LAS VEGAS — For the first time since 1979, Missouri finished unbeaten on the road.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
The Tigers, 10-1 and 6-1 in the SEC, went 5-0 in true road games — beating Indiana, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi.
“It’s awesome,” senior linebacker Andrew Wilson said. “If you want to be a great team, you’ve got to win on the road and we know that. We did a great job doing that.”
Missouri won every road game this season by at least 14 points.
Of course, with a win against Texas A&M, the Tigers might face Alabama — if the Crimson Tide beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl for the SEC West championship — and that would probably feel like a road game.
That would be just fine with Missouri.
“We get excited, because it’s just us playing together in a hostile environment,” Wilson said. “It was an awesome here (at Mississippi on Saturday), so we just enjoyed it and had fun.”
Now, on to your questions:
@todpalmer who is the face of this team? last year it was TJ Moe, IMO. who is the guy this year?— Connor (@cdotcape) November 26, 2013
Honestly, and this isn’t just coachspeak here, I don’t think there really is one face of this team. It could have been Michael Sam, but he doesn’t talk to the media. That’s not a knock, but he’s simply not out there enough to be the face of the 2013 Tigers as a result. Quarterback James Franklin probably was in line for that distinction before he was injured and disappeared from the scene for a few weeks.
The net result is that there isn’t one “Mizzou spokesman.” There isn’t one guy who has the pulse of the team and commands the attention. When you’re talking about a face of the team, it’s a media darling, because that’s how most fans interact with the team — at least as far as getting to know the guys a bit. There are a bunch of guys who stand above the fray a bit.
Franklin is still that guy, along with redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk. However, if I were pressed to name one player, it would be senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington. He has the respect of his teammates — not only because he’s a productive player with a future in the NFL, but because of everything he has overcome in his life. He’s also a refreshingly honest, thoughtful and salient interview. Of course, a case can also be made senior left guard Max Copeland and Franklin. Personally, I’d throw senior cornerback E.J. Gaines on that short list too.
Offensive coordinator Josh Henson will be a head coach someday if he wants to be, but I’m not sure that opportunity will present itself this offseason. The market hasn’t really taken shape yet. So much depends on what USC, Texas and Nebraska do. If those three schools have openings, the coaching carousel could get ridiculous and the moving parts open up endless possibilities. Henson only is in his first season as a play-caller and coordinator, so he remains a bit green. Still, he has all the earmarks of a head coaching candidate one day.
Among the hallmarks of Pinkel’s staff, loyalty is pretty high up there. Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has been on Pinkel’s staff for 13 years. I don’t see that changing. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’ve never specifically asked Steckel if he wanted to be a head coach, but I don’t suspect he’ll leave. (Note: The takeaway from all that should be that I’m probably dead wrong and both guys will be gone.)
New Orleans is my best guess. That requires Missouri to beat Texas A&M, which brings a BCS game into a play. Unless Missouri gets pummeled in the SEC championship game, I think the Sugar Bowl is very much in play. Failing that, the Capital One, Cotton or Outback are the most likely destinations.
Sure, he should get at least one series just like last week. Pinkel said he was preparing as the backup. Someone even asked if Mauk might be used to simulate Johnny Football in practice — an interesting thought given Mauk’s escapability and penchant for deep throws. But Pinkel said he would not be used on the scout team, indicating that he’s too valuable as a backup.
Sophomore forward Ryan Rosburg is playing well. He scored 14 points, which is the third time he’s broken his own career-high for points this season, during Missouri’s win Thursday against Northwestern at the Las Vegas Invitational. For the time being, I think he continues to start. Senior forward Tony Criswell is prone to foul trouble, which makes him a liability as a starter. He’s also a high-energy guy, who can provide a spark off the bench with his tenacity. That’s an important role.