COLUMBIA — The mood around the Missouri Athletics Training Complex on Monday was different. More smiling, more laughing. For the time being, the attitude was more positive, more upbeat.
Winning will do that. Saturday’s overtime victory against Texas A&M lifted the spirits of the Missouri football team.
The win was an emotional one, according to safety Kenji Jackson. The celebration on the sideline Saturday mirrored that of a big bowl victory, not a midseason game. Hugs, fist pumps and, according to Jackson, even some tears could be seen. He said it was seeing hard work pay off that triggered the outpouring of emotion.
“I think it was more ecstatic because we’ve been fighting so hard all year,” defensive end Jacquies Smith said, “and we’ve been competitive and been close in these games. And we finally just pulled one out. It just helps out a lot. A lot of guys were happy.”
Several players used the word "momentum" Monday to describe the effects of Saturday’s win. Momentum is something the Tigers haven’t been able to capitalize on so far in 2011. The Tigers haven’t won back-to-back games this season, something they have done with regularity in recent years. Alternating between wins and losses has been a new experience for some of the older players, and getting a win this weekend at Baylor has become the main priority, perhaps with hopes of returning things to normal.
Normal would be heading to a bowl game, something the team has done for the past six seasons. Some questions have been raised this season about whether the Tigers can do that. The victory over then-No. 16 Texas A&M doesn’t guarantee the Tigers will reach the six victories required to make the postseason, but it certainly improves their chances.
Tight end Michael Egnew said the celebration continued a little bit after the Tigers departed the sideline at Kyle Field, but he and his teammates have quickly returned to the all-business approach they have exhibited all season.
This perspective reflects that of the Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, whose motto all season has been “1-0,” referring to how he wants the team to look at each individual game. The players have wristbands sporting the slogan.
But for a brief moment Monday, Pinkel talked about the big picture and indicated that the team’s prospects for the rest of the season got a boost with Saturday’s win.
“We’ve got a chance here, and we’ve got to take advantage of it,” Pinkel said. “A week ago there was a tunnel, and the light was flickering a little bit. Now, at least, I can barely see it. So, let’s see what we do with it.”