COLUMBIA — If Missouri fans are looking for something to do during bowl season, perhaps it’s time to take a look at Groupon Getaways. For less than $700, you can currently purchase a four-night stay at the Cancun Opulence resort. Or for less than $800, you can upgrade to scenic Cabo San Lucas. They don’t show much college football in Mexico over the holidays, but for Missouri fans, it might not matter.
Unless something drastically changes very soon, the streak of six straight bowl appearances under coach Gary Pinkel could come to an end.
Oklahoma State gave Missouri every chance it could to instill hope in its fan base. The Cowboys were dropping passes left and right. They missed a field goal on their first drive. They played the second half without their two best receivers.
None of it mattered. Missouri ultimately couldn’t convert. James Franklin threw three interceptions and fumbled it once, a key red zone mistake that proved to be the final time the Tigers would graciously return the momentum that Oklahoma State had given them moments before.
It’s a pattern that’s hard to ignore. This team hasn’t gotten it done in the clutch. It hasn’t once proved that when it’s finally time to put up or shut up, it can get the job done.
The alleged “fourth-quarter rallies” have been nothing but glorified garbage-time touchdowns, except for the Arizona State game.
The Oklahoma and Kansas State games? They weren’t nearly as close as the score would have indicated.
Even Saturday wasn’t as close as the score, and the Tigers lost by 21 points. It could have easily been more.
Missouri fans won’t want to believe it. “All of our losses are against ranked teams!” they’ll say.
T.J. Moe had the right response to that.
“If you lose to all the top 25 teams, you aren’t number 26,” he said.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier, either. Next up, a road test at hostile Kyle Field, where the Aggies will be looking for revenge after an embarrassing 30-9 home defeat against Missouri in 2010. Texas A&M is ranked, just like all of those other teams Missouri has lost to.
After that, Baylor, which brings a vertical passing attack to the table that should make anyone who has seen Missouri’s secondary shudder. Just thinking about Robert Griffin III lofting ball after ball is downright frightening, let alone what it will actually be like to witness in person.
Oh, and Baylor might not be ranked now, but they are still receiving votes. On the road, it’s hard to believe Missouri would be the favorite in that game.
Those two road losses would leave Missouri at 3-6, needing to beat Texas and Texas Tech at home and Kansas in the finale at Arrowhead Stadium just to be bowl eligible.
Sorry, but the way this team has looked, three straight wins against anyone but Western Illinois seems very unlikely.
All of those three teams have flaws, and all three of those games are winnable. But they are all losable as well.
Texas is receiving votes in the poll still, and you’d be hard-pressed to prove the Tigers don’t shake in their boots whenever they see burnt orange.
Texas Tech’s air attack could have a field day against this secondary.
Even lowly Kansas might just have something to play for come Thanksgiving. There’s a distinct possibility that Missouri is headed for the SEC and that Nov. 26 will be the last scheduled Border Showdown for the foreseeable future. That’s certainly enough to make what might be a cupcake in other years into something completely different.
Missouri players don’t believe it either. They claim they take games one at a time. “We have to keep working hard,” they drone. “We have to stop Mizzou from beating Mizzou,” they refrain.
Senior safety Kenji Jackson at least admitted the losses might be getting to the Tigers. No one else would.
“I feel like it’s in our heads,” Jackson said. “But we can’t let it affect us.”
But that fleeting moment of clarity and honesty was immediately followed by more clichés and no evidence that Missouri has any idea how to turn this thing around.
“Get back to the basics. Keep working hard,” Jackson said. “Make sure the team knows not to quit. Keep enduring, keep believing that this can be a quality season.”
Senior defensive end Jacquies Smith was no more enlightening.
“We just have to go back to work, and we have to continue to work in order to get to where we want to be,” he said. “We just have to win, simple as that, prepare to go out there and win.”
Simple? If it were simple, wouldn’t Missouri have just done it already?
No one is asking these players to come out and just say “we stink, we give up,” but something clearly has to change. Albert Einstein’s quote applies here: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Yet no one, including the coaching staff, seems to want to talk about how to do it.
“We’re going to work hard this week. We have a lot of frustrated players in here, and the bottom line is that you’ve got to play better. You play better, and you’re not going to be as frustrated,” Pinkel said.
There’s no answer in there, and until the answers start becoming evident, the frustrations are going to continue to mount for the fans, coaches and players.
At least the fans have the luxury of planning their tropical vacations early. Act quickly. There’s still two days left to book a three-night stay at the San Juan Water and Beach Club.