Missouri's Overlooked Temple Set For Possible Finale

The senior has missed time due to injuries and has 758 yards rushing

Dec. 29, 2007

DALLAS (AP) -- Tony Temple is the starting running back without a Heisman portfolio in the Cotton Bowl.

Approaching what could be his final college game it would be easy to overlook the Missouri senior, who's missed time due to injuries and has 758 yards rushing after topping 1,000 last year. He's just one of many options in the No. 7 Tigers' spread offense and thus no match statistically against Arkansas' Darren McFadden, the Heisman runner-up and a likely top-five NFL draft pick next spring.

Temple, who will appeal for a medical redshirt fifth season after the Jan. 1 game, refuses to get caught up in that kind of talk. He just wants to go out in style, if this truly is the end.

"Definitely, playing against a great back is some kind of competition," Temple said Friday after Missouri's second day of workouts in Texas. "But you don't get caught up in it, you just don't worry about that.

"I've got to play my role and I may have to get 3 or 4 yards if my team needs it."

Coach Gary Pinkel believes it's only natural for Temple to get extra motivation.

"Tony's going against one of the best running backs in the country, if not the best," Pinkel said. "Certainly you think he wants to play at a high level and he's a competitor.

"I think that's natural, and I think that's healthy."

Temple saved his best for last in 2006, rushing for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the Sun Bowl. He had been on the verge of being named the game's MVP before Oregon State rallied for a one-point victory in the final minute, also losing the Sun Bowl rushing record set in 1977 when he lost 4 yards on his final carry.

Missouri (11-2) plans on giving Temple plenty of work against Arkansas (8-4), balancing a pass-happy attack and keeping the Razorbacks' defense honest.

"He knows he's going to get the opportunity to run," quarterback Chase Daniel said. "When you're in press man coverage you're not looking in the backfield, and Tony sees that. He's excited about it and he hopes obviously that he's going to have a big game."



How big may depend on the flow of the game; Temple noted he might be called upon to block "100 times."

Both McFadden (1,712 yards) and Felix Jones (1,117) carry a heavier load for Arkansas, which has the nation's third-best rushing offense at 297 yards per game with 32 touchdowns and a 6.1-yard average. Missouri's own Heisman finalist, Daniel, is the triggerman of a potent spread offense averaging 40 points per game, with six players catching 37 or more passes.

"Maybe their passing game has been undervalued," Pinkel said. "You have a tendency to lean on what people do best and we've done best throwing the football. But when we get our running game going, too, we're better."

Missouri's appeal for an extra season for Temple hinges on his limited play as a freshman in 2004, though there's less optimism since he played late in the season instead of getting token duty in an early game. Temple had six carries for 13 yards in the eighth game of the season -- stepping in after the late Damien Nash was suspended for disciplinary reasons -- before an ankle injury ended his year.

"Hopefully we get the year back," Pinkel said. "We'll have to wait and see."