Tigers still learning lessons

Yes, Missouri's loss to Colorado is one that is hard to bear. But in the end, it's another learning lesson for the Tigers as they learn to cope with success. As Tom writes, Missouri could use the Colorado loss the same way they responded to the loss in Lawrence to finish off the last three games the way they should.

What happened last Saturday was bound to happen. It was inevitable.

Unfortunately for Brad Smith, it happened twice. Smith, who had never fumbled going into the game, fumbled twice and at the two most important times: once on the Colorado 1-yard line and later on a fourth-down conversion.

It was Smith's nature. He's scored many touchdowns going for second efforts. On Saturday, those second efforts gave Colorado several second chances, and Missouri's Big 12 Championship Game hopes almost went down the drain.

It was another learning experience for Smith, who said that was the last time anyone will see him stretch the ball out as he did against the Buffaloes.

This learning experience was another necessary one for the Tigers, who will have to again and again learn how to handle their newfound success. With that said, the Colorado loss was one that could end up being good for Missouri.

Remember Kansas? It looked the season was over right then. If the Tigers could only come within 21 of the Jayhawks, who on their schedule, other than maybe Iowa State, could they beat?

Missouri responded. In a stretch against Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, Missouri went 2-1, and the way the Tigers played against Oklahoma, matching the Sooners for all but six minutes, almost made it feel like 3-0. Suddenly, it was as if the Kansas loss never even happened.

Suddenly, the talk was about championship games and the BCS. Forgotten in the mix of new excitement was that no one on the Tigers had ever had a winning season at Missouri. Inevitable, these Tigers still had lessons to learn.

When Gary Pinkel came to Columbia, he inherited a serious mess of a team, and he got that team into shape quicker than anyone could have expected. That includes Smith, who will be a top Heisman candidate for the next couple years. But to expect a Big 12 North title or January bowl game is a lot to ask from a team that hasn't won in a long time.

So for the Tigers, it's time to take whatever they can learn from the Colorado loss and respond like they did after the loss to Kansas. The Tigers still have a shot at that North title if they can beat Kansas State on the road and get a little help.

Eventually, Smith, Pinkel and Missouri will know how to handle the kind of adversity they will face every season in the Big 12. For now, every mistake they make is a chance to learn as they try to sneak their way into the elite.

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