Missouri’s matchup against Texas in the Texas Bowl on Wednesday night will feature a who’s-who of Longhorns who aren’t playing.
The Longhorns will be missing up to eight players, including a number of key contributors, after multiple declarations for the NFL Draft, injuries and suspensions. The game represents both programs’ first bowl appearance in three years.
“I feel for (offensive coordinator) Tim Beck and our offensive staff,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “We have one tight end, one scholarship tight end that’s not being redshirted. You’re really limited in what you can do from a personnel standpoint.”
Texas will be without linebacker Malik Jefferson, the co-Big 12 defensive player of the year, who is out with a turf toe injury, as well as defensive backs Holton Hill and DeShon Elliott, who are skipping the game to prepare for the NFL Draft.
Tackle Connor Williams will also miss the game due to his decision to enter the NFL Draft, and sophomore receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey was one of three players recently suspended for a violation of team rules.
Missouri offensive lineman Paul Adams said it has been tough to watch the Longhorns on film, because any given play could feature a number of players the Tigers won’t have to worry about.
Then again, since Texas is a blueblood football program, the Longhorns’ reserves could very well be just as talented as their starters.
“The way we’re looking at it, their next guy up is just as good as the guy that’s leaving,” MU quarterback Drew Lock said. “They’re a great football team. There’s not much they can’t do. They’re going to fly around. They’re big and they’re fast. One guy goes down, the next guy that comes up will fill the position really well.”
Herman also said on Tuesday that Texas will use two quarterbacks, in Shane Buechele, a sophomore, and Sam Ehlinger, a freshman, and will ride the hotter hand as the game goes on.
“Neither of these quarterbacks have done anything so egregious that you would say that guy is behind the other one,” Herman said. “But neither of them have done anything really to take the bull by the horns.”
Missouri coach Barry Odom said game-planning for two quarterbacks doesn’t change much — the play-calls would be similar regardless of who is under center. Tigers defensive end Marcell Frazier added that both play a similar style.
Frazier said the Longhorns’ offense reminds him of some he has seen in the Southeastern Conference.
“It reminds me of Tennessee’s offense,” he said. “Mobile quarterback. Decent-sized guys that can move around in the pocket. They like to do the quarterback run game a little bit. Physical running backs, like John Kelly from Tennessee. Not the hugest guys, but very physical running backs.”
Both Odom and his players said on Tuesday that since getting to Houston on Friday, the practices they’ve had have been their best of the season.
Adams said the Missouri players who hail from Texas have been practicing with a chip on their shoulder. Most were recruited lightly, if at all, by the Longhorns.
“Our motivation is about as good as it can get,” Frazier said. “We’re treating this like it’s the national championship. It’s just the Texas Bowl, but we’re treating it like the national championship.”