Missouri junior running back Russell Hansbrough had a third quarter for the ages Saturday at Texas A&M.
Hansbrough shredded the Aggies’ defense for 149 yards and two touchdowns in seven carries as the Tigers turned a 13-6 halftime deficit into a 34-20 lead — and that was just the opening 15 minutes of the second half against the Aggies at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas.
“He just got on a roll, and he was making some great, phenomenal runs,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “It was certainly nice to see that.”
During Pinkel’s tenure at MU, only Brad Smith has torched a team for more rushing yards in a single quarter than Hansbrough did, according to team historian Tom Orf.
Smith racked up 180 yards rushing during the fourth quarter of a 2003 game against Texas Tech.
It’s impressive company for Hansbrough, who was chosen as the SEC offensive player of the week after totaling 199 yards and two scores in 20 carries against A&M.
Hansbrough showed a similar burst against Indiana when he had a 42-yard run and a 68-yard touchdown, and his ability to break the big one was on display at times last season, too.
“You expect that from Russell,” sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk said. “He’s a playmaker and he’s got an engine that’s never going to stop.”
Hansbrough is only the sixth Missouri player with four runs of at least 40 yards in the same season during the last 50 years, according to Orf.
He is also the sixth Tiger during that span with three runs of at least 30 yards in a single game.
“(Hansbrough) is more powerful a runner than some folks may think,” Missouri running backs coach Brian Jones said. “He’s a very strong runner … (and) can really stop on a dime and maintain his speed after he makes his cut.”
Before facing the Aggies, Pinkel talked about the need for more explosive plays in the running game.
Hansbrough obliged in the third quarter, ripping off three straight runs longer than 30 yards during the 28-point deluge.
The first, a 33-yard burst on the opening drive of the second half, came one play before Mauk’s game-tying back-shoulder fade to wide receiver Darius White.
Texas A&M retook the lead on a Josh Reynolds touchdown, but Hansbrough tied it back up with a 49-yard touchdown on his only carry the next drive.
On his next run, Hansbrough, an Arlington, Texas, native, put the Tigers in front to stay with a 45-yard touchdown.
“He’s got great quickness and change of direction, and he would always try to outrun the defense and cut back,” Pinkel said. “Sometimes, he was successful. We’ve seen that, but (MU running backs) coach (Brian) Jones is trying to get him to go downhill more then find creases and use his speed to cut. He gets that now and he’s playing different now.”
Hansbrough admitted that he’d been hesitant at times this season, but that he finally accepted coaching and it made a world of difference.
“Sometimes, I don’t trust my speed as I’m going through holes and I try to bounce it out or things like that,” Hansbrough said. “But when we played Texas A&M, it just showed that when I’m using my speed, good things can happen. … They were the same holes we get every week. I just ran the ball much better than I did any other week. I’m going to try to capitalize off last week and keep doing the same things the next couple weeks.”