COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The festive atmosphere fit the occasion for Missouri's Southeastern Conference debut. Coach Gary Pinkel received numerous testimonials.
"It was apparently a remarkable presentation our fans put on, and I'm very, very appreciative of that," Pinkel said.
Now, about that product on the field ...
A late collapse turned what had been a competitive matchup into a 41-20 loss last week to No. 7 Georgia, ruining the occasion for Missouri. The Tigers (1-1) are stepping back outside their new conference Saturday night against Arizona State, hoping to justify all that enthusiasm with a positive result.
"I know that one loss doesn't define our season," wide receiver L'Damian Washington said. "We're going to bounce back and finish very strongly this year with a great record."
Arizona State (2-0) is off to a strong start under new coach Todd Graham, defeating Northern Arizona and Illinois by a combined score of 108-20.
The Sun Devils scored on four of their first five drives against Illinois, and none of their scoring drives lasted three minutes. Both quarterbacks, starter Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank, have been very productive. Plus, they beat Missouri in overtime in Tempe, Ariz., last year.
They'll be on the road for the first time this season, trying to keep down a team that surrendered 24 unanswered points to end the Georgia loss. Graham said the key is poise, keeping emotions in check.
To help players familiarize themselves with the challenges of life on the road, Graham moves gear to the visitor's locker room during the practice week, then takes the team to the stadium in a non-pressurized setting. Attention to detail includes using the "same air fresheners" as they do at home.
"As much as you can keep them in the routine, the better it is," he said.
Missouri has won 17 in a row at home against non-conference opponents, a school record that dates to 2005, including a 62-10 victory over lower-division Southeastern Louisiana in the opener.
"I haven't seen a lot of people stop them," Graham said. "What happened to them last week is they turned the football over. They are very, very explosive."