MU takes a break after latest collapse

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

For frustrated and beleaguered Missouri, it's the perfect time for a break.

The Tigers don't play this weekend, so they're getting away from the game for a few days. Coach Gary Pinkel said Monday there was no temptation to work his team, which blew its third double-digit lead of the season in Saturday's 35-24 loss to Kansas State, as a form of punishment.

Missouri's next game is Nov. 20 against Kansas and Pinkel said the Tigers (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) will have plenty of time to prepare. They also need a breather considering the way their season has gone south, returning to practice on Thursday.

"If you have players who don't care, then you have to take a different stance," Pinkel said on the Big 12 coaches' teleconference. "I just don't feel that way, I don't think that's the right thing to do.

"We played a bunch of close games against good teams and came up short. We're going to fight through it."

Missouri (4-5, 2-4) led 21-0 in the second quarter against Kansas State (4-5, 2-4) before falling apart. Earlier in the year they squandered a 14-0 lead against Troy State and a 17-0 advantage against Oklahoma State.

Wide receiver Thomson Omboga said he saw dread in teammates' eyes as the lead evaporated, but Pinkel didn't know about that. He said it boiled down to making plays.

"We played a very, very good first half and in the second half we didn't play as well," Pinkel said. "The moral of the story is play better."

NORTH TITLE HUNT: Iowa State also is off this week, and coach Dan McCarney is taking a slightly different approach. The Cyclones (5-4, 3-3) are tied for the lead in the North and will practice Tuesday through Thursday before taking the weekend off.

"It's important we get some rest," McCarney said. "We've squeezed about all the energy out of these kids."

Kansas State will try to keep alive its bid for a 12th straight bowl bid, and perhaps even the North division title, this week at Colorado. The Buffaloes (5-4, 2-4) also are in the hunt for the right to play in the Big 12 championship game.

Iowa State and Nebraska (5-4, 3-3) are tied for first and only Kansas (3-6, 1-5) is out of the running. Colorado coach Bill Callahan said he could foresee this considering the change in coaches at Nebraska, heavy player turnover at Kansas State, the Buffaloes' off-field troubles and Missouri's perceived rise.

"I think I saw this one coming back in the summer," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "It just felt that way. I sort of thought it was going to be crazy."

Callahan said the task this week will be seeking consistency.

"Kansas State is fighting for their lives, much like we're fighting for ours," Callahan said. "I think our challenge as a young team is can we maintain some continuity, can we avoid the peaks and valleys that come with being young and not doing everything right?"

BIG COMEBACK: The best comeback in the Big 12 on Saturday belonged to No. 6 Texas (8-1, 5-1), which trailed Oklahoma State by 28 points at halftime before rallying to win 56-35.

"We changed momentum completely," coach Mack Brown said. "We just played two completely different ballgames. I thought Oklahoma State (6-3, 3-3) played the same in the second half, but we just played so much better."

What the comeback does for the team's bowl prospects is unclear. Brown has learned from experience not to expect anything.

"Who knows with the BCS?" Brown said. "I think our team understands that the system is in place for conference champions. I told the guys, all you can do is keep winning, and if you're not in the BCS that's not your fault."

ONE FOR THE ROAD?: Baylor (3-6, 1-5) would be happy with a win on the road this weekend at Oklahoma State. The Bears have lost 35 straight conference road games.

During his playing career, coach Guy Morriss said he liked life on the road. When he played for the Eagles he remembered the home crowd throwing batteries at them.

"I used to love to go places where they spit on you and dog-cussed you," Morris said. "You'd better learn how to deal with that. There's no safe environment."

Especially not Oklahoma on Saturday, where the Sooners will have a chance to wrap up the South. This will be new Nebraska coach Bill Callahan's first shot at one of the top college rivalries, although he said it's not the same now that the teams are in opposite divisions and don't play every year.

"I've followed it quite a bit and it's one I respect," Callahan said. "But I've always looked at competition as faceless objects. Our focus this week is just to try to improve our team and really tighten down our screws in terms of preparation."

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