COLUMBIA — The Missouri football team has lost before, but this is something new.
Not since 2005 have the Tigers had a number other than zero in the loss column this early in the season. Missouri fell to New Mexico in the second week of that season, and now in 2011, after last Friday's overtime loss in the desert to Arizona State, the Tigers' players have a new experience in front of them.
The way college football works, one loss can mean the difference between playing in January and playing in December. For the past few seasons, Missouri has taken undefeated records deep into the fall. The team has watched as its ranking improved each week. This year has already featured something no one on the team has ever been a part of during his career at Missouri: a loss in September.
Senior defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton commented Monday on the frustration he felt during Sunday's practice after the team’s loss to Arizona State. Hamilton was injured before the Tigers lost last year at Nebraska, and he said it has been a while since he has had to deal with that emotion during a Sunday practice.
Senior safety Kenji Jackson was straight-forward about the defeat.
“It doesn’t feel good at all, I’m not going to lie, but it happens,” Jackson said. “It’s football. It’s part of the game. All we’re going to do is learn from it.”
Both sophomore linebacker Andrew Wilson and senior wide receiver Wes Kemp said the early-season loss provides the team with added motivation to win the rest of its games this season. But Jackson said Missouri isn't concerned about the rest of the season right now.
“We can’t even worry about further down the line,” Jackson said. “Some people will look at it like that, but we’re going to focus on our next game. That’s all we can control right now is how we prepare for Western Illinois, and everything else will take care of itself after that.”
The loss wasn't the only unique circumstance for the Tigers.
Before their game with the Sun Devils, the last time the Tigers went into overtime was the 2008 Alamo Bowl. The last time they played an overtime game during the regular season was against Iowa State in 2005. For members of this season's team who weren’t on the squad that won the Alamo Bowl, the overtime period was something different. Players said it was a whole new game.
“It feels like you’re turning it from 110 percent to 120 percent,” Hamilton said.
In the sporting world, overtime is often associated with the ultimate level of excitement for fans. But senior cornerback Trey Hobson said that OT feels different on the field than it does on the couch.
“It’s funny because I feel like when I watch overtime games, my nerves are just going crazy,” Hobson said. “But when I was playing, I just didn’t feel anything. I just wanted to keep playing. It was just a weird feeling because I had never been a part of a college overtime game either.”
Freshman linebacker Darvin Ruise said he played in a pair of overtime games in high school.
“What happens in the overtime is we just have to compete,” Ruise said. “You have to understand that the game is just getting started again. In the fourth quarter, you’ve just got to compete and come out and be ready. Finish the game.”
Players said the overtime will help them going forward, citing it as a learning moment.
“It was cool, it was exciting,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately we didn’t win, but I feel like it gave us some confidence. If we ever have to come into that situation again, we know that we’ve been there before and hopefully we’ll come out victorious if that happens.”