Mizzou tries to gather itself after ugly opener

Saturday, September 8, 2001

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Before the season, a quick glance at Missouri's schedule had the Tigers spending this past week readying for a second win against a non-conference patsy before the arrival of what's sure to be a rough year in the Big 12.

That was before last week's embarrassing loss to Bowling Green, a straggler in the Mid-American Conference. It's a loss that makes today's game against Division I-AA Southwest Texas State that much more important.

The Tigers and new coach Gary Pinkel follow up with a road trip to Michigan State, then open the Big 12 season at home against No. 5 Nebraska. An 0-4 start could snowball into an 0-11 nightmare. The Tigers have only one winless season in 110 years of football

Sure, there'll be games against other Big 12's cellar dwellers -- most notably Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. But wins against those programs were never considered automatic, even in the recently passed halcyon days of Corby Jones and Devin West, and they loom much larger after the 20-13 opening game loss to the Falcons.

"I think that this has become more about us -- there's a big importance to us getting better as a football team," Pinkel said. "That's the key, respecting them. We don't have a right to be overconfident. That's remarkable to think that we wouldn't take anyone seriously."

Bowling Green disaster

Against Bowling Green, Missouri didn't take a lead in the until the fourth quarter, and quarterback Darius Outlaw's first interception led to the winning score and his second halted a possible comeback drive.

"The problem was with the little things. Execution. Not making the plays that we make in practice," Outlaw said. "We'll definitely have to fix those."

Pinkel was quick to deflect blame from Outlaw, named the starter by default after Kirk Farmer's off-field incident that led to a broken finger on his throwing hand. Still, Outlaw's eighth-straight start for the Tigers wasn't the success expected, and rumblings of when Farmer might return began almost before the game ended.

Fueling the fire, Farmer said after the loss that watching "made me sick the whole game," and he declared himself ready to return to practice. Pinkel said Monday that Farmer, who was the starter last year before breaking a collarbone, won't play until he appears "game ready" to the coach.

"When he's game ready, then we'll decide what we want to do," Pinkel said. "Until then, I'm not going to speculate."

Silence on QB situation

Pinkel declined further comment on Farmer's playing prospects following practice this week, saying he didn't want to tip his hand to Southwest Texas.

Away from quarterback, Pinkel hasn't removed any player from the starting lineup or made noticeable changes to the depth chart.

The Tigers ran for just 76 yards on 28 carries.

"We have to do a lot more than we did last week, that's for sure," center A.J. Ricker said.

Running the ball wasn't an issue for Southwest Texas in their opener last week against Arkansas-Monticello, a 52-7 win. The Bobcats ran for 407 yards, including Lee Davis' 283 yards and four touchdowns.

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