After leaving leading receiver Jaxon Shipley at home, the Longhorns received a blow when neither Malcolm Brown nor Joe Bergeron, the team's power running backs, were able to go. Brown's turf toe injury was expected to nag him, but the Bergeron injury came as somewhat of a surprise: the staff called it a cramp earlier in the week. Instead, it was a hamstring, and despite both running backs warming up with the team, neither was ready to play.
That bad situation took a step for the worse when Fozzy Whittaker, the only remaining player of the Longhorns' primary ball-carriers, suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury on the Longhorns' opening drive. Without Whittaker — who was seen on crutches during and after the game — lightly used Jeremy Hills became the every down back, receiving 11 carries.
When paired with a gusting wind that limited the Longhorns' already hampered passing game, Texas wasn't able to get anything going offensively. Yet the Longhorns still had their chances to win the game.
In the first quarter, playing with the wind, quarterback David Ash just overthrew an open Marquise Goodwin on what appeared to be a likely touchdown pass. And in the second quarter, with Missouri leading 7-3, a questionable call helped the Tigers put some distance into the scoreline.
Facing a third-and-three from the 50, Missouri quarterback James Franklin flared the ball out to running back De'Vion Moore, who was wrapped up by Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro for a three-yard loss. But Vaccaro was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet personal foul — one that certainly appeared questionable, at best, and instead of punting, the Tigers received a new set of downs. Missouri took advantage, with running back Kendial Lawrence darting 35 yards for a score.
"I was just playing hard and physical and making an everyday tackle like I always do," Vaccaro said. "It's hard on those refs to make those decisions so I don't blame them."
Just like that, a game that could have been 10-7 in the Longhorns' favor was a 14-3 Missouri advantage at the half.
The second half only saw two scores, both created by blocked punts. Eric Waters smothered a Justin Tucker punt and Matt Hoch recovered at the one for Missouri. But the Texas defense smothered the Missouri offense, and the Tigers had to settle for a 19-yard field goal.
The Longhorns received one point less on their block. Freshman cornerback Leroy Scott blocked the Tigers' next punt, which hit the crossbar and became a Texas safety. But while the defense and special teams were there for the Longhorns, the offense simply couldn't take that next step.
"We had some shots," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "The wind was huge. We overthrew one to Marquise in the first quarter. If you noticed, just about all the points were scored (with) the wind except for the blocked punt. So when we didn't score but three in the first and they got theirs right after that, and then we didn't score in the third, we knew we were in trouble."
After the game, Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said that when a key player was injured, it falls not just to the replacement to step in, but for everyone else to step up their games to compensate as well. And while the Longhorns created some nice holes, they didn't do it consistently enough to ride the running game, averaging 2.6 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, the passing game floundered, with quarterbacks David Ash and Case McCoy unable to take advantage of what had been a porous Missouri pass defense, completing just 16-of-36 passes for 171 yards and an interception. Forty-five of those yards came on an early completion to Marquise Goodwin, while another 23 came with little time remaining at the end of the game and Missouri in prevent.
"I thought our offense didn't play well throughout the day, and I thought that was evident," Brown said. "They stopped our running game, and we had the inability to throw the ball down field."
But defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was quick to point out that the defense didn't do everything it could have either. In addition to allowing a couple of big plays, the defense had its hands on multiple passes but were unable to come up with an interception. Still, Brown said the defense played well enough to win.
Now Texas will have to heal quickly with Kansas State coming into town.
"It's a game about injuries. It's a game about numbers," Brown said. "We just said injuries can't be an excuse, even though they piled up today at more than I think I've ever seen at one position. We still have to do our best to win the game.
"I think we have to get home and grade this video and see who played well and see why we didn't move the ball better on offense and go back and start over on Monday."