COLUMBIA — The Missouri locker room was loud after the game. Even behind closed doors, the celebration over defeating Texas for the first time in the Gary Pinkel era sounded rowdy. When the clock ran out, fans chanted, praising their school’s new conference, and players threw their hands in the air.
But, despite the joyous celebration, a cloud was hanging over the 17-5 upset win over Texas, the No. 16-ranked team in the BCS standings.
Missouri’s star running back, Henry Josey, sustained a knee injury and had to be carted away from the field during the third quarter.
After the game, head coach Gary Pinkel said he believed the injury to Josey’s knee was a serious one. Pinkel said during the postgame press conference that Josey was undergoing an MRI.
Josey has been without a doubt the team’s most effective offensive player this season, leading the Big 12 in rushing entering Saturday’s game against the Longhorns. Losing him would be a huge blow to the Tigers, now needing just one win to become bowl eligible.
“Football-wise, it hurts us a lot,” defensive end Jacquies Smith said. “He’s a very talented player, and everybody out there can see what he’s capable of doing. But, on the human side, you feel bad for him. You don’t want to see a guy go down like that. We care a lot about everyone in this locker room, but just seeing him go down like that. We’ll probably go to the hospital right now and check on him when we get a chance.”
Lined up at the Missouri 13-yard line in the third quarter, Josey was given the ball on a first-down carry, and after the play ended, he was gripping his left knee. Moments later, the cart drove over to where Josey was on the sideline, and he was picked up and lifted onto it. Those in attendance clapped softly as the cart drove off.
Everyone in the stadium seemed to realize what the injury meant to the Tigers. The crowd remained silent as team staff looked at Josey on the sideline, and Texas head coach Mack Brown ran across the field to give Gary Pinkel a pat on the shoulder and say some words to Josey.
“I told him he’s had a great year and he’s a great player and I hope he got well soon …” Brown said after the game. “I knew the young man wasn’t coming back in when they brought the cart out. This is a game about kids.”
Once Josey left the game, Pinkel said the coaching staff worked to refocus the team.
“Things happen on that field,” Pinkel said, “and you have to remain stable or it affects your play.”
It wasn’t the first time Saturday that play was stopped because of a Josey injury. In the second quarter, with the Tigers knocking on the door of the end zone, Josey was shaken up with a head injury. But after sitting on the ground for a few moments, he was able to jog off the field. He re-entered the game after halftime.
Josey wasn’t having his usual dominating performance at running back before he left for good in the third quarter. He finished the day with just 11 carries for 19 yards.
If Josey is out for a significant amount of time, the focus will shift to Kendial Lawrence, the junior who began the season at the top of the depth chart before Josey broke out as one of the nation’s best rushers.
Missouri typically runs multiple backs throughout the course of a game, and Saturday was no different. Lawrence was having a good game before Josey left in the third quarter, and he continued to perform well. Lawrence carried the ball 18 times for 111 yards on the day, and after the game his head coach predicted what the rushing game would look like going forward.
“(Lawrence) did a really good job,” Pinkel said. “It’s amazing how everything shifts just a little bit now. De’Vion Moore’s going to get more involved. We’ve been playing a bit of this all year long.”
Knee injuries have been a trend among Big 12 offensive stars. Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles and Texas A&M running back Christine Michael both tore their ACLs in a game between the two teams last weekend, and Texas running back Fozzy Whittaker also sustained a knee injury in Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers now must press forward without the back who ran for an average of 127.7 yards per game through the season’s first nine games.
“It’s really sad,” Lawrence said. “He plays a big role on the team. He’s our teammate, he’s our brother, so it’s really sad for that to happen to him.”