As you would expect of any coach, Gary Pinkel takes losses hard.
It almost seems like college coaches would have to deal with emotional players becoming distraught after losses. After all, college players are just a few years out of high school and still making the transition to adulthood.
For Pinkel, though, it is just the opposite when it comes to dealing with losses.
"I think my players do a lot better job than I do," he said Monday. "Thank God they do."
This is not to say, of course, that Missouri's players do not care about the game. Each player struggles with every loss, especially the unexpected ones, like the Tigers' 24-14 shellacking at the hands of Troy this past Thursday. The coaching staff, Pinkel says, must take a leadership role and guide the players beyond the loss.
"I think there's a certain point where you learn and you go on," he said. "When you lose a football game, you want everybody to suffer. I think that's part of being a winner, hating to lose. But there's also a certain point when you let it go so that you focus on what you gotta do to get better."
One of the more pressing areas of improvement has to be turnovers. After committing just 13 last season, the Tigers are almost halfway to that number already, coughing the ball up five times through two games. Three of those--two interceptions by junior QB Brad Smith and a fumble by junior TB Damien Nash--came against the Trojans. Fixing that, Pinkel said, is a focal point this week.
"We continue to work on it," he said. "Hopefully we're gonna get that under control."
The defensive side of the ball has been strong in creating turnovers. The Tigers forced Troy QB Aaron Leak, who was pestered by the defensive front all game, into three interceptions. That fact did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff.
"I think we made some huge football plays on defense," Pinkel said. "We did a lot of good things; you just want to get the ratio in your advantage. I think all the things we have gone through can be fixed."
Potential aside, Pinkel said he was "remarkably disappointed and very, very frustrated" at the moment. But that has not changed his thoughts about the team in the least.
"My goals for our football team and the program, where I think we can go, haven't changed a bit," he said.
How Missouri responds against Ball State on Saturday will go a long way in determining if Pinkel's faith is well placed.
No movement in the deep: There was no movement on the new depth chart released Monday afternoon. Missouri mixed in more experienced players in place of redshirt freshmen Adam Spieker and Tyler Luellen in the fourth quarter against Troy, but those changes did not manifest themselves Monday. Another disappointing performance, however, would likely be enough for Pinkel to change the direction his Tigers are heading.
No halftime worries: One of the most celebrated statistics given during the broadcast of Missouri's loss at Troy was the Tigers' record under Pinkel when they led and trailed at halftime. Missouri is 15-0 with a lead after 30 minutes, but just 2-20 when facing a second-half deficit.
That stat compelled some to question the ability of Pinkel and his coaching staff to make in-game adjustments, but Pinkel cast off its relevance Monday.
"I've never looked at that since I've been a coach, ever," he said. "Ever. Twenty-five years, I've never known that stat. And I never will look at it. Honestly, since I've ever been coaching, I've never looked at that stat. Ever, ever. You guys can have fun with it, but you can do it on your own."
No changing Smith: Smith, who drew Heisman discussion because of his ability to both run and throw the ball, also received his share of criticism after the loss. Smith threw the ball 46 times against the Trojans, looking hesitant to drop down with the ball and run with it.
Pinkel said Monday that this is not related to the game plan, but to the situations Smith faces. Pinkel said the coaching staff has not tried to force Smith into becoming a pocket passer.
"(It was the) same thing we did the first game, exactly the same thing," he said. "Whoever said we made him stay in the pocket, that's ridiculous. That's absolutely ridiculous. You know why I don't read the newspapers? That's why."
Pinkel did say that he expects more from Smith, but that he demands more from everybody on the Missouri roster.
Upset about an upset: The Big 12 North suffered a rash of surprising losses this weekend. Besides the Missouri loss, Kansas State and Nebraska were both upset at home by teams from non-BCS conferences, Fresno State from the WAC and Southern Miss from Conference USA, respectively.
Pinkel said that all teams have issues this time of the year.
"It's two games into the season," he said. "People have problems. The ones that get them fixed are the ones that go on and have good years. I think you're talking about good coaches and good programs, so I would suggest those things will be fixed."
Teams like Fresno State have earned a lot of respect nationwide for scheduling difficult opponents and its willingness to play anybody, anywhere. Still, Pinkel said he would expect those teams to struggle if they graduated to a BCS conference.
"If all of a sudden you jump to the Big 12 or the Big 10 or the Pac 10 or the Southeast Conference, you have to play every single game every single week," Pinkel said. "Things get difficult. I've had some 10-1, nine-win seasons, undefeated seasons (at Toledo). If those teams had to go in and play in the Big 12 or the Big 10, they wouldn't be undefeated."