Back at his apartment after Auburn thumped Missouri, Ish Witter’s roommate and teammate, Dawson Downing, showed the running back a video on Twitter. Their head coach, Barry Odom, had ranted about being the right man for a job he’s thus far struggled at and said the Mizzou football program was undergoing a “turnaround.”
“Going off” is how Witter described Odom’s speech. He found Odom’s passion motivating, but the moment was also sobering. The speech meant Mizzou — 1-3, thus far helpless against FBS teams and approaching its first road game at Kentucky this weekend — had reached a dark place.
So players feel as though they owe Odom a greater effort, but they also understand they cannot bother themselves with worrying about the intimidating task of restoring their record to a respectable place. That can’t occur in a single week.
“He’s done his part,” Witter said of Odom. “Everyone needs to do their part also.”
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Before Tuesday’s practice, offensive line coach Glen Elarbee showed his unit footage of Mike Tyson training. He wanted them to see the boxer put even more effort into practicing than he did into the actual fights, and he wanted his linemen to learn to only focus on the challenge immediately ahead.
“One day at a time, one week at a time,” said offensive tackle Paul Adams, one of the team’s captains.
Every game holds heightened importance because of Missouri’s poor start to the season, but the upcoming game against Kentucky, which barely beat Eastern Michigan last week, is one of the more winnable Southeastern Conference contests remaining on the schedule. And the Tigers hope playing away from disappointed fans relieves some pressure.
“Get away from this and try to start over,” Witter said. “Hopefully get some better words (from fans) when we get back.”
The Tigers, at least publicly, still believe in themselves. Defensive end Jordan Harold, another captain, said the team is “a lot more focused” on shoring up a multitude of small mistakes that have resulted in losses, including missed tackles. Safety Thomas Wilson said Mizzou would begin to show “how we’re going to change things.”
That process became at least momentarily sidetracked, though, when the team dismissed wide receiver Dimetrios Mason, one of the Tigers’ top receivers.
On that topic, there is little for the Tigers to feel upbeat about.
“Oh yeah,” Witter said. “It sucks.”