BOULDER, Colo. — Gary Pinkel prides his team on many things, but intensity is always first on the list.
After Missouri dominated the likes of Nebraska and Texas Tech, the Tigers looked as if they had found a passion to match Pinkel’s. After the Tigers’ loss to Colorado on Saturday, though, Pinkel grasped for words about MU’s schizophrenic performance.
“I thought that about half the time we played with great intensity, and the other half the time we didn’t,” Pinkel said. “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am about that.”
When the Tigers lost to Kansas on Sept. 27, Pinkel questioned his team’s efforts. Missouri went on a bye week and everything changed. MU looked as if it could have a series of letdowns after the loss to the Jayhawks but responded in winning fashion.
The Tigers pounded Nebraska and seemed to be on their way again. This bye week was different for Missouri. This time, the Tigers entered the week on the heels of a 62-31 win against the Red Raiders. Instead of trying to get his team’s spirits up, Pinkel had to ensure it would not get full of itself.
Execution was a problem
Outside safety Dedrick Harrington said not much changed in Missouri’s preparation, but the execution in the game wasn’t where it had been in previous weeks.
“We worked just as hard as we did against Nebraska,” Harrington said. “The focus wasn’t there today. We played hard, but we didn’t give the effort for the full 60 minutes and we paid for it.”
The Tigers’ lack of intensity showed in nearly every aspect of the game, but their continued struggles in third-and-long situations on both sides of the ball best highlighted their problems.
Third downs were an issue
Colorado converted 5-of-12 third down attempts, which was somewhat of an improvement for the Missouri defense, but the number of Colorado conversions did not cost the Tigers as much as the distance the Buffaloes were able to convert.
Colorado converted on third-and-18 from Missouri’s 45 on the game’s first drive when quarterback Joel Klatt hit a wide open D.J. Hackett for 29 yards. That conversion set up Colorado’s first score. The Buffaloes converted again in the fourth quarter when Klatt again found Hackett for a 20-yard gain on third-and-16 and MU trailing 21-9.
Cornerback Michael Harden said Missouri needs to fix its third-and-long problems soon.
“It’s always just a lack of focus and intensity,” Harden said. “We are hoping to get that corrected very soon so we won’t have that stigmata against us.”
Missouri also struggled with third downs on offense, converting only 5-of-15 third down attempts and failing to convert in the most important situations. MU was 3-for-8 in the second half, including a failed attempt on its final possession.
Intensity in question
As is his custom, Pinkel took the blame for the loss, but he was upset with his team’s performance.
“When I see my team play with great, championship intensity half the time and half the time, not loafing, but not (playing) with the intensity necessary to win at a high, high level, that just burns me,” Pinkel said.