has been even more dramatic. If you haven't watched the Longhorns since the days of Colt McCoy, you wouldn't recognize the Longhorns of today, even with the burnt orange jerseys. One of the nation's top rushing teams, Texas has thrown a handful of new backs into the mix to see what will work, and every week, one of those guys goes off.
Normally, it's been Malcolm Brown. The freshman has had a good season to date, gaining more than 100 yards in a game three times. He didn't play last week against Texas Tech, but the Texas running game hardly suffered.
Which brings us to another freshman, Joe Bergeron. After receiving just 18 carries in the first six games of the season, Bergeron was given the ball 29 times last weekend and carried for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the Longhorns' 52-20 route of the Red Raiders.
Missouri defensive players said they must be on their toes and recognize when a new number shows up in the Texas backfield, and Lambert said the coaching staff will be making sure the defense is prepared for the running back shuffle.
"They'll change personnel on scout team," Lambert said. "They'll put three or four running backs back there. Maybe quicker, faster, bigger. Depending on what kind of style the running back is, they're going to put them in there and let them run the plays."
Lambert said he was eager to put the Baylor game behind him and especially for the chance to make an impact as a linebacker.
"I'm tired of standing around and moping about this," he said. "I want to get out there and play a game."