Missouri Tigers News and Notes: Status of OSU's Bryant, Hunter Uncertain

Ryan FallerAnalyst IOctober 12, 2009

Given the sullen and depressing nature of Thursday night's choke against Nebraska, I will refrain from posting a full-blown version of "Under Further Review" this week. Frankly, I would rather look ahead to Oklahoma State than recall all of the obvious ills that defined that historically bad fourth quarter.

The 27 fourth-quarter points MU allowed against Nebraska were the most since 1984, when the Tigers surrendered 28 to Wisconsin in a 35-34 loss. 

Here's an abbreviated version of my review of the Nebraska game:

The Good: 1) improved defensive line play, 2) active linebackers (particularly Andrew Gachkar), 3) run defense

The Bad: 1) the invisible offensive linemen, 2) Gabbert showing his youth, 3) fourth quarter play calls

With that out of the way, let's move on. In my last article, I touched on the fact that Missouri has a pair of golden opportunities for atonement ahead, beginning this Saturday in Stillwater, where the Tigers haven't lost since 1992.

Not only would a win over Oklahoma State (ranked No. 16 in AP, No. 14 in Coaches') soothe the sting of the loss to Nebraska, it would thrust Missouri (unranked in the AP) back into the national polls and instantly put the Tigers back into the Big 12 North picture.

And history suggests the game between the Cowboys and the Tigers will be an entertaining one. Though Missouri holds a 27-21 edge in the series—and a 5-2 mark in Big 12 play—six of the last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or less, including three overtime thrillers.

Another interesting note from this matchup: The road team has won each of the last four meetings, the most noteworthy of which being OSU's 28-23 win over then-No. 4 Missouri in 2008 that all but crippled the Tigers' national championship hopes.

A few other notes regarding this weekend's game, which will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 8:15 p.m. CT:

The status of Dez Bryant for Saturday's game versus Missouri is undetermined. The Oklahoma State All-American receiver/return specialist is scheduled to meet with NCAA officials Tuesday in Indianapolis regarding his chances of reinstatement.

Bryant, a junior who intends to enter the NFL Draft next year, was declared ineligible for the remainder of the season last Wednesday for lying to the NCAA about his visit to the home of former NFL star Deion Sanders.

Had he told the truth about his relationship and meeting with Sanders, which is currently being investigated for potential improprieties, Bryant would not have been punished.

"Once it’s explained, I think there’s some other factors that will hopefully come out and help with this situation,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said of Bryant, who violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1.

"I would hope that anyone who would listen to the whole story and would feel him, kinda as a human being, and would listen to his side of it would at least have some empathy for what happened to him."

As far as Sanders is concerned, he told the NFL Network on Sunday that his former agent was not present at the house at the time of Bryant's visit; had the agent been present, Bryant would have been guilty of an NCAA infraction.

Sanders, who said he talks to Bryant about "three times a week," reiterated in the interview that he was asked to mentor Bryant and that he even sought permission from an OSU official to do so.

Moving from one OSU star to another, junior running back Kendall Hunter may be a game-time decision. Hunter, who scorched the Tigers for 154 yards last season, has missed the last three games since suffering an ankle/foot injury in the second half against Houston on Sept. 12.

Hunter's injury was initially diagnosed as a sprain, but now the fear is that a fracture may be more likely, leaving the return of the Big 12's leading rusher in 2008 uncertain.

When asked if he would seek a medical redshirt for Hunter, head coach Mike Gundy said he would wait a bit longer before making that determination, as Hunter has been able to handle some light drills over the last few weeks and could possibly be fit to play later this week.

Hunter's two main replacements, Keith Toston and Beau Johnson, have combined for 566 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

During his Monday teleconference, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said quarterback Blaine Gabbert suffered a "slight sprain" of his right ankle against Nebraska and that he looked fine during practice on Sunday. Pinkel sounded optimistic Gabbert could be back at 100 percent in time for Saturday.

Looking a bit further into the future, Missouri's homecoming contest against Texas on Oct. 24 will be televised on ABC either at 2:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. The Big 12 and ABC will make a determination next Monday. The game between Oklahoma and Kansas in Lawrence will occupy whichever slot is left vacant.

**UPDATE 10/12, 9:45 p.m.** The injury news regarding sophomore linebacker Will Ebner is just as favorable. Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter reported Monday evening that Ebner has undergone arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and has already begun rehab. Ebner, who tore the meniscus late in the game against Nebraska, had half of the tendon removed and may return as early as the Texas game.

Meanwhile, cornerback Munir Prince (hamstring) is expected to play against Oklahoma State after sitting out against Nebraska.

A couple of interesting tidbits: Matter reported that according to Pinkel's estimation, Missouri offensive linemen were flagged for only 10 holding penalties all of last season—or six more than they were in four quarters against the Cornhuskers on Thursday. Also, senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon told Matter that Dez Bryant is the cousin of Gilbert Moye, Missouri's No. 4 running back.



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