Longhorns battle Tigers in Columbia

The No. 21 Texas Longhorns look to keep pace in the Big 12 race this weekend with a crucial road test in Columbia, where the Missouri Tigers await.

Texas became bowl eligible with a dominant 52-20 win over Texas Tech last weekend, which showcased the Longhorns' ability to run the football. The Texas defense is a proud unit this season, ranking among the best in college football and has played a key role in the Longhorns outscoring opponents 95-20 the past two weeks. Texas will close the season with Kansas State, Texas A&M and Baylor following Saturday's matchup with the Tigers. Those games present problems for the one-dimensional nature Texas currently has on offense, according to head coach Mack Brown.

"We need to continue to grow and develop in our passing game," said Brown at his weekly press conference on Monday. "The next four defenses that we play, and three of those games on the road we probably will not be able to line up and run the ball like we have the last two weeks."

Missouri pushed Baylor to the limit in a 42-39 loss last weekend, in perhaps the wildest Big 12 game of the year. Both teams featured run-and-gun philosophies, but it was Missouri's inability to shut down Robert Griffin III and the Bears vaunted attack that became the difference. Missouri has plenty of work to do to become bowl eligible, needing to win two of its final three in order to qualify. Following the Longhorns' visit, the Tigers will host Texas Tech and play Kansas to close the season.

Texas showed just how strong its running attack was last weekend against Texas Tech, amassing 439 yards and six rushing touchdowns in a win over the Red Raiders. Joe Bergeron ran for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, while Fozzy Whittaker had 83 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 rushes. It was befitting of the Texas offense this season, as the Longhorns lead the Big 12 in rushing with 246.3 yards per game. Freshman phenom Malcolm Brown sat out last weekend's game with an injury, but the Longhorns showed no signs of slowing behind Bergeron and Whittaker. Brown averages 90.7 yards per game, while Bergeron and Whittaker are posting 51.7 and 46,3 yards per outing, respectively, and the two have combined for 11 touchdowns this season.

"Last two games we've rushed for 400 yards plus," said Mack Brown on Monday at his press conference. "It's the first time we've rushed for 400-plus yards in back-to-back games since 1977. So that's something we're really, really proud of."

The passing platoon of David Ash and Case McCoy is obviously taking a back seat due to the commitment to the run, and the Longhorns threw just nine times last week. Ash still threw for 125 yards, while McCoy completed his only pass of the day for a 31-yard touchdown. Texas averages 190.7 yards passing per game; Ash has thrown for 740 yards and three touchdowns against five interceptions this season, while McCoy has posted 475 yards passing and three scores with no interceptions. Texas averages 34.3 points per game.

The Longhorn defense has been a highly productive unit in the trenches. While the pass-happy Texas Tech Raiders compiled 381 yards passing last weekend, it only strung together 30 yards rushing on 28 attempts. Texas leads the Big 12 in total defense (310.7), rushing defense (94.8), and pass efficiency defense (108.2), and is second in scoring defense (21.5) and pass defense (215.8). Those are high marks for the Longhorns, who have gotten big years out of Emmanuel Acho and Jackson Jeffcoat. Acho leads the team with 7.5 tackles per game, while Jeffcoat registers at least one tackle for loss per outing.

Missouri will be quite the test for the vaunted Texas defense, however. The Tigers rolled up 578 yards of total offense against Baylor last weekend, with quarterback James Franklin throwing for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Henry Josey added 132 yards rushing on just 15 attempts, and scored two touchdowns on the ground.

Missouri averages 500 yards per game on offense, which is ranked fifth in the league. The Tigers are sixth in scoring at 34.8 points per game.

Bottling up Franklin and Josey will be the top priorities for the Longhorns, especially considering both have big play ability in the open field (Franklin also rushed for 57 yards last weekend on 16 carries). Franklin is sixth in the Big 12 in total offense (310.4), and has passed for 2,195 yards and 16 touchdowns against seven interceptions this season. Josey leads the Big 12 in rushing with 127.6 per game, and has scored nine touchdowns this season. Out wide, T.J. Moe leads the team receiving with 4.8 catches and 60.7 yards per game. Michael Egnew, who had 12 catches for 69 yards last weekend, averages 4.6 catches for 48 yards per game. Moe and Egnew have combined for six touchdown receptions this season.

Missouri's defense didn't have much of an answer for Baylor's high octane offense last weekend, as the Bears put up nearly 700 yards of total offense on the Tigers. Missouri has fared pretty well against the powerful offenses of the Big 12 this season, ranking fourth in the league in total defense (417.4) and third in scoring defense (26.6). Missouri is surrendering 267.6 yards passing and 149.7 yards rushing per game. The Tigers have been an aggressive unit, ranking fourth ins sacks (two) and second in tackles for loss per game (7.4). Andrew Wilson leads the club in tackles with 75, and has 6.5 tackles for loss. E.J. Gaines is second with 58 stops, and leads the team with two interceptions this year.