Two weeks ago, the Missouri Tigers were among the national leaders in rushing defense. Two games and 442 yards later, Mizzou is all the way down to 36th. In fact, at 109 yards per game, the Tigers are only fifth in the Big 12 against the run.
"To sit there and say that we've got a great run defense would not be right either so we're going to work real hard at improving it," said Gary Pinkel. "We can certainly get better at it and we're gonna have to be if we want to accomplish our goals."
To be fair, circumstances may have skewed the numbers over the last two weeks. Against Texas A&M, the Aggies were trying to protect a lead and had the ball for more than 42 minutes. The vast majority of the rushing yardage in that game came after halftime. The same was true against Kansas State, but for different reasons. Late in the third quarter, the Tigers were up 34-7. K-State tried only one pass the rest of the day.
"I think at the end of this past game, I just wish we'd played better," Pinkel said. "I think after the turnovers, the score was lopsided, I don't think we played our best game, which that's what's wrong. Why would you not continue to play your best game? That's my responsibility."
"Last week we let up and we're going to work on that this week starting Tuesday practice, we want to stop the run," said Stryker Sulak, who will make his second start this week. "That's something you've got to do in this league."
Especially against Oklahoma. Even without Adrian Peterson, the Sooners are certain to run the football. Allen Patrick got 35 carries in a 24-3 win over Colorado last week.
"They got athletes regardless," said middle linebacker Dedrick Harrington. "Now it's the other backs turn to show what they got. They got athletes. It's OU."
The Sooners are running for 170.9 yards per game, though oddly they have more attempts than only four Big 12 teams. Peterson alone was averaging 155 yards on the ground, so there is some question as to whether Oklahoma can replace that yardage…or even come close.
"Actually, I was disappointed," Lorenzo Williams said of his reaction when he learned Peterson was out for the year.
Disappointed or relieved, it doesn't much matter. The Tigers have to solve the problems they have had in the last two weeks against the ground game or they will have a tough time knocking off the Sooners. Whatever the method, the Tigers say nothing fundamental will change.
"We're not going to change what we do at all," Pinkel said. "Work to get better, that's all we do."
It's going to have to work in a hurry.