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Pinkel quickly focuses Tigers on the challenge at hand

With Don James as inspiration, coach Gary Pinkel keeps players focused on SEC title game


Like he has so many times in his coaching career, Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel thought first of what his mentor, the late Don James, would do upon winning the SEC East title Saturday night.


And that would be to get his players to refocus as quickly as possible for the next challenge, the SEC championship game against No. 3 Auburn on Saturday in Atlanta.


Which is what Pinkel did Saturday night after the Tigers' 28-21 win over Texas A&M at sold-out Memorial Stadium.

 

"This is awesome," Pinkel said. "This is great. The most important thing, I know Coach James would say right now, he'd say, 'Get the guys back fast. Get their heads back fast.'


"Honestly, I'm so happy and so excited for my players and team. (But) we have to clip this thing. I've already talked to some of the players. We have to flip it. (Associate athletic director--athletic performance Pat) Ivey told them, he reminded all of the guys that played in the game they have to lift (Sunday) at 11 o'clock in the morning. He got booed."

 

The Tigers (11-1) know all about SEC West champion Auburn (11-1).

 

They were able to watch as the other Tigers rallied to beat Georgia 43-38 two weeks earlier on a desperation 73-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds remaining. A Georgia win in that game would have helped Mizzou clinch the SEC East spot in the conference title game.

 

The Missouri team was not aware, however, before its game against the Aggies that Auburn had knocked off No. 1 Alabama 34-28 with a 109-yard return touchdown as time expired. That happened just minutes before kickoff at Faurot Field.

 

Pinkel's son, Geoff, told him about Auburn's dramatic finish after Mizzou beat Texas A&M.

 

"They've been making some great plays, huh? Hopefully, they quit making them," Pinkel said. "Obviously, they've done a great job. They are a good football team. We're just excited about representing the East and going to Atlanta.


"They keep getting bigger. I keep telling my players, 'Your focus has to get better because every week it gets a little bit bigger.' Our challenge is to get ready for a great, great running football team and a good defensive team we're going to play."

 

MIZZOU STAYS AT NO. 5

 

The Tigers stayed put at No. 5 when the BCS standings were released Sunday night, though each of the four teams ahead of them moved.

 

Florida State moved up to No. 1. Ohio State went from third to second. Auburn, with its win over Alabama, jumped one spot from fourth to third. Alabama fell from the top spot to No. 4.

 

Missouri stayed at No. 5 in the Associated Press Top 25 and moved up one spot, from sixth to fifth, in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll.  

 

The impact of these BCS standings for the Tigers is limited. Missouri would likely jump over Alabama and Auburn if it can beat Auburn in the SEC championship game and then needs either Florida State or Ohio State to lose in their conference title games to have a shot at the BCS championship game.

 

You can certainly make a case that the SEC title game winner deserves one of the spots in the BCS title game, but that's an argument for another time.

 

GAINES HONORED

 

The SEC announced Monday morning that cornerback E.J. Gaines had been selected as the league's Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Texas A&M.

 

Gaines recorded six tackles and limited Aggies standout wide receiver Mike Evans to four catches for a career-low 8 yards.

 

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans entered the game with 61 catches and an SEC-leading 1,314 yards receiving and 12 touchdown receptions. He had 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns last season.

 

In 24 previous games, Evans never had less than 40 receiving yards.

 

BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS IN RECRUITING

 

The bad news ...

 

Defensive end prospect Jhonny Williams, from Berrien Springs, Mich., decommitted from Missouri late week and instead committed to Notre Dame.

 

Williams' recruitment has been interesting. He committed to Toledo in late June, then committed to Mizzou in late September and now committed to Notre Dame in late November.

 

The good news ...

 

The Tigers had a key visitor Saturday night in Brian Wallace, a highly touted senior offensive tackle from CBC in suburban St. Louis.

 

The 6-6, 300-pounder had previously made an official visit to Iowa and is planning to take trips to Alabama and Arkansas before making his decision. He is expected to announce his choice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 4.

 

Wallace is ranked by Scout.com as the 18th-best offensive tackle prospect and the 233rd-best overall prospect in the senior class.

 

VOLLEYBALL TEAM HONORED

 

Coach Wayne Kreklow's Southeastern Conference champion volleyball team, which is ranked fourth nationally, finished off its regular season perfect last week at 34-0 overall and 18-0 in SEC play.

 

On Monday, several Tigers were honored when the league's postseason awards, which are voted on by the league's coaches, were announced.

 

Senior setter Molly Kreklow was named the SEC Player of the Year.

 

Wayne Kreklow was tabbed as the Coach of the Year.

 

Carly Kan was voted the SEC Freshman of the Year.

 

Molly Kreklow, Kan and teammates Lisa Henning and Whitney Little were honored as All-SEC Team selections.

 

The NCAA tournament field was announced Sunday night.

 

Mizzou, which is in the tourney for the 11th time in the past 14 seasons, was selected as the No. 4 overall seed and will host the first and second rounds of the tournament at the Hearnes Center this Friday and Saturday.

 

The Tigers will play IUPUI (19-13) in the first round, with Purdue (20-11) and Central Arkansas (27-3) meeting in the other first-round matchup.

 

If Missouri advances to the Regionals, it will play at the University of Illinois.

 

TWEET OF THE WEEK


From Mizzou senior linebacker Donovan Bonner:


You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.