After managing only 98 yards on 33 carries against Southeast Missouri during the season opener, it would be easy to look at Missouri’s rushing numbers Saturday at Arkansas State and be encouraged.
The No. 21 Tigers had 134 yards on 33 carries against the Red Wolves — which still isn’t great, but against a better team and in a tougher venue feeling encouraged wouldn’t seem out of line.
At least not until you consider that quarterback Maty Mauk led Missouri with 10 carries for 75 yards and the attrition rate in the backfield is alarming.
Big things were expected this season from senior captain Russell Hansbrough, who had 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
He still may eclipse those numbers, but Hansbrough’s only been healthy enough for seven carries in the first two games after suffering a sprained on the second offensive snap of the season.
Hansbrough bravely tried to give it a go against Arkansas State. He had 12 yards on four carries in the first quarter, but he basically sat for the final three periods.
Hansbrough got a carry on the first play in the second half, a 3-yard run, but didn’t return to the field after that.
The options behind Hansbrough are just as limited.
Sophomore Ish Witter, who has lost yards on nine of 24 carries this season, finished with 44 yards on 11 carries Saturday, but he left the game with an apparent head injury.
“He got dinged a little bit,” Pinkel said of Witter. “They go through a process, which is fine. Hopefully, we’ll get him back.”
Senior Tyler Hunt is also nursing a groin injury, junior Morgan Steward remains limited as he recovers from a hip injury and redshirt freshman Trevon Walters is working his way back from a torn ACL.
Missouri’s running back depth is a mash unit, which may mean a bigger workload for sophomore Chase Abbington or perhaps an even more drastic measure — perhaps pulling the redshirt for Marquise Doherty.
“We’ve got a problem there and I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Pinkel said. “It’s not like the NFL, where you make a few phone calls and bring them all in. We’ve got a couple young freshmen we have and we’re going to have to look at that. … If any of you have got eligibility left, you come see me.”