By Jake Kreinberg
The Cullman Times
COLUMBIA, Mo. —
No. 10 Missouri is still trying to recover after Saturday's 27-24 double-overtime loss to South Carolina.
The Tigers' dream season hit a major bump after Andrew Baggett missed a 24-yard field goal attempt off the left post.
But as teammates consoled each other, they realized there's still much to accomplish in their second season in the Southeastern Conference.
"The sun came up again Sunday morning," nose guard Lucas Vincent said.
Missouri (7-1, 3-1 SEC) retains a one-game lead over South Carolina in the SEC East Division, but the Gamecocks own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
If South Carolina wins its remaining two conference games at home against Mississippi State and Florida, Missouri would have to win its last four to reach the conference championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 7.
Coach Gary Pinkel said his team's goals are still within reach; his players practiced Sunday and their psyche is "fine."
"If you're a player here, why would you not be encouraged?," Pinkel asked. "You should be the most fired-up football player in America with the opportunity and options that we have in front of us. But we've got to take care of our business."
The most difficult part of moving on will be blocking out how close the Tigers were to being one game away from clinching the division.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 15-yard line, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw found receiver Bruce Ellington streaking toward the corner of the end zone to tie Missouri at 24-all in the first overtime.
"You make calls all throughout the game," Pinkel said. "You hope you execute them properly. And sometimes you don't. And sometimes you wish you made another call. There's just a lot of plays. You can point to that one. We win or lose as a team."
The Tigers know how one loss can quickly turn into another and derail a season.
Three years ago, the team knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma to start 7-0 before losing two consecutive road games at Nebraska and Texas Tech.
Missouri finished with a 6-2 Big 12 record, tying the Cornhuskers but losing the head-to-head tiebreaker to advance to the conference championship game.
Vincent said that as he was walking to the weight room Sunday, offensive coordinator Josh Henson stopped him and talked to him about how the 2010 team lost to Nebraska and felt it had lost control of all of the goals for the season.
The loss stuck in the Tigers' heads, resulting in the second defeat that took them out of first place in the North Division.
Missouri hopes to avoid a repeat of that sequence when it faces Tennessee (4-4, 1-3) at home this week.
For his part, first-year Volunteers coach Butch Jones doesn't think the Tigers will be dwelling on their loss very long.
"Every game is like a new chapter in a book," he said. "It has different story lines, the way the game goes, the flavor of the game. What you did last week has no bearing on the outcome of this week."
Missouri will have to relocate an offense that went dormant in the second half of Saturday's game.
Having entered the matchup scoring 44.3 points and gaining 513.4 yards per game, Missouri led 14-0 at halftime but only added another three points and 99 yards in regulation.
Quarterback Maty Mauk is expected to make his third career start this week, but James Franklin was upgraded to questionable as his separated throwing shoulder continues to heal.
Cornerback E.J. Gaines is expected to return after missing two games with a quad injury. Running back Henry Josey, however, is questionable after sustaining a concussion against South Carolina.
"The past is a part of us, but it's not who we are," guard Max Copeland said. "When you lose, it's important not to lose the lesson, or it's just pain for nothing. So that's what we're doing. We're extracting the little seed of wisdom, we're casting away the shell and we're focusing on the present."