Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock vividly remembers the Missouri football team’s bus ride to Kansas City last November on the Friday before playing BYU at Arrowhead Stadium.
Moments before piling onto the bus, former coach Gary Pinkel told the Tigers he had follicular lymphoma and would resign after the season.
“On our bus ride to Kansas City, I didn’t really think about the game at all,” Lock said.
Instead, he and Cam Hilton, a fellow freshman and Lock’s roommate at the time, discussed the implications of Pinkel’s impending departure.
We were “talking about what in the world we were possibly going to do and what happens if they bring in a guy that recruited us and we didn’t want to go play for,” Lock said. “It was stuff like that. Little things creep up in your mind.”
Little things that have nothing to do with preparing to play football.
LSU’s players are in a similar boat ahead of a Southeastern Conference battle with Mizzou at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium after head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were fired Sunday morning.
“I guess they’re probably shell-shocked like it was with us when Gary Pinkel said he was going to retire,” senior defensive tackle Rickey Hatley said. “I’m just wishing them the best of luck, but I really don’t feel too much sympathy for them, man. I can’t help that.”
Senior linebacker Michael Scherer admitted the recent events surrounding LSU, including having a game-winning touchdown at the end of regulation versus Auburn overturned by replay review and the arrest/suspension of starting defensive Davon Godchaux, reminded him of last year’s turmoil in Columbia.
Of course, it’s also nice to be on the other side.
“I don’t want there to be any asterisk next to whatever happens on Saturday,” Scherer said.. “The more news that comes out, the more upset I get about it.”
Missouri’s new coach, Barry Odom, was in a meeting with his staff when he learned of Miles’ firing.
“Number one, I hate it for Les,” Odom said. “He’s been a guy that I’ve looked up to for a number of years. He’s had such great success. You look at the body of work that he’s done. He’s changed and affected so many lives of young men — thousands of them — over his career in such a positive way and he’s had such great success. I was surprised, but this business is crazy and he’s going to be in a good spot.”
Odom called Miles “a respected member of the Southeastern Conference” and “one of the great ones,” adding that “he made college football better.”
He also expects LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron, who coached Mississippi during 2005-07 and was Southern California’s interim coach in 2013, to have Mizzou’s next opponent ready to play.
“I’m sure Ed has a tremendous relationship with his team,” Odom said. “He’s very well-respected in the business and they’ve got a great staff. I know (LSU associate head coach/defensive coordinator) Dave Aranda and a couple of those guys that have been in the business, and they’ll do a great job on leading their team. They know the ins and outs and what will work for them and I’m sure they’ll be ready to go Saturday.”
Hatley, Lock and the rest of MU’s Tigers expect to be greeted in “Death Valley” by a fired-up and focused LSU squad despite a week’s worth of potential distractions.
“They’re going to be out to knock our heads off and be a little upset because (the school) just fired the head coach that they committed to and were thinking they were going to get for four years,” Lock said.
That’s how it worked for Missouri, which banded together in the wake of racial protests and a brief players’ boycott followed by Pinkel’s bombshell to notch its only win during the final seven games of the season.
“You kind of have to push all the (stuff) aside really and just know that at this time period, not many people are going to be on your side, because of decisions that were made,” sophomore right tackle Paul Adams said. “It’s one of those things, you just have to circle your wagons and become closer as a team.”