‘Routree’ has career night, pointing towards a (hopefully) better future in bowl game loss

Some familiar names and newer, younger faces made their presence felt in the 33-38 loss.
Missouri running back stands with the 'n' in his last name missing from his jersey during warmups before a 33-38 loss to Oklahoma State on Monday, Dec. 31 at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Many Missouri fans know the name and its atypical spelling: Larry Rountree III.

The sophomore running back was a staple in the Missouri offense all season. However, those tuning into the Liberty Bowl on Monday knew him as Larry ‘Routree.’ His name was misspelled on his own jersey.

‘Routree’ is a name that many in attendance and those watching at home – particularly those unfamiliar with MU football – are now well-acquainted with, as he spearheaded the Missouri (8-5, 4-4) offensive attack in a 33-38 loss to Oklahoma State (7-6, 3-6) on Monday evening.

He led all rushers with 204 yards on 27 carries. He also had one touchdown, which saw him go 55 yards to paydirt. He also had the third-most yards from scrimmage of any player in the game. It was a new career high in rushing yards.

“For him to go over 200 yards in the way that he did it,” coach Barry Odom said, “number one, credit our offensive line and, number two, credit Rountree.”

‘The way that he did it’ was by finding out pre-game that his usual co-star at running back, Damarea Crockett, wouldn’t be suiting up. Crockett and Rountree usually split snaps dating back to last season, but without Crockett, things turned into a one-man show.

As for the new career high? Well, Rountree wasn’t one to dwell on it.

“I really didn’t know I had that much, but I was just trying to score,” Rountree said. “And, um, [we] came back. We fought. We just didn’t have the outcome we wanted to have so you know, it sucks.”

He spent about the same amount of time dwelling on the career night as he did the missing letter on his jersey, something he said he found out about from a teammate after not noticing himself.

“I can get that fixed,” Rountree said. “I’m not worried about that.”

Possibly the best news for Rountree after such a close, rather disheartening, loss is that there will be ample chances to spell that name right moving forward – two year’s worth of games to be exact.

To step in and carry the load at a moment’s notice was no less than impressive, but Rountree wasn’t the only underclassman who made his presence felt in the loss.

At the podium Monday night, three seniors – Drew Lock, Cam Hilton and Paul Adams – took the stage with Odom, but so did junior receiver Johnathon Johnson, whom Odom made sure to point out would be back next season. Johnson finished the night with 185 yards receiving on nine catches, as well as a touchdown. He also led all receivers in yards.

Of the other underclassmen who made their presence felt on Monday, perhaps the most surprising may have been freshman receiver Dom Gicinto, who caught the Tigers’ first touchdown of the night. Freshman linebacker Nick Bolton also helped on a crucial sack on third-and-5 late in the final quarter of play and redshirt sophomore Barrett Banister had a career-high 37 receiving yards. Although their performances weren’t groundbreaking, it seems as though all three may have begun blossoming in the loss. They showed they have a place in this Missouri program at the very least.

Of Missouri’s usual suspects of underclassmen talent – freshman receivers Jalen Knox and Kam Scott, freshman running back Tyler Badie and freshman tight end Daniel Parker, Jr. – all had quiet nights. Knox and Badie combined for two catches for 11 yards and Scott and Parker, Jr. weren’t even targeted. However, all found significant time on the field.

As much as the curtain closed on the class of 2019 Monday night, it’s clear there’s a budding nucleus of young talent on this team. The future is bright. And in the eyes of Rountree, who didn’t seem quick to dwell on most things Monday night, he made one thing clear.

“The road’s past us,” Rountree said. “We’ve got expectations we’ve got to live up to next year. Work starts right now. We’ve got to be ready to go.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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