Seniors say goodbye after leading team on historic run

This year’s seniors, 19 in total, changed the mentality of the team by setting goals higher than just a bowl game.

A division title on the line; Johnny Manziel and No. 19 Texas A&M making the trip to Columbia; the end to a redemptive season.

Saturday’s regular season finale against the Aggies has many storylines and postseason implications, but many players have one goal: getting the seniors their rock.

It’s is a Missouri tradition at the conclusion of the final home game, the seniors walk to the iconic Rock M hill to take one of the whitewashed rocks as a keepsake of their tenure at MU. Last year’s seniors did not take home such a keepsake after Missouri lost to Syracuse 31-37 on Senior Night last November.

“This game is about the seniors,” junior defensive lineman Lucas Vincent said. “We don’t want them to have to go through that again.”

Coach Gary Pinkel said at his weekly press conference that this season’s seniors deserve a tremendous thank you. Before the game Saturday night, MU faithful will have that chance. Nineteen seniors will be honored before the game. Of those 19, 14 are fifth-year seniors.

Pinkel said he will be an emotional wreck before the game.

This year’s crop of seniors could be one of the major reasons that the Tigers are 10-1 with a shot at the Southeastern Conference East division title.

Most of this class came to Missouri during the good times. As freshmen or redshirt freshmen, they helped their team to a Big 12 Conference North divisional title. Then 2012 happened. No bowl game, a loss on senior night and a losing record.

Pinkel said they inherited a car wreck of season and he told the seniors that it was their responsibility to get Missouri back to its winning ways.

“You talk about a senior class that has a task at hand,” he said. “I told them, ‘You will be known for what you have done for Mizzou football.’”

The seniors started working on that task in January when they decided to set their sights higher than just a bowl game, and this was coming off a season in which Missouri did not have a postseason.

Senior receiver L’Damian Washington said at SEC media days that he was looking forward to great thing this season and he predicted Missouri would go 11-1, giving a glimpse at the seniors’ goals for 2013.

Throughout the season, Pinkel said he leaned on the team’s leadership, his seniors, to keep the team focused. He said players have seen them lead by example and not get caught up in the hype the season has brought.

Such leadership shows. The No. 5 Tigers have said repeatedly that the ranking does not matter and they will just play their game. The team, as a whole, has not bought into the hype of the upcoming game, focusing instead on getting the seniors a win.

For sophomore center Evan Boehm, Saturday’s game will be his last regular season with his big brothers, left guard Max Copeland and left tackle Justin Britt.

“It’s gonna suck, and it’s gonna be emotional,” Boehm said. “But we will celebrate after the game.”

Boehm credits the whole senior class with this season’s success, and he does not want them leave Faurot Field without a rock. In order to do that, he said the team just has to play its game.

“We love our seniors,” he said. “They set our goals. They are the reason we are doing so well.”

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