Top 5 ranking does not change Tigers’ focus

Coaching staff works with the team to keep them focused as hype builds around the 2013 season.
Linebacker Donovan Bonner celebrates with students after No. 14 Missouri beat No. 22 Florida at Faurot Field. Losses from both South Carolina and Georgia put Missouri in the driver's seat for the SEC East title.

Two wins against ranked opponents has changed the conversation about the No. 5 Missouri Tigers.

They are in the driver’s seat of the Southeastern Conference East division and have the potential to challenge for the national title. The football team hears the talk but is trying to drown it out and focus on the No. 22 South Carolina Gamecocks.

“We try not to pay attention,” sophomore linebacker Kentrell Brothers said. “There is no way to not know that you are ranked number five. There is no way to not know that you are one of the top teams in the country. You can’t really pay too much attention to it. You have to try to tune it out.”

Junior running back Henry Josey blocks out the distractions and the Homecoming atmosphere by keeping his hood up when he walks around campus.

“The more they look at those things the less focus they will have as a player,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “If you are sitting there waiting for ESPN to come on for them to say nice things about Mizzou, then that could be a distraction.”

The Tigers have never started 8-0 under Pinkel but the 2013 Tigers hope to change that by avoiding a letdown after their 36-17 win over the Gators. The focus remains on South Carolina and their defense for sophomore center Evan Boehm.

“If you spend that five minutes on ESPN or on Twitter, that’s five minutes too long,” Boehm said. “That’s five minutes you won’t get back that you could’ve been studying South Carolina.”

Pinkel said at his weekly press conference that it’s up to the coaching staff to keep the team focused. As for Pinkel, he has not looked at a poll or the standings and does not get caught up in it, he said. Boehm doesn’t care much for the rankings either.

“Ultimately it’s not about that number five ranking,” Boehm said. “We are still the same team as we were weeks one through seven. We are still getting better, and we haven’t played our best game yet.”

The last time the Missouri Tigers were 7-0 the year was 2010 and the seventh win came against No. 3 Oklahoma. After that win, the Tigers lost their next two games.

Boehm blocks out the distractions by not checking Twitter the day before and the day of the game. He said it’s his rule as well as a team rule. Boehm also keeps his focus just on the Missouri Tigers instead of what’s going on with other teams. He said there is a time and a place for that and now is not that time.

“We only got 12 shots at this,” Pinkel said. “Our players are aware of one thing, and that is keep playing and good things are going to happen. That is where our focus is at.”

For Boehm, the success of the season doesn’t change the way he approaches the game. He still hangs out with the other four guys on the offensive line, sings songs before practice and has fun on the field.

“It’s always a fun time to be a Missouri Tiger,” he said.

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