Missouri hopes this trip to MAC ends well

The last time Missouri visited a MAC school, Bowling Green served the Tigers a gut-wrenching, sick-to-the-stomach, 51-28 defeat. In the end, the loss cost Missouri bowl eligibility. Now the Tigers look to go 2-0 on the road against another MAC school, Ball State, and hope this year brings a different fortune.

A.J. Ricker can't help but want to get rid of the feeling.

The feeling of hopelessness. The feeling of despair. The feeling of losing 51-28 to Bowling Green.

"Yeah, from last year, I still have this taste in the back of my mouth," he said.

Yeah, the Tigers' last visit to a Mid-American Conference school hurt. It hurt really bad. Simply put, the Tigers could have finished 6-6 and could have been bowl-eligible had they not dropped last year's game to the Falcons.

"They're losses, and what we could have done had we won that game was big," quarterback Brad Smith said.

On Saturday, Ricker, Smith and Missouri get a chance to make that feeling a little better. Missouri visits Ball State at 3 p.m. Saturday, looking to redeem itself against the MAC. The Tigers beat Ball State 41-6 last season, but no one is factoring that into this year's road game.

Missouri has the chance to improve to 2-0 for the second consecutive season. During last season's game against the Cardinals, Missouri announcer John Kadlec accidentally labeled Ball State (1-0) as Bowling Green several times. This year, they might as well be one in the same. In short, this is a game Missouri, the first BCS-conference team to every play at Muncie Stadium, has to win.

"I can't see how that game is more important to them than it is to us," coach Gary Pinkel said. "The things we're trying to do, the things we're trying to build, the things we're trying to get done, I can't imagine that game could be more important to Ball State than it is every big as important to us."

After last year's game, many could have been blamed for the practically season-destroying loss to Bowling Green. Pinkel only came up with one.

Sitting at the podium at his weekly press conference, Pinkel looked around and said, "I don't see anyone else around here, do you? I can sit there and point and say, ‘Well you guys didn't do this and do that.' But everything that happens in this program, I'm responsible for."

The Missouri players aren't going to accept that. On Monday, many of them shouldered the blame. Many pointed out how what happened last year can't happen again.

"Anybody that plays against us is good enough to beat us," rover Dedrick Harrington said. "We have to focus on winning that game. If you're goal is to be the national champion, you can't overlook anyone, and you have to work harder each week and get better each week."

Ball State is led by linebacker Lorenzo Scott, who had 124 tackles last season, 10 of them for a loss. Scott is a two-sport athlete who has also signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

"That was one dude who stood out," wide receiver Darius Outlaw said. "I remember watching him on film, and I remember him being probably their best player."

Ball State quarterback Andy Roesch passed for 149 yards a game last season. Roesch was a backup to Talmadge Hill when Ball State played Missouri, and only completed three-of-five passes for 24 yards and an interception. These days, Roesch is the starter, and Hill is the backup. But expect both to get playing time.

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