ATLANTA — It seems like everybody wants to talk about how Auburn will recover with the emotional high of its crazy Iron Bowl win against previously undefeated and top-ranked Alabama.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
How in the world can No. 3 Auburn put Chris Davis’ missed field-goal return for a touchdown on the game’s final play in the rearview mirror and focus on No. 5 Missouri?
It’s the second time this year that Auburn is coming off a last-second victory. Before facing rival Alabama in what amounted to the SEC West championship game, Auburn won on “The Prayer at Jordan-Hare” when Ricardo Louis hauled in a tipped fourth-down Hail Mary for a game-winning 73-yard touchdown against Georgia.
By that logic, it shouldn’t be that tough for Auburn to get pumped up again with a another title on the line. Auburn and Missouri square off for the SEC championship at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Georgia Dome.
Just don’t forget, Missouri is coming off a pretty big game, too.
It’s not as though Texas A&M, which only lost to Auburn by four points, was a pushover. And beating the Aggies was a must for Missouri to reach Atlanta.
There also was the added pressure of playing in what many dubbed the “biggest game in Memorial Stadium’s history.”
Plus, it was Missouri’s senior night — which means tears from moms, the final roars from the home crowd and already amped-up 20-somethings trying desperately to soak in and cling to a fast-fleeting stitch in time.
“We tried as hard as we can to stay reserved and not too emotionally invested in the senior night ritual,” left guard Max Copeland said. “I think we did OK, but I think that’s easier said than done.”
Now, Missouri faces the tough task of getting regrouped and refocused in short order.
“There’s some challenge to that,” Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson said, “but I think the nature of this game it kind of takes care of itself to some extent. But there’s a challenge to that certainly. You get kind of an emotional high and you’ve got to come back from that, come back and focus on the things that got us to this spot in the first place.”
Henson said that means attention to detail and precision, executing the fundamentals and not being satisfied with merely making the SEC championship game.
“The one thing we told our guys was, ‘Don’t make the mistake of going out there thinking we’re good enough because we got to this point. Let’s be better. Let’s go out and improve this week at practice,’” Henson said.
Missouri went through the same thing in 2007 after beating Kansas in a top-five clash at Arrowhead Stadium, then having to turn around quickly for a tussle against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship.
“The teams are different in a lot of ways,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “I reflect a little bit on that, but you’ve got to deal with the team you’re dealing with, you know? … I think our guys are pretty grounded here. I’d be surprised if they’re not.”
Chase Daniel, who quarterbacked Missouri to that unforgettable 2007 win against the Jayhawks and now plays for the Chiefs, hopes the 2013 Tigers will succeed where his team came up short.
“We’re past that thing where, ‘Hey, we just need to get to the championship game to be successful,’” Daniel said. “We’ve been competitive in the SEC in our second year, and we can go out there and compete and win an SEC championship.”
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.