COLUMBIA — Theres an adage in sports, especially football, about not allowing a loss to beat you twice.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
The idea is expressed by coaches after a disheartening defeat, one that can end dreams and alter aspirations.
Coaches and players can say the right things in the aftermath of a letdown, such as Missouris to South Carolina last weekend that punctured the Tigers perfect season. But for a game fueled by emotion, the tank and the sentiment can seem empty.
Mizzou, late in its Big 12 years, got caught in the spiral.
Not this time.
The Tigers reacted to last weeks gut-punch with determination and an edge Saturday, pounding out a 31-3 victory against a Tennessee team that was good enough to beat the Gamecocks two weeks before they shocked the Tigers.
Missouri did plenty right Saturday, and the outcome was decided by halftime after quarterback Maty Mauk had thrown touchdown passes to each of his big wide-receiver targets: LDamian Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas.
In their most complete game of the season, the Tigers dominated with their running game and defense. Even the first halfs surreal moment kicker Andrew Baggett doinking a last-second 29-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright, the same action that ended the South Carolina game provided irony, not foreboding.
But maybe none of that would have happened if the Tigers werent in the right place emotionally, and offensive guard and team free spirit Max Copeland insisted they were, starting last Sunday.
We extracted the lesson from the loss and we had to shuck the shell, and remain in the present, Copeland said. Thats how we bounced back. We remained in the present. We asked ourselves, How were we going to win today?
By realizing whats ahead. Tigers coach Gary Pinkel missed last Sundays team activities while attending the memorial service of his mentor, Don James. When he returned Tuesday, he laid it out for the Tigers.
The only thing I told them was why in the world would you even think about last weeks game? Pinkel said. Are you kidding me? We were 7-1 and 3-1 in the league, and weve got four games left in November. Ill take that for the rest of my career, forever.
Maybe it wasnt necessary, because I trust these kids.
The bitterness of blowing last weeks 17-0 fourth-quarter lead was wiped away, and Missouri also left some history in the dust.
Recall 2008: In Chase Daniels final season, the Tigers crushed Nebraska in Lincoln, improving to 5-0 and jumping to No. 3 in the polls.
Missouri lost the next week at home to Oklahoma State and then got blown out at Texas the week after.
In 2010, Blaine Gabberts final season, Mizzou improved to 7-0 by knocking off an Oklahoma team that was ranked first in the BCS standings.
Those Tigers climbed from outside the rankings to No. 7 in the polls in a matter of weeks. But a week after the conquest of the Sooners, Mizzou lost at Nebraska. No real harm, until the next week, when the Tigers laid an egg at Texas Tech. The Hangover, Part II.
The conditions of 2013 unfolded in eerily similar fashion. Missouri, a preseason pick to finish sixth in the division, had reached 7-0 and No. 5 in the BCS standings after knocking off Georgia and Florida in succession when South Carolina yanked out the Tigers heart.
That made Missouri a mystery team this week, and so did the quarterback situation. Injured starter James Franklin warmed up and appeared to throw without stress on his sprained shoulder. Would Franklin trot out with the starters and provide an emotional boost?
There was no need. Mauk found his favorite targets, and nearly everything else worked. And because it did, the Tigers primary objective of winning the division remains in reach.
If Mizzou wins out, it will take the East and play in the SEC championship game with a BCS Bowl berth on the line. Thats in play because the Tigers didnt suffer successive setbacks. They didnt let a loss beat them twice.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.