Buffalo beat-down

Saturday, October 25, 2008 | 10:36 p.m. CDT; updated 12:13 a.m. CDT, Sunday, October 26, 2008
Chip the Buffalo, Colorado’s mascot, hangs his head in front of Missouri fans during the Tigers' 58-0 victory Oct. 25 at Memorial Stadium.

COLUMBIA — Derrick Washington finished high-fiving the fans and then headed to the drum on the side of the field. After three hits, his victory celebration was finished and so was Missouri's losing skid.

"That was my second time doing that," Washington said. "I run down after a win, slap the hands and bang the drum."

But he hadn't had a chance to do it lately. After the problems with Oklahoma State and Texas, the Tigers (6-2, 2-2) needed a bounce-back game, and they had the perfect opponent. The Colorado Buffaloes (4-4, 1-3 Big 12) obliged nicely in every aspect of the game, a 58-0 pounding that was both the Tigers' largest win ever on Homecoming and their first shutout of a conference opponent since 1986.

"Our football team responded to the challenge of getting refocused, and I'm very pleased with that," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

 On Monday, Pinkel and his players repeated over and over that their focus was "5:30 on Saturday, 5:30 on Saturday," and some players, such as linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, refused to speak to the media on the team's day for interviews so they could focus.

"I knew what was going to happen right after that (Texas) game," Pinkel said. "All the family, parents, students and media would write to our players and say, ‘Guess what, you win the next five games, and you can be right back where you were.

"We're not going to do that. Our whole thing as a staff was to forget about everything in the world except what we had to do to get our team finally focused. That's what we did."

But although the coaching staff eliminated any talk of anything beyond the game against Colorado, Pinkel made sure not to take a negative tone after establishing his message to his team.

"When you lose, your pride gets hurt a little bit, and you want to get that back," he said. "Sunday was a very difficult day. Sometimes there's things you have to say to get us on the right track. Once Sunday was over, we were as positive with our players as we could be.

"We were demanding, but we were as positive as we could be. That was our best effort as far as focus and preparation the entire year."

With their new focus, the Tigers returned to their traditional way of starting a game. In each of its five wins, Missouri had scored a touchdown on its first drive of the game. The Tigers were held to a field goal against Oklahoma State and punted against Texas.

Against Colorado, the Tigers scored after a minute and nine seconds, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who scored two touchdowns on Saturday, said things felt different from the beginning.

"I think it was a lot more emotion out there," Maclin said. "There were guys out there actually playing hard. We wanted to prove something to ourselves; we wanted to play for each other."

That became evident at the end of the game when, to prevent any points, Pinkel put the defensive starters back in the game for Colorado's final series after the Buffaloes crossed the 50-yard line.

"As the starting defense, we took that personally," defensive tackle Jaron Baston said. "We knew it hadn't happened in a long time, so we wanted to make sure we got that done."

Baston said the team's focus Saturday was completely different from the past two weeks, and blamed that lack of focus for the Tigers' previous two losses.

"Oklahoma State, we kind of got our focus back, but it was too late, (and at) Texas, we never had the focus at all," he said. "In this game, we came out focused, and we had a great game. If we played Texas again, with that focus that we had (against Colorado), I feel confident that we'd have come out with a win."

That feeling of what might have been might be the only real negative for Missouri on a night when just about everything else went according to plan.

"On the sideline, I kind of thought about ‘Where was this when we needed it at other points in the season?'" Weatherspoon said. "The guys were just focused tonight; it was a laser-like focus."

It's a focus the Tigers plan on having again next week when they face Baylor.

"We already know the time," Baston said. "Saturday, 2 o'clock for Baylor. I'm focused now. I'm still embarrassed about those two losses we took."

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