MUNCIE, Ind. — After a relatively easy win against Ball State on Saturday, Missouri receiver Darius Outlaw sounded quite familiar. Outlaw was his usual, jovial self, but the serious tone of what he was saying sounded much like MU coach Gary Pinkel.
Attitudes are changing around the Tigers, and each week it becomes more evident. Missouri improved to 2-0 with its 35-7 rout, and for the first time since 1975 opened the season with consecutive road wins. Most teams would be thrilled to start the season with a pair of wins and a legitimate chance to start the season 5-0,but not this team.
Pinkel, who is known for his no-nonsense approach to the game, has instilled a winning attitude in the Tigers that they have been lacking for awhile.
Outlaw said it is always nice to get off to a good start, but Missouri has no time to rest on its laurels and pat itself on the back.
“It feels great to be 2-0, but we have got to get ready for the next game and try to be 3-0,” Outlaw said. “We will enjoy this one for about a day and then it is time to get right back to work and play ball.”
The Tigers started last season in much the same way with wins against Illinois and Ball State, but they remember what happened in the third game when another Mid-American Conference team, Bowling Green, walloped them 51-28.
At Pinkel’s pregame press conference last week he was adamant about making sure his team was prepared to win and not having another letdown on the road after a big opening win. He emphasized how important preparation is for his team and even took some of the blame for the Tigers’ first loss last season against the Falcons.
Pinkel said because of last year’s debacle on the road, the Ball State win was even more important.
“Last year we won a couple games and went on the road and couldn’t handle success very well and didn’t play very well,” Pinkel said. “I thought we played better (Saturday) and I still think we’ve got a long way to go to become a good football team.”
Every week Pinkel tells his team that week’s game is the most important. The Tigers one-game-at-a-time approach has helped them play mistake-free football for the most part. Missouri committed five penalties against the Cardinals a week after having two infractions against Illinois.
MU continued another trend against Ball State that Pinkel likes. Missouri has not had a turnover this season, and that ability to take care of the ball has kept the Tigers in favorable field position the majority of the time.
Defensive tackle Russ Bell said Pinkel has taught Missouri how to win.
“Any week, anybody can beat anybody,” Bell said. “Coach tells us that every week and we are starting to listen.”
Pinkel said: “The players are excited (to win), but they don’t act like they just, you know, won the Super Bowl,” Pinkel said. “Which is something that’s a little bit different with my players, which is good..”
he could see the change in attitude in the way his team prepares and even more in the way it acts following a win.
"They understand that they played a good team, we were favored and we were fortunate to win. It’s like they (say), ‘Let’s move on now,’ and it’s nice to see that in their eyes a little bit.”