Missouri’s win against Oklahoma State in the 2014 Cotton Bowl was critical for several reasons.
It validated the Tigers’ run to the SEC East title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game.
It gave Missouri a record-tying 12 wins and moved coach Gary Pinkel into first place for career victories.
Perhaps most importantly, it provided an amazing postgame video of Pinkel’s celebratory locker-room dance.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
During Friday’s news conference ahead of the 2014 SEC Championship Game (pitting No. 14 Missouri, 10-2, against No. 1 Alabama, 11-1, at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome), Pinkel was asked if he’s been working on a new dance just in case the Tigers win.
“The answer to that is no,” Pinkel said.
He’s been a little busy game-planning for the Crimson Tide.
Amari Cooper’s brilliance
Pinkel professed his reverence for Alabama junior wide receiver Amari Cooper again.
Asked if the Tide’s record-setting pass-catcher was the nation’s best receiver, Pinkel said, “Yes, yes, yes and yes. … I’m very, very impressed with him. If there’s a better receiver in the country, I’d like to see it.”
Cooper has amassed 103 catches for 1,573 yards with 14 touchdowns, but Tide coach Nick Saban said he’s still underrated in some aspects.
“People do things to try to take him out of the game, but I think one of the things that we try to do to counteract that is move him around a lot,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “People really don’t understand and maybe respect how difficult that is for him, to be able to make the adaptations and adjustments to play different positions.”
Pinkel talks south end zone complex
Missouri athletic director Mike Alden announced Thursday that building a new indoor practice facility for football was being put on the backburner in favor of renovating the south end zone complex at Memorial Stadium.
The new plan calls for building coaches’ offices, a weight room, training room and locker room as well as adding new premium seating options.
Alden said it was Pinkel’s idea to change course.
“We wanted to build a state-of-the-art football complex at the south end,” Pinkel said. “We felt that would have the biggest impact on recruiting, to be honest with you. … I’m excited about it. I think that will be a real plus for us. Hopefully, we can get that thing going pretty quick.”
Pinkel staying put
Pinkel was asked Friday if he’d heard from any program in search of a coach — like Michigan, which expressed interest in talking to Pinkel before hiring Brady Hoke in 2011.
“No,” he said. “I’m just coaching Mizzou football here. That’s where my focus is.”
Pinkel, 62, signed a contract extension through the 2020 season with the Tigers earlier this year.
MU’s arrival delayed again
For the second straight year, Missouri pushed back its walk-through at the Georgia Dome because of travel issues.
The Tigers never made it to the scheduled Friday practice last season, because of a combination of travel delays, weather delays and Atlanta’s rush-hour traffic.
It was mechanical problems on the ground in Columbia that prompted déjà vu as Missouri pushed back its “practice” 45 minutes.
The Tigers arrived shortly after 5:15 p.m. eastern and spent roughly 15 minutes mingling on the field before returning to the team buses.
Alabama injury updates
Saban said sophomore kicker Adam Griffith should be able to play.
“He has been able to kick this week,” Saban said. “He’s done a nice job for us. We fully expect him to be available for the game.”
Saban also said starting left tackle Cam Robinson — a 6-foot-6, 323-pound freshman who suffered a sprained shoulder against Auburn — has practiced all week and was expected to play.