University of Missouri

Tailback Russell Hansbrough gets offense’s attention, continues to mend

Tigers running back Russell Hansbrough (right) took the ball from quarterback Drew Lock in Missouri’s game against South Carolina on Oct. 3.
Tigers running back Russell Hansbrough (right) took the ball from quarterback Drew Lock in Missouri’s game against South Carolina on Oct. 3.

Normally, Russell Hansbrough’s actions speak louder than his words, but that wasn’t the case late in the third quarter of Missouri’s homecoming loss against Florida last weekend at Memorial Stadium.

“I’m giving you all my all, so why don’t you do the same for me,” Hansbrough shouted in the offense’s huddle on the sideline.

Hansbrough didn’t like the body language he was seeing in a 21-3 loss against the Gators, so the senior running back and captain voiced his concerns.

“I just felt like we were kind of letting up,” said Hansbrough, who has been hampered by a high ankle sprain since the first carry of the season Sept. 5 against Southeast Missouri. “From just the offensive line and the offense as a whole, it felt like they kind of took our soul almost. I felt like I just needed to say something, and that was the time. I was kind of frustrated as well, because we were moving the ball.”

“Russ really came out of his element and talked a lot and said a lot,” senior center Evan Boehm said.

His message — not giving up and giving everything for one another — resonated, even if it didn’t spark a comeback against then-No. 11 Florida.

“Once you hear a kid that doesn’t talk a lot and doesn’t speak a lot open his mouth and fire everybody else up, that shows that it means something,” said Boehm, who also is a captain for the Tigers and one of the team’s more fiery leaders. “We know that it means something to Russ, but it shows that it means something extra to Russ when that happens.”

Hansbrough rushed for 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, but he has been ineffective through much of the season with the ankle injury. He even sat out completely against Connecticut.

Despite the struggles, Hansbrough ranks second with 166 yards on 33 carries and has Missouri’s highest per-carry average (5.0) among all players with at least 10 carries.

Against the Gators, Hansbrough rushed for a season-high 74 yards on nine carries and showed some of the trademark, game-breaking flash that Missouri fans have come to know from him in past seasons. He ripped off a 23-yard run late in the first quarter and added a season-long 26-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.

“At times when you saw him run out there, it looked like Russell,” MU coach Gary Pinkel said. “We’ll just have to wait and see when that point is where he can play an entire game and rep a little bit more than what we’ve been repping him.”

Hansbrough is still not 100 percent and may never be this season, but he’s steadily regaining some productivity.

“As the game went on, I re-aggravated it a little bit,” Hansbrough said of the ankle injury. “That comes with the game. I’m not all the way back healthy, but I’m getting there every week. I can cut now and things like that. I can get up field as well. Now we’re at Georgia, so I’m just hoping I’m 99 percent at least.”

Hansbrough dealt with a high-ankle sprain at Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas.

“I already knew what comes with the territory of a high-ankle sprain,” he said. “With me playing on it as well, it’s going to linger as long as I keep playing.”

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer