On their walk of shame past Kansas’ student section into the visiting team’s locker room, some Missouri football players looked only to their feet. Some kept their helmet straps fastened and peered around at the Jayhawks’ celebration. Before free safety Nino Williams stepped through the doors, he looked over his shoulder at the students crawling on the south goal post and exhaled sharply.
Senior tailback Zack Abron looked straight ahead, though his face tightened with each step. One man standing in the visitor section watching the players pass offered praise for MU after their 35-14 upset loss.
The MU fan clapped his hands and called, “Good job, Zack! Good job, Zack!”
On Saturday, Abron was the Tigers’ (4-1) only consistent offensive threat, but he received the ball inconsistently.
Abron rushed for 112 yards, gaining more than 100 yards for the second straight game, but he ran the ball once in the second quarter and twice in the fourth quarter.
In the Tigers’ second series, it seemed as if Abron had single-handedly solidified the national ranking of Kansas’ then-No. 90 rush defense. He had runs for 13 and 7 yards, which, together with a personal foul call on Kansas for a late hit on quarterback Brad Smith, brought the Tigers inside the Jayhawks’ 35-yard line.
The next time Smith handed off to Abron, he ran 19 yards down the right sideline. He stumbled near Kansas’ 20 before Jerome Kemp and Remuis Johnson pulled him down. Smith scored four plays later.
In the second quarter, Abron rushed once for 6 yards to gain a first down for the Tigers. MU trailed 13-7 at the half.
“I felt like we were prepared,” Abron said. “We did a good job of running the ball in the first half, but they were prepared to stop it in the second half.”
The Jayhawks couldn’t stop Abron at the beginning of the second half, though. On the Tigers opening-drive score, Abron ran nine times with longs of 19 and 22 yards.
After that drive, he rushed three more times in the game.
When Abron left the locker room, he bumped into someone and didn’t seem to notice. He answered almost every media question with, “I feel bad.”
“We just lost the game,” Abron said. “How am I supposed to feel? We lost the game. We did not come out here and play ball, and I feel bad about the whole loss.”
Abron said he didn’t know the reason he didn’t continue to receive the ball, but guessed that the Jayhawks switched defensive formations and the MU coaching staff wanted to adapt to the new one.
After the game, MU coach Gary Pinkel said the Tigers’ one-dimensional play-calling resulted from their failure to put together more than a three-play drive.
“We did a good job in the beginning of the game,” Abron said, “but towards the end, we did not do a good job all around.”