Turning it around

To end their three-game losing streak Saturday, the Tigers will have to end another losing run, an 11-game drought against Kansas State. A win could propel Missouri to a strong effort to close the year; a loss could effectively end any hopes the Tigers had for the season.

One loss is an event, they say, while two is a trend and three is a streak.

After stumbling to a 24-3 loss at Nebraska last Saturday, the Tigers had gone 0-3 in their most difficult stretch of the season. In a game that looked to decide the Big 12 North before the season, the Tigers will face Kansas State on Saturday in a contest that could knock one team out of bowl consideration.

Coach Gary Pinkel said he and his players have gone through the entire gamut of emotions.

"Any time you go through something like this, you got anger, you got frustration, you got anxiety, you got all those things, because they prepared hard, they worked hard," Pinkel said. "When you come close in several of the games, that's difficult. We all can learn to let things go, to learn from it and move on."

Moving on is different from forgetting, of course, and the Tigers certainly have not been able to forget their recent struggles. But there is little the Tigers can do about those losses now.

"We gotta get it together," sophomore S David Overstreet said. "We gotta dig down. That's how we feel. We have to go out there, as a team, and push."

As a whole, the push has continually been there for the defense, which has led the Big 12 in total defense the past few weeks. The offense is another matter. After managing just a field goal against the Cornhuskers, the Tigers have now gone more than six quarters without a touchdown, being outscored 37-3 in that span.

Pinkel said it would be only natural for the Tigers to lose confidence after their recent struggles.

"We gotta get it back," he said. "That's my job and the coaches' job and the leaders' job, to get that back. We had it earlier, so we can get it back."

The Tigers rolled up 100 points in two of their nonconference games but have managed just 101 points in their other six games. The Tigers have run hot and cold, but there has been too much cold lately for the Tigers to be happy with what has transpired.

However, no significant offensive changes are on the way. The Tigers will continue to make the best of what they have, although junior TB Damien Nash will be back in the lineup against the Wildcats after serving a one-game suspension. Pinkel said he felt making wide-ranging changes is not the way to go.

"I don't think you do that," he said. "I think what you do is, you just try to do other things within your offense, as they try to take certain things away. You try to have an answer to try to exploit what they're doing so that you have an opportunity to make some plays elsewhere. We're not gonna change our offense or what we do."

Nevertheless, the Tigers might be second-guessing themselves about the capabilities of their offense right now. That sentiment may lead to frustration and disappointment, but that will not become a focus, if Pinkel has anything to do about it.

"We don't sit around here and feel sorry for ourselves," he said. "We don't do those kinds of things. We try to solve problems and get better…

"I have been very pleased with the efforts of our football team, but it does takes its toll. There's so much out there yet that I think we should get focused and get going."

That includes, of course, a bowl game, even a decent one, if the Tigers can win out. Although a trip to the Big 12 Championship is remote, the Tigers still have the chance to at least match their 2003 season of 7-6 and a trip to the Independence Bowl.

A loss to the Wildcats would end most of those hopes. It would basically end the season, with a 6-5 record the best possible outcome.

"I don't know, maybe it looks like that statistically or going to bowl games," freshman TE Martin Rucker said. "We don't really look at it like that. You don't play seasons for bowl games or anything like that. You play the game to win and a win is what we're focusing on."

A win will not come easy. The Wildcats are the only team Missouri has not beaten since the creation of the Big 12 in 1996, a losing streak of 11 games. The losing streak may feed into the Tigers' struggles, but there are more pressing issues that they must deal with first.

"There's no question (the losing streak to Kansas State) is a factor," Pinkel said. "(But) when you lose two or three tough games like we did, I think what happens is there's only one thing that's gonna make you feel better.

"That's winning. Nothing else."

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