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2013 Tigers look to match what 2007 squad did at Cotton Bowl

2013 Tigers look to match what 2007 squad did at Cotton Bowl

January 3rd, 2014 in News

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel speaks to the media during a news conference Thursday in Irving, Texas. Missouri will play Oklahoma State tonight in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

Photo by The Associated Press /News Tribune.

It's hard to ignore the comparisons.

The 2007 Missouri team that finished the season at 11-2 after topping Arkansas 38-7 in the 2008 Cotton Bowl vs. the eighth-ranked 2013 Missouri squad that sits at 11-2 heading into today's 7 p.m. (KQFX-TV) Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, against No. 13 Oklahoma State (10-2).

"I don't want to compare them," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think they're completely different. When you're thrown in with those numbers back then, which we are, it's good. But this team has a different situation, a different league, different challenges it had. Certainly I think they're both very unique, and that's certainly a positive."

Added senior left tackle Justin Britt: "We've heard the comparisons. Coach Pinkel talks a lot about the 2007 team. One of our goals as senior leaders was to be that team that he always mentions to the current team. We try not to compare ourselves to them because they were them and we're us. What we do is different from what they do.

"We're hoping this year to create a new standard."

That might be difficult. During that romp against Arkansas, Missouri running back Tony Temple set a Cotton Bowl record with 281 rushing yards. If that wasn't enough, Temple added four rushing touchdowns for good measure.

"I've heard about Tony and the Cotton Bowl," Missouri running back Henry Josey said. "... I know about everything he's done, I know about the record and all that. I can't think about that or I'll get like one yard the whole game."

That was six years ago, though. This is a different Missouri team and a completely different matchup.

"I think the Cotton Bowl has a great matchup," Pinkel said. "Two really good teams that have had really good years. It's going to be important to us. We're going to work hard and try to play our best."

Missouri wants to wash the bad taste out of its mouth from the last time the Tigers played, a 59-42 loss to Auburn in the Southeastern Conference title game. A win there might have catapulted Missouri into the BCS national championship game.

"We've done a great job this year of getting over things and putting it behind us so we can keep moving forward as a team," Josey said. "This team's story isn't finished yet. We still have one more game to finish out the season right and send these seniors out the right way."

That's been a constant theme. The seniors. They were the catalysts for Missouri's stunning turnaround. After a 5-7 campaign a year ago in the Tigers' inaugural SEC season, it was the seniors who laid the foundation for returning to Missouri's winning ways.

"It's extremely important (to go out with a victory)," Missouri senior wide receiver Marcus Lucas said. "At the beginning of the season we wanted to be the team that turned this around after the season that we had last year, and even the season before that. We wanted to get back to nine-, 10-, 11-win seasons. We did that. We want to keep that tradition going. We got that, we inherited it. That kind of winning mentality. We wanted to get back to that because we fell off last year."

Added Britt: "It'd mean the world. This is probably one of the best ways a senior could go out. It's the best way to go out, with everything that's happened and where we are. That'll put the cherry on the top."

It won't come easy. Oklahoma State boasts a high-powered offense (15th in the nation at 39.8 points per game) and stingy defense (14th int he country allowing 20 ppg).

After splitting time with J.W. Walsh earlier in the season, Clint Chelf has commandeered the quarterback position. The senior signal-caller is 131-of-234 (56 percent) on the season for 1,792 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. Tracy Moore (44 receptions for 638 yards and six touchdowns) and Josh Stewart (52 receptions for 623 yards with two scores) are Chelf's favorite targets.

Desmond Roland is the guy to watch out of the backfield, having run 160 times for 745 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jeremy Smith has 442 yards on 115 carries and nine scores.

"They have great pride, we've had a great defensive team this year," Pinkel said. "We'll bounce back and compete hard. Hopefully we'll play really well."

Notes: Missouri owns a 13-16 record in bowl games all-time, while Oklahoma State is 15-8. Missouri's last bowl appearance came in 2011, a 41-24 victory against North Carolina in the Independence Bowl. Oklahoma State's last bowl appearance was a 58-14 victory against Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2012. ... Ten Tigers played against Oklahoma State in 2011, a 45-24 Missouri loss in Columbia. Those Tigers were James Franklin, Josey, E.J. Gaines, Kony Ealy, Lucas, Randy Ponder, Michael Sam, Braylon Webb, Matt White and Andrew Wilson. ... Missouri leads the all-time series with Oklahoma State 28-23, including a 5-4 mark when both teams were in the Big 12. Oklahoma State has won three straight.

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