Mizzou’s loss is a team effort, and now Tigers must let it go

COLUMBIA, Mo. — It takes a village to win an SEC crown. Try not to be its idiot.
 
Andrew Baggett wasn’t responsible for covering Bruce Ellington on fourth-and-goal from the 15 in overtime.
 
Andrew
Baggett didn’t make the call to run Henry Josey on third-and-2 at the
Missouri 33-yard line, up seven, with three minutes and change to go in
regulation.
 
Andrew Baggett wasn’t responsible for the thicket of
arm-tackles that allowed South Carolina tailback Mike Davis to turn
small screens into big-time headaches.
 
Andrew Baggett doesn’t make any decisions as far as clock management. Or when to stick with a four-man pass rush.
 
Andrew Baggett didn’t leave the laces in.
 
This one was a team effort, start to finish.
 
Especially the finish.
 
“I
mean, obviously, it’s not the best feeling,” Mizzou quarterback Maty
Mauk said after a jaw-dropping, 27-24 double-overtime defeat to South
Carolina, a game that ended when Baggett’s 24-yard field-goal attempt
doinked off the left upright. “But you look at it, you can’t blame it on
(Baggett) at all. No blame on him.”
 
“It shouldn’t have gotten into that situation,” Tigers defensive end Kony Ealy said. “It shouldn’t have gotten to that point.”
 
“There
are other plays,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “There are plays you can look
back and (say we should’ve gotten) a first down here, a third-down
completion here, that type of thing throughout the entire game. So it’s
not one guy here. We all could’ve done something different … to help
win that football game.”
 
The pigskin caroms off the left upright, and the Ol’ Ballcoach escapes.
 
“It was a game,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said afterward, “(where) I thought we were dead.”
 
They were.
 
Hurts, doesn’t it?
 
Now flush it.
 
Let it go.
 
If
sending Baggett, the Tigers’ sophomore placekicker out of Lee’s Summit,
Mo., hate tweets or nasty emails helps you sleep at night, fine.
Congratulations.
 
Here’s a quarter. Get a life and a clue, not necessarily in that order.
 
Flush it.
 
Let it go.
 
“And
I told our football team, this loss will not define them,” Pinkel said.
“What will define this football team is how you deal with it.”
 
At
the halfway point of the Southeastern Conference slate, the Tigers (7-1
overall, 3-1 conference) have proven they’re physically tough enough to
run with the big boys.
 
After Saturday, we’re about to find out just how mentally tough they are, too.
 
Because
the Gamecocks were, indeed, dead. Dead to stinking rights. Carolina was
down 17-0 after three quarters, on the road, in the cold. They were
zombies in visors.
 
And then the dead started to walk.
 
And run.
 
And get open.
 
All
of it spearheaded by head zombie Connor Shaw, who came off the bench —
or did he rise from the grave? — to complete 20 of 29 second-half pass
attempts for 201 yards and three scores.
 
“We thought we had
it,” defensive end Markus Golden said. “Of course, you would think you
have it — you’re up 17-zero (in the) fourth quarter. You think you have
it. That’s just how it is. They came back and got it. I guess we should
have gone harder out there.”
 
Flush it.
 
Let it go.
 
“We
work on (that) every day and (associate athletic director for athletic
performance Pat) Ivey, it’s something that he really coaches for us to
get better at,” Mauk said. “And that’s what we’re going to use this
week.”
 
Other than the inside track for a national championship,
everything, mathematically, that was on the table Saturday morning will
still be on the table when the sun comes up Sunday. The Tigers could’ve
locked the SEC East crown up tight with a win over the Gamecocks.
Instead, they’re going to have to win and hope.
 
But mostly win.
 
“I
think it comes with maturity and leadership,” left tackle Justin Britt
observed. “Letting (the guys) know that our goals are still there.”
 
The
mojo is still there, too, buried beneath the scars. As modern Tigers
football glory goes, 2007’s 12-2 Cotton Bowl winners set the bar for the
Pinkel Era and beyond. This is a different animal, a defense-first,
win-in-the-trenches monster throwing SEC-style punches on the SEC’s
old-money club.
 
And it’s wounded.
 
“I mean, we’re aware
of it,” center Evan Boehm had said when asked about 2007’s place in the
hearts of Mizzou fandom. “But where we ultimately want to get back to
is, we don’t want the team to be compared to 2007. We want other teams
to be compared to 2013, and what 2013 did. And right now, we’re on that
pace. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
 
And now they have a hell of a lot more.
 
Flush it.
 
Let it go.
 
“One game at a time,” Ealy said, “from here on out.”
 
Saturday is an anchor. Or a blip. It’s their choice.
 
The Ol’ Zombie Ballcoach beat you once. Tip your cap. The challenge is not to let him beat you twice. Or three times. Or more.
 
Because
once the pain subsides, the delicious bottom-line remains: How much
Mizzou fans want to remember this season will depend squarely on how
well these Tigers learn to forget.
 
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.