During the SEC’s weekly coaches’ teleconference, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel revisited the emotion of his return to Toledo last weekend.
Pinkel has deep ties to the area. He is a native of Akron, Ohio, and played at Kent State. Pinkel also became Toledo’s winningest coach during a 10-year stint from 1991-2000, going 73-37-3 before accepting the head coaching job at Missouri.
He stayed locked in game preparation as much as possible, but it still was an emotional journey for Pinkel to return home.
“I’ve got pretty good self-discipline,” Pinkel said. “For the most part, I focused all on the game obviously. But, the night before the game, I saw a lot of friends and family — people I just hadn’t seen for a long time that live in the Toledo area. Then, after the game (I saw) some high school friends, some college friends and bunch of my players from Toledo. I saw my captains, I coached them and haven’t seen them for, gosh, 15, 17, 18 years. It was really awesome. I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad we won the game. It was a great experience, but I don’t want to do it again.”
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Speaking of doing it again, the Tigers had a tough time dispatching Central Florida two years ago on the road, and Pinkel isn’t exactly thrilled to be facing another George O’Leary defense Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“Coach O’Leary, that’s what he does — they play great defense without question,” Pinkel said.
He also said he’s concerned about the veteran wide receiving corps the Knights bring in for an 11 a.m. kickoff in Missouri’s SEC Network debut.
Watching game tape of Central Florida’s last-second loss against Penn State two weeks ago in Dublin, Ireland, Pinkel said the Knights’ defense with eight returning starters and quality skill-position players on offense stood out.
He also was impressed by quarterback Justin Holman, who rallied Central Florida in the second half is expected to start against Missouri.
“He came in in the second half and really played exceptionally well — good athlete, strong arm,” Pinkel said. “He threw 64-percent completion for over 200 yards and a touchdown. He got them back in the game with a chance to win over Penn State.”
Pinkel knows the Knights, who toppled Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl last season, won’t be awed by the setting — even without Blake Bortles, who was selected No. 3 overall by Jacksonville in May’s NFL Draft.
“They know how to win,” Pinkel said. “They’ve been in the big environments before. It’s just going to be a great challenge for us.”