Commentary

Injuries undo Longhorns

Texas played without its three leading rushers and leading receiver

Updated: November 13, 2011, 3:09 PM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Texas' offense is predicated on running the football.

It had no one to run Saturday.

As a direct result, it had nowhere to hide, as Missouri beat Texas, 17-5, in front of 61,323 at Faurot Field.

And don't think for a second if things do not change, and quickly, that the Longhorns (6-3, 3-3) won't continue to be exposed for what they are -- a limited team that has big plays against inferior opponents and no plays against superior ones, and a remaining schedule that is far from inferior.

Whether it has any skill players left is the other huge question facing Texas.

[+] EnlargeJacquies Smith
Dak Dillon/US PresswireWith three running backs injured, David Ash was under pressure the entire game.
Fozzy Whittaker, the emotional leader, suffered a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. Jaxon Shipley, the team's leading receiver, has been out for two weeks with a knee injury. Malcolm Brown, the team's leading rusher, sat out his second straight game with turf toe. And Joe Bergeron, who had back-to-back 100 yard games, missed Saturday's game with a hamstring injury.

"We thought we were going to have Fozzy, and he was going to be a big part of [the plan]," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "Then we thought we would have Joe and Malcolm for 10 or maybe 15 plays. So we thought we could spread it around. But everything had to change and obviously it didn't work very well."

That is an understatement. Missouri, a team that gave up more than 600 yards to Baylor, held Texas to 76 rushing yards and 247 yards overall. This after Texas had 1,111 rushing yards the three previous games.

"The reason we couldn't run the ball was because they were loading up the box, and we should've been able to capitalize on some passes," quarterback David Ash said.

He didn't. Ash was 13-of-29 for 158 yards with an interception.

"The reason we couldn't run the ball was probably more my fault than anyone's," he added.

Make no mistake, though, this was a group effort. Actually it might have been more about who wasn't in the group.

Take Whittaker, Brown, Bergeron and Shipley away from Texas and it suddenly looks more like Delaware State than the Longhorns.

"Injuries can't be an excuse," Mack Brown said. "Even though they piled up today more than I have ever seen at one position. We still have to do our best to win the game."

The Longhorns did not do that against the Tigers. The offense had three total points. The defense had two. After Texas' first drive of 78 yards, it failed to have another drive of more than 31 yards and was held without a touchdown for the first time since 2004.

That type of production is not going to work as Texas now struggles to stay alive for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The Longhorns have six wins and three opponents remaining that at this point look like monumental tasks.

While Whittaker has not been ruled out for the season, the injury looked as if it would take more than three weeks to heal. Brown's turf toe and Bergeron's hamstring are on a timetable that eludes even the coaches. Mack Brown said he was told before the game neither could go. He checked again during the game and the trainers still waved him off.

Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin must not have received the message.

"It was a little bit by situation in the game, depending on the flow of the game and how we were rolling," he said, when asked why neither came into the game.

Instead of rolling, Texas' offense looked more like it was rolling over. Now the Longhorns have to make sure they don't play dead for the rest of the season.

Because it has a stingy defense, Texas will have a chance to stay close in its last three games. But that defense, which had been airtight against woeful Texas Tech and Kansas, once again showed its propensity for allowing the big play. James Franklin hit a 40-yard pass to set up one touchdown. Texas defensive back Kenny Vaccaro's helmet-to-helmet hit to set up the other. Vaccaro laid the hit on a third-and-3 as De'Vion Moore grabbed a pass at the 50.

"I was just playing hard and physical and making an everyday tackle like I always do," Vaccaro said.

On the next play, Missouri's Kendial Lawrence took the ball 35 yards to put Missouri up 14-3.

"Mentally, that was a big change in momentum," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. "We still should've made the play."

There were plenty of plays Texas should've made. Now, the Longhorns will have to regroup and make enough plays to survive the rest of the season.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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