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Tigers shift focus to Iowa State
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- There was plenty of time left on the clock when coach Gary Pinkel's thoughts shifted from Missouri's convincing victory over border rival Kansas to the challenges of next week.
He's often said that losing hurts a lot more than winning feels good, and the Tigers' 36-12 triumph was another example of that mindset. Missouri (4-4, 1-3 Big 12) was a 22-point favorite against Kansas (2-7, 0-5) but likely will be an underdog the rest of the season, starting with next Saturday's game at No. 22 Iowa State.
"I know in my mind, all the things we need to do to get better," Pinkel said. "I'm on the sidelines with four minutes left thinking about what we've got to do to have a good chance to win that game."
Family was in town, but Pinkel wasn't much looking forward to celebrating the Tigers' victory in the second-longest running series, begun in 1891. The Tigers are now tied with the Jayhawks at 51-51-9.
"I've got to keep my focus on my family for a while, like my wife tells me, but that's the way it is," Pinkel said. "You're losing, you die. You're winning, you don't want to go back the other way, so you want to start working."
After Iowa State, which lost 21-10 to No. 7 Texas on Saturday to fall to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12, Missouri finishes with No. 23 Colorado, Texas A&M and No. 14 Kansas State.
Players didn't mind exulting in the triumph longer than their coach. After a mass huddle at midfield following the game, they led the charge to tear down a goal post as fans streamed onto the field to assist.
"We really don't like Kansas," senior cornerback R.J. Jones said. "We wanted the fans to run out on the field, but I guess they needed some motivation."
The Tigers got another big game from Brad Smith, an unexpected large contribution from backup tailback T.J. Leon and a strong defensive showing in the second half to end a three-game losing streak and pull away from Kansas.
Smith is playing with a bruised thumb on his passing hand, but it hardly showed. He was 9-for-16 for 135 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 117 yards on 15 carries, including a 75-yard quarterback draw for the score that likely clinched it, putting Missouri ahead 27-12 with 4:29 to go in the third quarter.
Typically, Pinkel wanted to keep expectations from getting too high for the 18-year-old redshirt freshman quarterback.
"I think everybody comes out and just expects, 'Here comes Superman,' and when is it going to happen?" Pinkel said. "Certainly he did make some plays, but he's not even close to what he's going to be, not even close.
"He went through some struggles and he's going to learn from that."
Leon stepped in for the injured Zack Abron and had 105 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns -- all career bests In the first seven games, he totaled 91 yards on 22 carries.
Abron, who has a partially torn ligament in his left knee, could return next week.
Missouri was outgained 270-158 in the first half but led 14-6 partly because Kansas couldn't finish drives or hit field goals. Johnny Beck missed two field goals -- one after a bounced snap -- and an extra-point kick.