COLUMBIA — The stakes are pretty clear for Missouri entering its game against Syracuse on Saturday night.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Win, and the Tigers will improve to 6-5, making them bowl eligible for the eighth consecutive season. Lose, and the Tigers will need to win on the road next week against No. 9 Texas A&M to keep their bowl streak alive, a potentially difficult proposition.
“I’ve made a bowl every year I’ve been here,” senior linebacker Zaviar Gooden said. “So I can’t say that I’ve made a bowl every year except my senior year, when I was a leader on the team, a captain on the team. That’s just not good.
“Plus I think we deserve it. The people we’ve got on the team and talent we’ve got, there’s no reason we shouldn’t make it.”
Though MU’s offense has been injury-ravaged and inconsistent all season, the defense — led by Gooden and several other key players — has held up pretty well during MU’s first season in the Southeastern Conference.
Next year’s group may not be as strong — the defense figures to lose five senior starters and star junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who is suspended for the Syracuse game, is being projected as a first-round NFL Draft pick. That makes the additional practices the Tigers stand to gain by making a bowl even more important for their younger players.
Of course, more practice time is hardly motivation for winning, at least for a senior class that still has a chance at a plus-.500 season and a bowl bid.
“Fighting through a season like this and making something out of it is huge,” senior receiver T.J. Moe said. “It may not be special in the grand scheme of things for Missouri, but it will be for this senior class.”
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.