November the cruelest month for Missouri
Tigers 7-14 under Pinkel in final calendar month of regular season
Judging strictly by past performance, the wheels ought to fall off any time now in Columbia, Mo. In fact, this Saturday sounds just about right.
As of now, times are good for coach Gary Pinkel’s Missouri football team. Of course, it’s still October and people are looking forward to the freaks and ghouls of Halloween and not so much to the treacherous month of November.
The Tigers are ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation (No. 9) for the first time since 1981. They are going to a bowl game for the fourth time in five years and feature one of the most prolific offenses in the nation with a quarterback who could be a front-runner for the 2008 Heisman Trophy.
But their next game will be played in Boulder on Saturday in a venue in which they have struggled in recent years. And another page will be ripped off the calendar by game time, welcoming a month of nightmares for the Tigers.
Forgive them for not forming a welcoming committee.
Since Pinkel took over the program in 2001, Missouri is 7-14 in November, including a memorable late-season collapse last year that took the
Tigers from midseason talk of a Big 12 Conference championship game to settling for the Sun Bowl.
Pinkel seems to have a different demeanor about him this season. His players have grown closer to him as he has let his guard down and become more personable. His team appears to be responding on the field as well.
“From Day One, I’ve been saying, ‘Finish,’” wide receiver Will Franklin said. “This is the last half of the season where if we finish, and we finish the right way, we’ll be in the national title talk. That’s every senior’s dream and every player’s dream, to play in the national title day and to play in the Big 12 game. That’s our goal, to finish these last four games and come out on top.”
Pinkel isn’t dodging questions about his team’s past failings in November. He is embracing them instead. He highlighted improved leadership on this year’s team and said the Tigers are right where they want to be when the topic came up Monday.
“We’ll see. Honestly, it’s kinda where you want to be at this point,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s not real complex. If you want to win a championship, the teams that win championships win on the road, they win at home, they win where they gotta win. And that’s exactly where we’re at. I can’t say it anymore simple than that. That’s the way it is.”
Pinkel spent a portion of his day talking about how much different CU is this year compared with the team his Tigers defeated last season in Faurot Field. He praised the job coach Dan Hawkins has done in beginning to build his program in Boulder.
Pinkel also credited his coaches and players for putting themselves in a situation where the stretch drive this season has more riding on it than any season in recent memory.
“We think we’ve done things in our program,” he said. “We’ve matured, we’ve grown up, we’ve become disciplined, we’ve become tougher. And I think all that lends itself. The bottom line, we’ll wait and see. I really believe in our team, in our kids and coaches, and we’re real excited about being in this position. Now what are we going to do with it?”
Seats go wanting
Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn said about 8,000 tickets remained for the Missouri game at the close of business on Monday and a similar number of seats are available for the annual grudge match with Nebraska on Nov. 23.
Much was made before the season about the this season’s home schedule being one of the best in recent memory. Bohn said he has been pleased with the number of fans who have attended the first four home games, but he admitted being surprised so many tickets remain for the final two.
“Our fans all season long have been a significant part of our game-day experience and Saturday is another great opportunity for our fan base to play a significant role in very important game,” Bohn said.
Bohn refused to speculate on what role Nebraska’s poor performance this season is having on ticket sales for that game. He said he is confident a larger crowd will be on hand the day after Thanksgiving to watch the Buffs take on the Cornhuskers.
CU is averaging 50,041 fans in four home games at Folsom Field this season, according to attendance figures released by the school. Those figures include credentialed media tickets given to corporate sponsors.
Bohn said at least 1,000 veterans are expected at Saturday’s game when the school plans to salute the nation’s veterans.
Lickin’ their chops
Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel and his receivers haven’t seen a lot of man-to-man coverages this season because the Tigers have a wealth of offensive talent that most defenses find difficult to match.
The Tigers are excited about a chance to play a team like Colorado because the Buffs feature so much man-to-man, relying on a talented tandem of cornerbacks not to get beat.
“They gave Tech fits because they gave them a lot of different looks,” Daniel told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in today’s edition. “They play a lot of Cover Two and a lot of Cover One. It lights our eyes up to see Cover One. We haven’t seen that very often. A lot of people just play Cover Four and say, ‘Hey, dink and dunk us,’ which we have been doing. That’s why we haven’t thrown for many yards in the last two weeks. You look at them, there’s some big plays to be made down the field if we can make them.”
One day after being named the national defensive player of the week for his three-interception performance against Texas Tech, CU cornerback Terrence Wheatley was named Big 12 Conference defensive player of the week on Monday. ... Colorado’s Nov. 10 game at Iowa State will be televised on Fox College Sports Central, which is available in only 4 million homes nationally, and will begin at 10:30 a.m. Fox College Sports Central is available locally on Comcast Channel 414. ... Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel was named one of 15 semifinalist Monday for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given annually to the nation’s best college quarterback as determined by a selection committee.