Hansbrough confident as starter

Offensive coordinator Henson on the running back: “The sky’s the limit for him.”
Missouri Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk (7) hands the ball off to running back Russell Hansbrough (32) in the first half. Hansbrough rushed for a net of 126 yards in Saturday's game against the Jackrabbits.

The most amazing play in Mizzou’s season opening victory against South Dakota State shouldn’t have happened.

Junior running back Russell Hansbrough took the handoff from sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk and stopped almost as soon as he got started. His pause allowed a South Dakota State lineman to run past him, further downfield.

Then Hansbrough shed a would-be tackler and spun the other way, to the eastern side of Faurot Field. After he stiff-armed another Jackrabbit, Hansbrough ran to the pylon for a touchdown.

It was a 10-yard run that required a whole lot more leg-churning because of a miscommunication between Hansbrough and one of his roommates, junior center Evan Boehm.

When Boehm apologized, Hansbrough kept it cool and short, like he always does.

“Hey, you had to make me work a little bit more, and that’s fine,” Hansbrough told Boehm.

Normally, coaches’ blood would boil at the sight of a running back going east and west, not north and south. On Saturday?

“Nobody,” Hansbrough said.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel called the play and the rest of Hansbrough’s 20-rush, 126-yard performance Saturday just “a glimpse of what (Hansbrough) is capable of.”

He’ll have a chance to show a lot more as Mizzou’s new starting running back.

“We kind of expected that from him,” Pinkel said. “You saw the talent he is when that play broke down. He turned a three-yard loss into a touchdown.”

The flashy run was cool, and the 126 yards were big, but it’s the other number that sticks out to Hansbrough — the number he hadn’t seen before in college, or even in high school: 20. He said that the last time he ran the ball that many times in one game was “maybe in pee wee football.”

It’s a transition the running back will make this season. Pinkel said he wants Hansbrough to get approximately 20 carries every game. That’s far different from last season, when Hansbrough ran for 714 yards but had ten or more carries in just three games.

After playing sparingly as a true freshman and having the third-most carries for the Tigers last season behind running back Henry Josey and quarterback James Franklin, Hansbrough said he is associating the increase in touches with more leadership responsibility.

He doesn’t speak much — when asked if wide receiver Darius White’s claim that Hansbrough is funny is valid, Hansbrough said, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” But Hansbrough said he leads by example, hoping to model Josey’s work ethic.

“I’m going to just keep running harder,” Hansbrough said.

Hansbrough doesn’t have to learn much more of the playbook than he did last year, Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. Rather, Henson said, being Mizzou’s every down back is “in the details, more than anything.”

“It’s just doing things right, over and over again,” Henson said. “If Russell does that, talent-wise, the sky’s the limit for him.”

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