COLUMBIA — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel doesnt expect a double-overtime loss against South Carolina to linger.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The Tigers, 7-1, had a perfect season ended in gut-wrenching fashion Saturday blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, allowing a Gamecocks touchdown on fourth and goal from the 15 in the first overtime and, finally, when Andrew Baggetts 24-yard field goal try in the second OT stoinked off the left upright.
But Missouri wont hang its head and feel sorry for itself.
If youre a player here, why would you not be encouraged? Pinkel said. Weve got a great chance to finish. Novembers a huge month. Weve got a great football team that works so hard. Weve got great players.
He continued, You should be the most fired-up football player in America with the opportunity and the options that we have in front of us. But weve got to take care of our business. Thats the beauty of playing and thats the beauty of football and coaching.
Thats not to say that the loss to South Carolina wasnt painful. It was incredibly painful.
Sometimes, you have to learn a hard lesson, senior wide receiver LDamian Washington said. Id be lying if I said it didnt hurt. It stung a little bit, but I know I had to come in here with a positive mindset and with a smile on my face just to let my teammates know that life goes on and the season is still the exact same thing. The goals didnt change and the big picture is still there.
Missouri practiced Sunday afternoon and redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk said the team was refocused, redialed and ready to go.
There are a few players still around from the 2010 team, which seemed to let one loss snowball into a second.
We just cant think about last weeks game and cant let it affect us for this week, senior cornerback Randy Ponder said. It was a bad taste in our mouth, but we cant let it have a domino effect.
Memories of how a stinging 31-17 loss at Nebraska after Missouri had reached 7-0 by knocking off third-ranked Oklahoma the week before lingered and led to another loss the next week at Texas Tech arent forgotten.
It can go two ways, said senior cornerback E.J. Gaines, who is expected to return after missing the last two games. We can either get down on ourselves and have a bunch of losses in a row or we can get back at it and do what we do. Get on our grind and hopefully get a win this week against Tennessee.
So, whats it going to take to put the South Carolina game in the rearview and keep it there?
Its going to take an intense focus on the present, senior left guard Max Copeland said. The past is a part of us, but its not who we are. The important thing and Ive said this before, I know its cliché but when you lose, its important not to lose the lesson or its just pain for nothing. So, thats what were doing. Were extracting the little seed of wisdom. Were casting away the shell and were focusing on the present right now and the task at hand.
After all, Missouri still has some lofty achievements in its sights, starting with a Southeastern Conference East Division crown and a berth in the conference title game Dec. 7 at Atlantas Georgia Dome.
At 3-1 in conference play, Missouri remains a game up in the loss column. With wins against Florida, 3-2 and Georgia, 3-2, the Tigers lead over those teams is effectively a two games because they own the tiebreaker.
But South Carolina, 4-2, owns a tiebreaker against Missouri, meaning one more loss puts the Tigers in jeopardy of slipping from the top spot in the standings.
Still, Missouri controls its fate with respect to the conference race.
Our goals are still reachable, Washington said. Alabama two years in a row has won the national championship both times with a loss during the regular-season, so I dont see why our goal can be anything less than a national championship or an SEC East championship.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.