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In the Huddle: Combatting a losing mentality

Mizzou Football alum Terry Dennis talks about the way a losing streak affects players, and how Missouri needs to approach the rest fo what looks to be a lost season.

NCAA Football: Florida at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The phrase, “Go out swinging,” comes to mind when thinking of this year’s Tigers.

They’re a team that had such high hopes before the season, even amidst the onset of a postseason ban. For all intents and purposes, the Mizzou faithful, including the team, are disappointed to say the very least. Emotions such as anger, frustration, doubt, confusion, even outright disbelief follow the Tigers along this current four-game losing streak heading into Tennessee, leaving the program and its followers to question: “What is happening?”

It seems that weekly, the conversation takes an optimistic turn for the better when it comes close to game time, only to be take a sharp turn south before the clock hits zero. In the case for the game against Georgia, word came late that Kelly Bryant was a no-go, thus leaving those who follow the Tigers with several doubts on how a backup quarterback on an already struggling team would fare against one of the country’s elite defenses. Bryant returned... only to lead the way to another abysmal loss against Florida just this past weekend.

The issue with losing streaks typically comes down to the fact that onlookers and supporters feel the weight of being let down. It’s almost as if to say that losing streaks are in some way indicative of a team that’s giving up. For this program, they bear the weight of not only shouldering that criticism, but performing in such a way as to silence their own internal criticism. A gut check has to be presented, addressed, and utilized.

Riding a four-game losing streak makes it much easier to identify the chinks in the armor. Things like body language on the sideline, missed assignments, penalties — one has to be able to change the narrative before they can change the result. For many of the Mizzou faithful, the end in sight may seem much closer, particularly with the onset of basketball season or excitement in other leagues around the country, to divert attention and possibly help ease the pain of what many see as total failure. This comes merely from the fact that the team itself cannot afford shift focus.

So in terms of restoring order and confidence, the recipe may be simple, yet difficult to swallow. No matter the scenario, a positive goal is always possible. Whether that’s to finish the season strong and go undefeated from now until then, make a bowl game, or simply improve before the off-season, this team has to decide that the best scenario is worth obtaining.

For this team, breaking a losing streak like the current one doesn’t take discouragement out of the picture, but rather affords the opportunity to become sick and tired of being discouraged themselves. One thing about correcting issues and breaking cycles is that those affected need to be bothered enough to want to fix it. This team needs to get bothered quickly... quicker than they have so far. If the end goal is a positive one and what is in place hasn’t worked, then challenging the norm such as watching more film, working out independently apart from team’s scheduled activities, staying after practice to perfect skills... All these are in some way sacrificial in nature, but can make up a winning recipe.

At the end of the day, something has to give. The Tigers are imploding, and for those involved, it’s a sensitive subject to say the least. At the same time, something as sensitive, yet ultimately meaningful as time, can be the tell-tale sign as to what the members of this team value the most. Rewriting the narrative requires a degree of commitment unseen in the past few weeks. With two more games left in the season, it’s still not too late to decide to finish strong.

That starts with going 1-0 this weekend.