Lawrence, Moore have tough act to follow
Missouri tailbacks Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore realize they have a tough act to follow.
After starting the season at the top of the depth chart, both suffered injuries within the few first weeks and watched on the sideline as sophomore third-stringer Henry Josey became the Big 12's leading rusher.
After picking up 1,168 yards in 10 games, fifth most in Missouri history for a single season, Josey tore the patellar tendon and suffered tears to the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee Saturday against Texas.
''I just went out on the field right when I saw it,'' Lawrence said. ''I felt like it was going to be something bad.''
Lawrence (broken fibula) and Moore (high ankle sprain) both missed three games. Both are expected to see significant time in the backfield Saturday when Missouri (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) plays Texas Tech (5-5, 2-5) in the home finale.
Even as their playing time diminished, both players realized anything could happen.
''Everyone knows this is a competitive sport,'' Moore said. ''Each and every day you have to go out there and give it your best and your all, just to show you can keep doing something different.''
Lawrence made the most out of his first opportunity back.
Against the top rushing defense in the Big 12, he ran for a career-high 106 yards on 18 carries. Texas had been allowing only 95 yards per game all season.
''It just gives you more confidence to go back out the next week and work harder to try to do better than the week before,'' Lawrence said.
The 5-9, 190-pound junior from Rockwall, Texas, has 301 yards rushing and three touchdowns, one TD fewer than last season when he ran for 422 yards.
Moore has been limited to 8 yards rushing or fewer in each of the four games he's played since getting hurt in the second week of the season at Arizona State. Last year, he led the school with 517 yards and eight rushing touchdowns in a tailback-by-committee approach, but the fifth-year senior from St. Louis has only 39 yards this season, including 5 against Texas.
''You never know. All of a sudden you turn the corner, and right now he's right back into it,'' coach Gary Pinkel said. ''And he's going to play and help us win. That's what's talked about being a team player, knowing your role. And sometimes your roles change.''
Texas Tech and Kansas, Missouri's final two opponents in the regular season, are the two worst rushing defenses in the Big 12. Texas Tech allows 242.8 rushing yards per game while Kansas yields 250.9 yards.
Minus its best rusher, Pinkel contends the team won't be quick to change its offensive philosophy. Nearly 59 percent of Missouri's plays this year have been rushes.
''We're fortunate to have two other real experienced players back there,'' Pinkel said. ''We certainly intend to run the football. Bottom line is you've got to do it too. We'll see where that goes.''
Teammates are trying to process Josey's injury. Several have made the trip to his hospital room to check in.
''He's doing all right,'' wide receiver T.J. Moe said. ''He's just down. No one's feeling good about it. I'm down about it. Good friend, better guy, great dude. He's such a fun guy, loves football, loves life. It's frustrating.''
Tigers quarterback James Franklin mentioned bringing Josey some fast food.
''I'm just hoping he's OK,'' Franklin said. ''That's easily the most important thing. I just want to make sure everything's going to be all right in his daily life.''
While doctors are confident Josey will make a full recovery, the timeframe for his return has not been determined, and next season may be in doubt.
After dealing with his own injury this season, Moore discussed the most important tool in recovering.
''There's really no words you can say,'' Moore said. ''The only thing you can do as far as an injury is to make sure the people know that they have support. Having a supporting cast, people who are going to push for you, people who are going to help you get to where you want to be. Outside that, dealing with an injury is extremely difficult.''