LINCOLN, Neb. – All the questions entering Saturday’s game at Nebraska centered on whether Missouri could replace Damien Nash’s impact in the rushing game.
In the 24-3 loss, the Tigers answered those questions with resounding disappointment, producing a season-low 51 yards on 35 carries and never establishing a consistent threat.
Without Nash, the offense lacked a force to manufacture a power running game, and Nebraska countered the Tigers’ speed and attempts to break around the ends with energetic pursuits to the ball.
“It’s just frustrating when you’re not successful as an offense and when you’re not doing what you want to do,” Quarterback Brad Smith said. “People have found a way to stop that part of our game, and we’ve got to find a way to get it back.”
Smith led the way with 25 yards on 21 carries, but 24 of those yards came on one play near the end of the first half when Nebraska expected a pass.
The tailback tandem of Marcus Woods and Tony Temple combined for 35 yards on 13 carries. Nash, the fourth-best rusher in the Big 12 Conference, leads the team with 86.5 yards per game and seven touchdowns.
After the game, coach Gary Pinkel would not comment on the status of Nash’s indefinite suspension, which was announced Monday. Nash was suspended for disciplinary reasons.
The lack of running game becomes more baffling because the results of Nebraska’s 45-21 loss to Kansas State. The Cornhuskers allowed Kansas State to run all over them last week for 294 yards.
The Wildcats’ backup quarterback Alan Webb had 147 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, running back Darren Sproles rolled to 135 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cornhuskers also allowed Texas Tech to score 70 points earlier in the season but played with more vigor Saturday.
The Tigers, though, couldn’t achieve any of the success the Wildcats enjoyed. Woods’ best run, a 16-yard scamper, came in the fourth quarter after the Cornhuskers had extended the lead to 24-3.
Offensive lineman Tony Palmer said to regain success on the ground, the Tigers must improve their fundamentals, citing an inability to finish blocks.
“On offense, we’ve definitely got to look at each other and find out what it is that we’re doing wrong and correct it for this next game against K-State,” Palmer said.
Temple, the heralded freshman from Rockhurst High in Kansas City, made an uninspiring debut, filling in for Nash. He entered the game on the Tigers’ second possession and, on his first play, carried off right guard for one yard.
Temple’s best carry, a run to the left for six yards, came near the end of the first half. His status for next week’s home game against Kansas State is unknown because he left the game with a left Achilles injury. Although he said he was excited to finally play, Temple was indifferent about his results.
“I guess I did what I could,” Temple said. “I don’t think all I could, but we’ll work on that in practice and hopefully get better.”