Lawrence, Murphy add speed for Tigers

Friday, September 7, 2012
Missouri running back Kendial Lawrence sprints past Southeastern Louisiana defensive back Tyler Stoddard on a 76-yard touchdown run during Saturday’s 62-10 win in Columbia, Mo. (Jeff Roberson ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Line 'em up when they're all healthy and Missouri's trio of speedy Texas tailbacks would make for quite the race.

While waiting for All-Big 12 Henry Josey to recover from a pair of knee operations that will sideline him this season, the Tigers are counting on fellow burners Kendial Lawrence and Marcus Murphy. Both had big games in the opening 62-10 rout against lower division Southeastern Louisiana, but the degree of difficulty will be ramped up significantly when Missouri makes its Southeastern Conference debut against No. 7 Georgia on Saturday night.

Lawrence has run 4.31 seconds in the 40, fastest on the team. Murphy and Josey were on opposing 400-meter relay teams in high school. Together, they've added a necessary speed dimension that should ease the transition to the new conference.

"I can turn it on," Lawrence said. "It's just a matter of knowing what speed to use at any given time."

Murphy said some days he's the fastest man, some days it's Josey and "Kendial's in there sometimes."

"I think Murphy probably plays as fast as any guy we have with the football in his hands," offensive coordinator Dave Yost said. "You see Kendial have that same type of deal where he can go.

"Henry played so fast all the time."

Murphy, a sophomore who missed last season with a shoulder injury, set a school record with two touchdown returns in the opener. He needed just a small crease to bust loose on jaunts of 70 and 72 yards, and also set a school record with 180 yards on five punt returns.

Lawrence, a senior, was the starter entering fall camp last year but missed three early games with a cracked fibula. As Lawrence rehabbed, Josey became a star with 1,168 yards and an 8.1-yard average with nine touchdowns.

Lawrence got the job back after Josey was hurt and stepped up with a pair of 100-yard efforts the last four games. He had a career-best 121 yards on 10 carries in the opener, and was particularly impressive turning the corner and speeding past a defender that had the angle on a career-best 76-yard scoring run.

He realizes that effort won't mean much if there's no follow-up against Georgia, fifth in the nation in total defense in 2011. Southeastern Louisiana has won just eight games on the road since bringing back football in 2003.

The Bulldogs yielded 206 yards rushing with a 4.4-yard average in their opening victory over Buffalo, but they were without several starters.

Safety Bacarri Rambo, linebacker Alec Ogletree and cornerback Sanders Commings were suspended.

"This game being the first SEC game, it's kind of like the first game all over again," Lawrence said. "You're really excited and pumped. But you always want to go out there and do your best."

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