No. 7 Missouri preparing for No. 14 Nebraska
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Sleep was impossible for Gary Pinkel during whatever was left of the night after perhaps the biggest victory in Missouri history.
Not because the euphoria refused to subside after the Tigers knocked off Oklahoma, No. 1 in the BCS and No. 3 in the poll. Unbeaten or not, he was already fretting about next week. Coaching even in bed, Pinkel began plotting strategy for Saturday afternoon’s game (2:30 p.m., ABCTV) at No. 14 Nebraska.
Pinkel described himself Monday as pretty dull, a creature of habit and a worrywart. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working for the Tigers, 7-0 for the first time in 50 years and rising quickly in national stature at No. 7 in the poll and No. 6 in the BCS standings.
“I don’t usually sleep after a game anyway,” Pinkel said. “It’s the victory. You’ve got to get the team ready to play. The next week’s bigger. My wife, bless her heart, she’s trying to get me a new bed so I can sleep better.
“I said, ‘When I stop coaching, I’ll sleep better.’”
Whatever happens the rest of the way, Pinkel won’t be outworked.
While Pinkel tossed and turned, fans celebrated well into the night. Players and coaches soaked it up, too, lingering on the field following the decisive 36-27 victory over Oklahoma. They savored the occasion as fans dragged one goal post and part of another to a local tavern to be dismantled.
“The town was crazy,” wide receiver T.J. Moe said. “Tradition, you know.”
Everyone was back to work on a co-called “Victory” Sunday, a term Pinkel borrowed from Dick Vermeil. It was a full day of film review, team meetings and a highlight reel of big plays with cheering encouraged, but unlike after a loss, no brief practice.
“A lot of teams get overconfident when they get ranked and beat a couple of good teams,” defensive end Aldon Smith said. “My celebration was over Saturday night. I woke up the next morning real sore and I wasn’t in celebration mode anymore, I was in get treatment mode.”
Defensive back Carl Gettis said acquiring tunnel vision for Nebraska (6-1, 2-1 Big 12) wasn’t difficult.
“There will be some more distractions since we won that game, we expected that as a team,” Gettis said. “It was a good win, but it’s over with now and it’s time to move on and get ready for Nebraska.”
Entering the season, Missouri (3-0 Big 12) seemed to lack the star power of teams the past few years that featured the likes of Heisman Tro- phy finalist Chase Daniel and first-round NFL draft picks Jeremy Maclin and Sean Weatherspoon.
The undefeated start has changed that. Gabbert was named a Davey O’Brien award semifinalist and co-Big 12 offensive player of the week Monday. Gahn McGaffie, who returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in Saturday’s 36-27 triumph, was conference special teams player of the week.
The defense appears to be Pinkel’s best in a decade at Missouri, allowing only 13 points per game for fifthbest in the nation. After seven games last season, opponents were averaging 23 points. Smith, the Tigers’ top pass rusher, returned after missing three games with a leg injury and had a 58-yard interception return.
Maybe this is Pinkel’s most complete team. He likes that the Tigers, picked to finish second in the Big 12 North behind Nebraska, have steadily improved. But he knows there’s a long way to go.
Missouri was No. 1 for a week in 2007 but then flopped against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, and Pinkel learned from that.
“It’s just all about focus, that’s all it is,” he said. “It’s just about getting your mind focused and getting your team focused to play it’s very, very best. That’s it.
“Can you lock in and do your best? It’s easy to say, it’s difficult to do.”