In the instant sophomore running back Henry Josey landed on his left knee early in the second half of Missouri's 17-5 win over Texas on Saturday, the Tigers lost more than just the Big 12 Conference's leading rusher. They lost a youthful young tailback just coming into his own.
"It's really sad," junior backup running back Kendial Lawrence said. "He plays a big role on our team. He's our teammate and he's our brother so that's really sad for that to have happened to him."
Josey tore his ACL, MCL and patellar tendon on the play, bringing his breakout season to a screeching halt. The running back underwent surgery during the weekend.
"He's laying up (in the hospital), hanging out with his family," Lawrence said. "That's my little brother, so we talk about everything all the time. (I told him) to keep his head up, stay positive (and that) if you have anything or ever get down, just text me, call me or tell me to come see you and we can talk about it."
Josey is doing what he can to remain positive, coach Gary Pinkel said.
"His spirits are up a little bit, but the second day of surgery is very painful," Pinkel said. "We are all working with him as he goes through this."
Meanwhile, Missouri has to work out how to replace one of the nation's top running backs. Josey's statistics through 11 games were impressive for a player breaking into a starting role. Going into Saturday's game, the sophomore ranked fifth nationally with 127.67 yards per game and led the NCAA in rushes of 10 or more yards.
The first name on the list of replacements is Lawrence, who originally held the starting job out of training camp before going down with injury early in the season. Lawrence got the majority of the carries in Josey's absence Saturday, gaining 111 yards and a touchdown to help the Tigers close out the victory.
"I've always had confidence," Lawrence said. "If anything, it just gives me the urge to work harder for him and pick up the slack."
Even if the running game falters a bit without Josey, Missouri's remaining opponents provide a bit of a safety net. Texas Tech. and Kansas both rank at the bottom of the Big 12 in rushing defense.
Senior offensive lineman Dan Hoch expressed confidence that Lawrence and senior De'Vion Moore could handle the load in the final two games.
"He's a great player," senior offensive lineman Dan Hoch said. "It's one of those things we have to develop depth. We've got good running backs and they're going to step in and step up. Going into camp, Henry was our third guy. So, we know we've got good depth and we'll do fine."
Hoch said the biggest loss for the team would be what Josey brought off the field.
"You know he's going to put up big numbers so it's very unfortunate," Hoch said.