The No. 8 Missouri Tigers spent New Year’s Eve morning back on the practice field with their focus squarely on the 78th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic and their opponent, the No. 13 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Mizzou (11-2, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) was crisp in its workout that ran just under two hours. Working in pads and shorts, the team conducted group work sessions accompanied with some full-field scrimmaging in fine-tuning its game plan for Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2 Big 12 Conference). Head Coach Gary Pinkel said he knows the importance of his Tigers translating their work in practice to the game in order to snap the three-game losing skid to their former Big 12 counterpart.
“It was good work (today),” said Pinkel. “I think the players are starting to feel it. This was a Wednesday for us. The players are feeling it and just feeling the game is coming. I thought we had a good practice. There are a lot of distractions anytime you’re at a bowl game but I think we’re doing a pretty good of separating and coming out here and focusing.”
A focus in this Classic matchup will be on offense as both teams feature explosive units, ranked next to each other nationally. The Tigers are 15th in the country averaging 39.0 points per game with Oklahoma State just ahead in 14th with 39.8 points-per-game average. Mizzou has been especially productive early, scoring 277 of its 507 points before halftime.
“Every coach in America wants to start fast. We talk about it, we mention it to our players but we don’t harp on it,” added Pinkel. “What happens is if you keep saying ‘let’s start fast, let’s start fast’ and have to punt the ball the first two times, you’re almost deflating the team. We emphasize it but not to the point where if things don’t go well. You still have to be able to come back. We all want to start that way but we also recognize that sometimes the way the other team is playing, you might not. Then, you just have to keep battling.”
The Tigers return to AT&T Stadium one more time before game day with a final morning workout on Wednesday. That practice is also closed to the media and the public.
Following today’s practice, Mizzou conducted its offensive news conference for the media at the Omni Mandalay hotel featuring offensive coordinator Josh Henson, C Evan Boehm, LT Justin Britt, QB James Franklin, TB Henry Josey and WR L’Damian Washington and then will bring in the New Year in a low-key fashion at their hotel headquarters.