Bowl-less Tigers strive for a final victory

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Just like last year, there will be no bowl game for Gary Pinkel.

Last year, Pinkel's Toledo Rockets went 10-1 and still didn't manage to score a postseason invitation.

This year, in his first season at Missouri, the Tigers are 4-6 after last weekend's 24-3 loss at Kansas State, mathematically out of the bowl game matchmaking heading into the season finale at Michigan State on Saturday.

Still, even without the prospect of the postseason, Pinkel said he doesn't -- or shouldn't -- have any trouble getting his team ready.

"I think if you have to convince a player to go out and compete and be motivated to play football, then there's definitely something wrong," Pinkel said. "Our guys will be ready to play, they're going to each have to find motivation inside themselves."

Missouri can play spoiler against the Spartans, who, at 5-5, are one win away from being bowl eligible. But Michigan State has been one win away for three weeks, having suffered consecutive losses to Indiana, Purdue and Penn State.

"It was a very, very disappointing loss," Michigan State coach Bobby Williams said after the Spartans' 42-37 loss to Penn State last weekend. "Now our whole season comes down to one game."

Missouri's game against Michigan State was originally scheduled for Sept. 15, but rescheduled following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Without a bowl game bid to play at stake, A.J. Ricker said his motivation to play well Saturday are three other players on the offensive line -- it's the final game for seniors Aaron Crittendon, Justin Bland and Mike Hayes.

"I think about those guys and what they've done for all of us this year, the least we can do for them is win in their last game," Ricker said. "I hope that when I'm a senior the younger guys will play their best games for me in my last game. I owe it to these guys. I want nothing more than to win for them."

Jamonte Robinson, who played in the Tigers' last bowl appearance in the 1998 Bowl, said he has little trouble finding motivation in his last game.

"I've been thinking about a lot of things this week, about all the guys that have come through here in my time and how much this last game will mean to me," Robinson said. "It's going to be very emotional. So that's what keeps me motivated, wanting to end with my best game."

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