Pep rally kick starts fourth quarter success

Triumphs in final quarter made the difference in three games.
Junior tailback Henry Josey jumps around with offensive linemen in the end zone after then-No. 14 Missouri's 36-17 win over then-No. 22 Florida. Josey and the Tigers (11-1) could grab the SEC Championship with a win over Auburn on Saturday. Maneater File Photo

A tradition started this season after Missouri’s victory against Florida.

Leading by a touchdown, the team cleared the benches to gather on the field for an impromptu pep rally before the game’s final 15 minutes.

It worked.

The Tigers went on to score 13 points and shut out the Gators in the fourth quarter to win the game, 35-17.

The pep rally “gets everybody off the bench and gets everybody riled up,” quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “So far ... it’s worked pretty well.”

The No. 5 Missouri Tigers (11-1, 7-1 SEC) have outscored opponents 102-54 in the fourth quarter this season. The only time the Tigers were outscored was against South Carolina on Oct. 26. MU lost in double overtime.

Finishing is preached throughout the football program. Success in the fourth quarter against Arkansas State, Georgia and Florida boosted Missouri to victory.

In 2012, the Tigers were outscored 77-105 in the fourth quarter, ending their season with a 5-7 record.

“We had a really rotten taste in our mouth, and we wanted to get that out of there,” junior defensive lineman Lucas Vincent said. “We worked hard to make sure we weren’t in that situation anymore.”

The fourth quarter pep rally has helped the team finish strong. Senior defensive tackle Marvin Foster was the leader in the huddle to get the team excited.

“We just get Marvin in there, and Marvin gets us all going because we preach finish around here, and the fourth quarter is the only time you can finish,” Vincent said. “It just gets everybody excited to go. It brings us to a different mentality. We know this is our quarter.”

Sophomore center Evan Boehm said huddling up before the final quarter starts in practice with the sounding of the double horn which starts the fourth quarter simulation. Hill said the focus is on finishing after the horn blows.

Boehm said the fourth quarter victories during coach Gary Pinkel’s tenure at Missouri are listed on a board in the locker room. The board is starting to fill up.

“The fourth quarter is our quarter,” senior receiver L’Damian Washington said.

The Tigers are in the final quarter of their season with two games left to play. To finish strong, senior left guard Max Copeland said the team needs to remain in the present.

“You can feel that this is big, but at the same time, the field we are playing on is still 100 yards,” he said. “There is still only going to be 22 players out there on that field. Goal posts are going to be about that same size. This is a football game just like every other football game we’ve played, just the energy surrounding it is different.”

Copeland’s recognition that Saturday’s match up is like any other football game does not mean he won’t be taking in the championship atmosphere. He promised his dad he would take 10 seconds to look around and drink it in. He intends to honor that promise, but then it is football as usual.

“I am going to have the rest of my life to savor these memories,” he said. “I am less interested in savoring the moment as I am seizing every opportunity that I have right now.”

As the season draws to a close, Copeland keeps his focus forward to finish strong.

“This is the final chapters of our mission,” he said. “And I am going to make sure that they are written well.”

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