Tigers hope second-half meltdowns are over

Friday, November 20, 2009

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Sean Weatherspoon was fed up with the second-half collapses. That's why Missouri's senior linebacker and captain gathered teammates around at halftime at Kansas State last week and made it clear: It wasn't going to happen again.

It didn't -- Missouri (6-4, 2-4 Big 12) beat Kansas State to end a streak of four losses in five games.

A week earlier, in a stunning home loss to Baylor, the Tigers gave 24 second-half points, part of a trend of bad second halves by the Tigers.

"We came in the locker room during halftime and he kind of had coach blow the whistle and get everyone quiet," cornerback Kevin Rutland said of Weatherspoon. "Then he said, 'Guys, we're not having this again. We're not going to go out at halftime and slow down. We're going to keep going downhill.' And guys listened and we did that."

The defense kept an opponent out of the end zone for the first time this season and forced three takeaways, the second-most of the season.

Meanwhile, the Missouri offense scored 21 points off those turnovers after scoring just 23 points off of 13 turnovers the previous nine games.

One play that stood out for the defense was a ball that linebacker Zaviar Gooden forced out of Kansas State receiver Brandon Banks' hands at the Missouri 1. The ball took a good Missouri bounce into the end zone for a touchback.

"From my standpoint if you do that, if you go up and down with all the stuff that happens in a game, geez, they'd have to take me away, it's just too much," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "You create your own luck, I firmly believe that."

Freshman standout Aldon Smith, who is one sack away from tying Missouri's single-season record, felt the play was indicative of a possible change in fortunes.

"A lot of plays earlier in the season that could have gone our way didn't," he said.

Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said the unit remains committed to working out the kinks.

"We just keep grinding the stone, what we do all the time. We keep emphasizing things during takeaway periods [in practice] and keep doing what we do."

Missouri hopes to make it two in a row Saturday with the home finale against Iowa State (6-5, 3-4).

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