MU gets weekend off before powerful Texas

Monday, September 19, 2005

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The challenging portion of Missouri's schedule is about to begin.

The Tigers will have next weekend off to heal minor injuries accumulated from a so-so 2-1 start, and then comes No. 2 Texas in their Big 12 opener. As impressive as the team looked in a 52-21 victory over Troy on Saturday that snapped a four-game home losing streak, they know the next game will represent a quantum leap.

"It's not any disrespect to Troy. They've got some good players," coach Gary Pinkel said. "But Texas' personnel is the best in the country. Everybody knows that."

Quarterback Brad Smith said he doesn't need the extra time to get ready for the Longhorns, coming off a 51-10 blowout of Rice and also leading into Big 12 play with an open week.

"I wish we could play them next week," Smith said -- but he's in the minority on that one.

"They're really good," wide receiver Brad Ekwerekwu said.

"I love the extra time," running back Marcus Woods said. "Some people are banged up."

Defensive end Xzavie Jackson, who recovered a fumble in the third quarter that led to a touchdown, was on the fence.

"It could be a good thing but it could also be a bad thing," Jackson said. "We're just going to approach it as having fun. If we have fun, anything can happen."

Tony Temple, who shares time with Woods in the backfield and scored the Tigers' first touchdown on a 59-yard run, sprained his right ankle and didn't play in the second half -- although he said after the game that he was fine.

Earl Goldsmith, a backup running back and the No. 1 punt returner, has a minor ligament injury, and defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams has a sprained ankle.

Pinkel, who complained after the game that the Tigers were still error-prone, promised a combination of rest and remedial activity for a while.

"We'll just work to try to get some guys healed up, and we still make way too many mistakes," Pinkel said. "The good news is we've got a chance to clean it up, and we also know a great football team is coming in two weeks."

Last week still bugs him, too. Pinkel hasn't gotten over the 45-35 loss to New Mexico in the home opener. So his enthusiasm over beating Troy, which knocked Missouri out of the rankings for good in Week 2 last year, was tempered by a lingering aftertaste.

"I was so disappointed in last week's game and it's over now, you can't do anything about it," Pinkel said. "It's exhausting, not to make the move, not to get over the bubble. It's my job to get that done."

Missouri solidified at least one area against Troy, expanding kicker Adam Crossett's role to include punting. Besides kicking three field goals in three chances, Crossett had a 39-yard average as the punter.

Special teams led the way in this game, with Quincy Wade also blocking a punt. Pinkel has put more emphasis on special teams this year, using more starters.

"We just upgraded," he said. "I think we've made progress there."

The Tigers' offense also took a positive step with a turnover-free, 514-yard game after two big giveaways by Smith in the second half proved disastrous last week. Troy coach Larry Blakeney was impressed with Smith's presence in Missouri's new no-huddle, spread offense.

"Brad Smith is enough said," Blakeney said. "He just does so much running and throwing and he makes that whole deal work. It grinds on you a little bit."

The biggest area in need is a shoring up a vulnerable secondary that surrendered 260 yards passing. Both of Troy's touchdowns came in the air and the losers had passing gains of 48, 33 and 21 yards, although Missouri improved somewhat in the second half.

"Big plays just destroy defenses. We all know that," Pinkel said. "What you do is make a few adjustments. I don't think we did any drastic things, we just played better defense."

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