COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Tony Temple watched top-ranked Missouri's only loss of the year from his couch, nervously text-messaging teammates and even leaving telephone messages to let them know he was with them in spirit.
``I was like 'OK, keep going,' knowing they're not going to see it,'' Temple said Monday. ``It was a hard thing. I was letting them know I was happy for them and to keep it going.''
Temple, the feature back on a surprising 11-1 team, was left behind for that 41-31 loss at Oklahoma (10-2) in mid-October because of a sprained ankle.
Now, however, he can expend all that nervous energy on the field in the rematch on Saturday night.
A shot at the national title and the Big 12 championship is the prize and the rest of the team knows Temple, somewhat overshadowed in a pass-happy attack, can be the player who makes a difference.
``Having Tony back is great,'' coach Gary Pinkel said. ``We never came out of that game saying we wished we had Tony Temple, we don't do that around here, and other players I thought went in and did a good job.
``But Tony, he can make a huge impact. There's no question he makes us a better team.''
Temple rushed for 1,063 yards last year and was on the verge of being named Sun Bowl MVP off a 194-yard effort before Oregon State rallied in the final minute for a 35-34 victory. This year he's missed virtually all of three games with a sprained ankle and has 732 yards, a 4.9-yard average and eight touchdowns, but has been back in stride lately.
M. He was an effective complement to the Tigers' high-potency passing offense in the victory that propelled the program to No. 1, rushing for 98 yards in Saturday's 36-28 victory over Kansas.
M game in his hometown of Kansas City, and the combination of playing archrival Kansas and beating the Jayhawks at the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium were motivating factors.
Quarterback Chase Daniel noticed from the start that Temple's intensity level was sky high, and he vows to take matters into his own hands the next time Temple doesn't look ready to rumble.
``I saw the look in his eyes, and if I don't see it in his eyes before games now I'm going to smack him upside the head and make sure he gets it,'' Daniel said. ``When he's on, there's not a better running back in the country.''
Missouri has a pair of capable backups in Jimmy Jackson (292 yards, seven touchdowns) and freshman Derrick Washington (187 yards, 5.5-yard average). All-purpose threat Jeremy Maclin is the second-leading rusher with 309 yards, a 7.4-yard average and four touchdowns.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said he has great respect for Missouri's run game.
``They don't talk about it a lot and no one else does. I think they try to just slide it in there and no one pays attention to it, but they run the ball really well and that's a big part of how we need to defend it,'' Stoops said.
Wthout Temple at Oklahoma, Missouri was held to 57 yards rushing. The Tigers outgained Oklahoma 418-384 in total yards and led 24-23 in the fourth quarter of the first meeting before being undone by mistakes.
This time, it'll be Oklahoma without its leading rusher. Tailback DeMarco Murray dislocated his kneecap against Texas Tech on Nov. 17 and he's expected to miss the Big 12 title game and the Sooners' bowl game after having surgery. The Sooners may also be without defensive end Auston English (leg), the Big 12's sacks leader. English had 1 1/2 sacks and a career-high nine tackles in Oklahoma's win against Missouri in October.
Missouri had four turnovers in that loss, but has totaled only five turnovers in the six games since then with no giveaways in each of the last two. Players are excited about this second chance, along with the trappings a victory would bring.
The celebration after the Kansas victory was short, given what lay ahead.
``You should have seen our locker room,'' Temple said. ``Yeah, we were excited but people were talking about Oklahoma already.''
Temple also has been thinking of what he needs to do to avoid getting abused by Daniel.
``I've got to get ready myself, and I will,'' he said. ``When I'm upset, I'm just in a different zone. I try to make myself get upset even if it's something like just getting tackled.''

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