Blaine Gabbert's numbers have plummeted the last two weeks while he's been hobbled by a sprained right ankle. So have Missouri's fortunes, with losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma State.
Jessica Mustain, KMOV.com
The sophomore quarterback has heard plenty of speculation that a break would do him, and the Tigers, good in the long run. But even if he's far from 100 percent there's no way Gabbert's missing Saturday night's Big 12 test against No. 3 Texas.
"That's not the kind of person I am," Gabbert said. "People can think all they want, they have no idea what's going on. I'm fine. I'm good to go."
Missouri (4-2, 0-2 Big 12) needs Gabbert against the Longhorns (6-0, 4-0), who lead the nation with a 42-point average, are 6-0 for the second straight season and have taken 15 of the last 16 from the Tigers, including a rout last season in Austin. Texas is one of seven unbeaten teams left, has won 10 in a row dating to last season and is a 13-point favorite to spoil homecoming.
"I knew these three games were our toughest games, I knew this was going to be a great challenge for us," coach Gary Pinkel said. "I said this last year, and the year before and the first year I got here: It's hard to win. It's very, very hard to win."
For Gabbert, at times it appears it's been very hard to move, and the injury has affected his accuracy. The last two weeks he's 39 for 87 with five interceptions and one touchdown.
"It's a little bit different than having a sore elbow or wrist because it's your plant foot," Pinkel said. "How that affects him, we'll never know. But here's a guy who says 'I'm playing,' as long as the medical staff says it's OK, and that kind of attitude is going to define him."
Defense has made the difference at Texas, which overcame Colt McCoy's worst game of the year to survive its annual Oklahoma rivalry game with a 16-13 victory last week. The Longhorns have used that game as a springboard, following up with at least a four-game winning streak all but one of the last 10 seasons.
They're allowing only 14.7 points per game, and holding opponents to 20.7 percent success on third down. The goal this week is to bring Gabbert more misery.
"We're going to go after every quarterback, no matter who it is or what team it is," cornerback Aaron Williams said.
Missouri's best hope for an upset might be a quick start against a school that's been slow-starting on offense much of the season, scoring 10 or fewer points in the first half of four games. The Tigers' problem lately has been a lack of finishing touch without stars such as Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman who led the program to consecutive 10-win seasons in 2007-08.
Texas coach Mack Brown anticipated Missouri would have a drop-off, but changed his mind after the Tigers whipped Illinois in the season opener. He downplays the last two losses because of a downpour that marred the Nebraska game and Gabbert's limited mobility against Oklahoma State.
"I think they have a chance to be just as good as they were last year," Brown said. "And because of that they scare you to death."
Brown blames injuries for Texas' slow starts, particularly at running back and receiver.
"We haven't had continuity," Brown said. "Everybody plays good at times but we're not starting the game well, and that's something we've got to try to do better."
Just like Gabbert, McCoy has been less than 100 percent in recent weeks. He was ill against Texas Tech and injured his thumb against Oklahoma while going 21 of 40 for 127 yards.
The difference is Texas has still been winning. McCoy is 19-1 in his last 20 starts, and points to the bottom line.
"At this point I wanted to be 6-0 and we are 6-0, so I couldn't be more proud of that, I couldn't be more happy of that," the quarterback said. "There's a lot of things we can be better at but the good thing is we're 6-0. So there's been no disappointment thus far."