Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough thinks he is going to score every time he touches the football.
In the third quarter against Texas A&M on Saturday, that mindset paid off. Hansbrough, a former star at Arlington Bowie, scored on two touches in a row, 49- and 45-yard touchdowns runs, to break open the game for a Missouri win.
“That’s how I’ve thought, since I was in high school,” said Hansbrough, who finished the game with 199 rushing yards. “I know I’m not going to score every time, but that’s how I think. That’s why I run so hard on every play.”
Hansbrough is only one of many Texas players, including safety Ian Simon from Mansfield Legacy and receiver Darius White from Fort Worth Dunbar, on the Missouri roster.
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“It was a big win, because two years ago, we went down to Texas A&M and laid a big egg,” Hansbrough said. “We just wanted to come back and get the win for the Texas boys, and the team.”
Hansbrough had a solid sophomore season in 2013 with 685 yards and four touchdowns on 114 carries. But as a junior, he’s emerged as the Tigers’ biggest rushing threat.
“My coaches have the confidence in me that I can make those plays now,” Hansbrough said.
Hansbrough leads Missouri with 790 rushing yards on 142 carries. He has nine rushing touchdowns this season, by far the most for Missouri, and his big-play capability has kept defenses uneasy. In addition to his two long TD runs against the Aggies, Hansbrough had a 68-yard scoring run against Indiana.
Missouri has developed a solid system with its running backs. Last season, senior Henry Josey was the Tigers’ first option, with Marcus Murphy and Hansbrough backing him up. Josey finished with 1,166 yards on 174 carries with 16 touchdowns. This year, Murphy, who is from DeSoto, is the senior leader.
“Marcus and I are really close,” Hansbrough said. “We travel home together. When I first got here, he taught me a lot of things when I was a freshman and getting playing time. Because he played as a freshman as well. That made us very close. I feel like we push each other to make plays. We help each other figure out where the holes will be. That’s what makes our offense more efficient.”
Next season, Hansbrough will be the veteran leader, with players like redshirt sophomore Morgan Steward also getting multiple carries each game.
“I see myself leading the running back group next year,” Hansbrough said. “I will have two younger running backs behind me who will play a lot. I will tell them just to go out there and have fun. Don’t take things too seriously out there on the field. You have to be relaxed, and you will with play a better game.”
This week, the No. 20 Tigers will play at Tennessee, a dangerous opponent. The Volunteers have five losses, but four came against teams ranked in the top 15 at the time. The fifth loss was to Florida.
“We know that they are a good team, and they can come out and beat us, if we don’t have our heads on right,” Hansbrough said. “We are looking at the process and not the outcome. We are focused on this week.”
Games to watch
No. 15 Arizona (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) at No. 17 Utah (7-3, 4-3), 2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: The Wildcats are fighting to stay in the Pac-12 South race with UCLA, which is playing a rivalry game later in the day against USC. Utah bounced back from two straight conference losses — to Arizona State and Oregon — with a double-overtime win against Stanford last week. The Utes like to pound the ball on the ground, while Arizona uses a spread attack and averages more than 300 passing yards a game. Utah will have home-field advantage, with the game being played in Salt Lake City, where the forecast shows a chance for cold, wintery weather Saturday.
No. 20 Missouri (8-2, 5-1 SEC) at Tennessee (5-5, 2-4), 6:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: The Tigers have gone about business quietly this season. Aside from two embarrassing home losses — 31-27 to Indiana and 34-0 to Georgia — Missouri has played well. The Tigers can win the SEC East for a second straight year, but they will have to get past a resurgent Tennessee team this weekend. The Volunteers have won two straight and are clicking on offense right now, after sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs took over as the starter. With Dobbs, Tennessee is averaging 38.3 points a game. In the Volunteers’ first seven games without him, the offense scored 24.4 points a game.
No. 19 USC (7-3, 6-2 Pac-12) at No. 9 UCLA (8-2, 5-2), 7 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8: UCLA is going for three straight wins against cross-town rival USC. The Bruins’ win last year gave UCLA its first winning streak against the Trojans since the Bruins won eight straight from 1991 through 1998. UCLA, which looked dead in the Pac-12 race after losing back-to-back games to Utah and Oregon earlier this year, now can take the South Division with two wins — this week against USC and next Friday against Stanford.
17 Arkansas snapped a 17-game conference losing streak by shutting out LSU last weekend. Entering the game, LSU was ranked No. 17 in the College Football Playoff poll. The final score? 17-0.
26 Straight wins for Florida State, the nation’s longest active winning streak. While the Seminoles have struggled at times this season, including trailing by 16 points twice last week against Miami, they keep winning.
• “If I could pick one game to win all season and lose all of the others, it would be this one. It was so much fun for us and it was blast to go out there and take that thing.” — Arkansas offensive lineman Brey Cook on the Razorbacks’ ending their 17-game conference losing streak in a rivalry game against LSU.
• “They thought it was cold, but I told them it wasn’t cold.” — Texas coach Charlie Strong after the Longhorns beat Oklahoma State on the road. The recorded temperature for the game was 44 degrees. Strong said: “It was all about our mindset.”
Tweet of the week
“Melvin holds the ncaa yards in a game record. Ron Dayne holds the ncaa rushing record and I hold the ncaa touchdown record lol #badgers” — Denver Broncos running back and former Wisconsin player Montee Ball tweeted after Melvin Gordon erupted for 408 rushing yards Saturday against Nebraska, breaking LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-game NCAA record of 406 yards (set for TCU in 1999). Gordon had 25 carries, and his final rush was a 26-yard touchdown run to end the third quarter. Dayne has the NCAA total rushing yardage record with 6,397 yards, and Ball has the career touchdown record with 77.
Rising, falling, holding steady
Chance for a rivalry rematch: With Texas beating Oklahoma State last week, the Longhorns have won three straight games to become bowl eligible with a 6-5 overall record. With Texas A&M losing to Missouri and falling to 7-4, the teams could wind up renewing their rivalry in a bowl game.
Undefeated seasons: Mississippi State fell flat at Alabama, turning the ball over multiple times in Crimson Tide territory. Now, only Florida State remains without a loss. The Seminoles have two games, against Boston College and Florida, and then the ACC championship game remaining.
Postseason chaos: If anyone thought there would be less debate without the BCS around, last week was an example that college football fans will still have much to argue about, maybe even more, with the playoff system. With Alabama’s win, the Crimson Tide went from No. 5 to No. 1. Mississippi State dropped from No. 1 to No. 4, still in the playoff. TCU won and fell out of the Top 4, and Florida State is unbeaten and still listed as No. 3. Let the first year of playoff chaos begin.
Power 5 grades
C+ ACC: Florida State has made crawling out of early deficits a habit. Last week, it was a huge comeback against rival Miami on the road. With the win, the Seminoles are still in line to take one of the four playoff spots. The ACC needs Florida State to make the playoff and then play well to help boost the conference’s perceived prestige.
B- Big Ten: Northwestern upset a ranked Notre Dame team in South Bend, Ind., a huge win for the Wildcats and the Big Ten. Melvin Gordon had an all-world game running the ball against Nebraska, which stole many national headlines. And Ohio State won a tough game at Minnesota. After the win, the Buckeyes jumped closer to a playoff spot at No. 6. It was a good week in the Big Ten.
B Big 12: It was not a good week for Big 12 playoff hopes. Even though TCU won, the Horned Frogs struggled on the road against Kansas and dropped to No. 5 in the playoff poll. With TCU off this week, the Big 12’s chances could come down to the Horned Frogs’ game against Texas on Thanksgiving Day. The good news is that Texas has played well in the past month, so TCU could get a big boost from a road win against the Longhorns. No. 7 Baylor also has a shot, with three games left — against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State.
B Pac-12: It was a mixed week for the Pac-12. No. 2 Oregon was off but stayed in place in the playoff poll. But the conference’s next ranked team, then-No. 6 Arizona State, lost in an upset to Oregon State. The Beavers are now 5-5 overall and have a shot to give the Pac-12 another bowl-eligible team, but the Sun Devils fell all the way to No. 13.
A- SEC: Bad week for Mississippi State and Auburn — the Bulldogs lost for the first time this year, and Auburn lost its second in a row. Great week for Alabama and Georgia — the Crimson Tide beat Mississippi State to jump from No. 5 in the playoff rankings to No. 1 this week, and Georgia dominated Auburn 34-7 to keep pace in the SEC East race. The SEC is the only conference with two teams in the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff poll.
QB Marcus Mariota, junior, Oregon: Last week, off.
RB Melvin Gordon, junior, Wisconsin: Last week, 25 rushes for 408 yards and four touchdowns in 59-24 win against Nebraska.
QB Dak Prescott, junior, Mississippi State: Last week, 27-for-48 passing for 290 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions; 22 rushes for 82 yards in 25-20 loss at Alabama.