Tigers blocking out distractions

Monday, October 27, 2008 | 9:03 p.m. CDT; updated 9:20 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 30, 2008

COLUMBIA — Missouri center Tim Barnes wasn't going to watch football on Saturday. He didn't need the distraction before Missouri took the field against Colorado.

So Barnes spent the time watching the movie "Evan Almighty" in his hotel room.

Saturday's game

No. 14 Missouri (6-3, 2-2 Big 12) at Baylor (3-5, 1-3)

WHEN: 2 p.m.

WHERE: Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texa

RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM

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"It's got Morgan Freeman in it, so it's got to be good," Barnes said.

Barnes was more than willing to avoid hearing about the national college football scene after all the work coach Gary Pinkel had done during the week to remove distractions.

ESPN was removed from the television sets in the Missouri locker room. The only thing the screens showed was what Pinkel had been preaching to his players all week long: the time of the game.

Some might call that a gimmick, but Pinkel is as opposed to that term as he is to his team thinking about the Big 12 North title instead of the next game.

"It wasn't a gimmick," he said. "It was probably my frustrations. We took it very, very seriously. We don't ever talk about future opponents around here, but all the stuff that's out there and watching yourself on ESPN all the time (is a distraction). We're trying the same thing this week."

The message got through to his players, who went through several different routines to avoid anything that was related to football, but not related to their game.

Pinkel didn't repeat the mantra of the starting time of Missouri's game at Baylor this weekend, which is 2:05 p.m., but it was clear that the Tigers planned to continue their approach of worrying only about the upcoming Saturday.

"That's something we're going to stress the rest of the season," linebacker Brock Christopher said. "It's just the next game on the schedule, and that's all that matters. I'm sure coach Pinkel will stress it like he did last week."

Given how much Pinkel said he liked the change in his team's play, that's probably a safe assumption. Pinkel said that in the Tigers' two losses, it didn't take him long to figure out his team wasn't ready to play. He said he didn't have that feeling against Colorado, though.

Pinkel did everything he could to get his team ready, including looking the Tigers players in the eye during the week of practice before the Colorado game.

"We all had to make a pledge and step up, everybody on the team," defensive end Tommy Chavis said. "We just went up there, talked to Coach and gave him our word (to) give him our best effort."

But whether making a pledge or simply blocking out distractions, last weekend provided exactly the result the Tigers wanted.

If doing the same things will get Missouri a win over Baylor, Barnes is perfectly willing to repeat the routine.

"It's good to keep our focus up," Barnes said. "It worked for us last week, so it's all good with me."

AWARDS OUT OF DISCUSSION: Despite a press release announcing that Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel was one of 13 semifinalists — and one of six semifinalists from the Big 12 — for the Davey O'Brien Award, annually given to the top quarterback in the nation, Pinkel refused to discuss any kind of awards his players might receive.

"Right now, we're not talking about anything except Baylor," he said. "We're not talking about awards. I'm not trying to be mean or disrespectful, but we're just focusing on this game and things that pertain to it."

DEFLECTING THE ISSUE: Pinkel also declined to comment about the soon-to-be vacant coaching job at the University of Washington, where he was once an assistant coach under Don James.

"I'm not doing that," Pinkel said. "To me, that's a distraction. I'm focused on this football game, and that's all I'm going to do."

Washington announced Monday that Tyrone Willingham will be forced to step down as the Huskies' coach at the end of the season, and it is speculated that Pinkel and offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, who also has ties to Washington, will be candidates for the job if they are interested.

CHASING THE GRADE: Daniel took the week off from questions with the media and also missed Monday meetings so he could study for a test.

"Chase does everything we ask him to do, and he's done it first-class," Pinkel said. "But he's also a 3.5 student, he takes his school very seriously. He'll probably be an Academic All-American."


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