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December 1, 2014

Mitch Morse


CHUCK DUNLAP:  Mitch, good afternoon.  Before we take a few questions, would you mind just discussing your team getting back to the SEC Championship Game again this year.
MITCH MORSE:  Oh, yeah.  It's an absolute privilege to go to the game again.  We know, collectively as a group, that it's incredibly hard to reach the SEC Championship Game in such a competitive league with great teams, and to do it two years in a row is truly a blessing.
Honestly, the feel in the locker room is that we don't take this for granted because there's incredible teams in this conference, and the level of competition that's brought to the playing field each week really shows the resiliency of the football team and what we faced this year.

Q.  I know you guys as an offense, from watching you, strive to be balanced, but it seems like this year it's a little more emphasis on the ground game.  Is that something going into the year that you guys emphasized?  Or has it just developed as the year's gone on?
MITCH MORSE:  I think Coach Henson is one of the best at feeling how the game goes, personnel‑wise what complements who.  I think, as time progressed and as we got a feel for this offense, the ground game really stepped up, and we put an emphasis on it.
As an offensive line, we do enjoy running the football, and it adds some diversity to the field.  I think it just credits Coach Henson because he's great at feeling out how a game progresses.  He'll put you in great position in practice.  We don't go into a week thinking we're going to run every play, but as the game progresses, Coach Henson kind of feels how the game's going, and then we just rely on his judgment.

Q.  I wanted to ask you, when you go back to October 11th and the performance‑‑ I know you all didn't obviously play well against Georgia, but what do you remember after that game, right after that game?  Did you think that the SEC East was even possible after that afternoon?
MITCH MORSE:  I think that was definitely one of the rougher games I've been a part of, but as a team, that was a defining moment for us because there's two ways you can go about that.  You can either kind of quit and scrap all the work you put into that, or you can rededicate yourself to the program.  We kind of had a coming to Jesus moment as a team, and we rededicated ourselves to practice, to our fundamentals, to our technique.
It was honestly a blessing in disguise for that to happen because we brought a whole new enthusiasm for the game and the dedication.  We just had to rededicate ourselves.  That's what we were able to do.  Like I said before, that just shows the resiliency of this football team.  I'm proud of these guys for not quitting.

Q.  And I wanted to ask about recruiting rankings.  Missouri never fares well in the Rivals and Scout and 24/7, and yet here you are back‑to‑back years in the SEC title game.  What does that say about you guys as far as what a lot of people view you guys coming in as not being that talented and yet you seem to prove them wrong each time?
MITCH MORSE:  I think it speaks volumes about the player development program we have here with Coach Ivey and just the ability for the coaching staff to do what they do.  I think Coach Pinkel recruits a kind of guy who's going to be dedicated to the team.  Like I've never seen this kind of camaraderie with a team before these last two years.  We're all family.  There's really no bad apples on the team.
When you're able to compete at a high level in practice and push each other, the possibilities are endless.  So I think it speaks volumes to the athletic performance here, and it's just great to see.

Q.  Mitch, with a guy like Connor McGovern, you've played next to him before, and he's rotated in at guard and tackle this year.  How much does that sort of versatility bring to the line?  Just how valuable is that?
MITCH MORSE:  I think I was proud of Connor, his ability to step into, honestly, a position he hadn't practiced for a few months now.  He had shown his ability at tackle, and he was able to step up in a crunch time situation when Taylor had to leave the game with an injury.  He's just an emotionally strong person, Connor is, and he was able to step in and do exactly what the team needed him to do at that time.

Q.  Mitch, I was just curious, what did you guys take from last year's SEC Championship Game?  And how do you think that could help you maybe flip the script this year and get the win?
MITCH MORSE:  You know, it's easy to say focus each game and don't think of a game differently, but the SEC Championship is a monumental game, and it's a once‑in‑a‑lifetime experience to just show up in Atlanta and see what kind of comes with the game when you have such a great competitive league like the SEC and you have two great teams kind of battling it out in the Georgia Dome.  It's phenomenal.
So I think we'll definitely put more onus on film watching and practice, but I think each individual player's going to be different and the fact that we know what this game means and what it kind of brings to the table.

Q.  When I look at you guys' season and obviously winning the SEC East, I find myself wondering how did you guys lose to Indiana?  What happened in that game that you feel like it cost you guys?
MITCH MORSE:  That's a great question.  I wish‑‑ there's many days in the week I wish we could have that game back.  It's the game of football, I suppose.  If you don't bring your A game, any team can beat you.  I think that Indiana brought their A game to Columbia.  They hit us in the mouth.
I think, as a team, that's another great example of when we could have sat down and quit, but we chose to be positive and find the things we needed to work on, and that next day we had a great practice.
I would like to say it was an anomaly in the season, but the truth is we didn't bring our A game, and when you don't bring your A game in football, anyone can beat you.

Q.  Just real quick as a follow.  When you see Alabama giving up 630 yards in the last game, I mean, does that‑‑ as far as you guys as an offense, do you look at that and say, hey, we could have the same kind of success or what?
MITCH MORSE:  I think you watch this Alabama team, they're just a phenomenal football team.  You get what you hear when you watch film.  I think Auburn had a great game plan, but I know Coach Saban and the way Alabama practices and their coaching staff.  I promise that they'll be ready for whatever happens coming this Saturday.
It will be a great challenge for us, and we just have to focus on this game as a great competition because they're going to bring their A game.

Q.  Hi, Mitch.  I was just asking, with last year's game, what was the locker room like after that loss to Auburn?  Were you guys just happy to be there, or were you hungry to get back and win it this year?
MITCH MORSE:  It was such a devastating loss last year.  We had such‑‑ we had so much emotionally invested in that game, and it didn't turn out that way.  But it meant the world to this team that we were able to come back to Atlanta, and like I said before, you play such great competition week in and week out in the SEC that being able to represent the East again is just unbelievable.
We harnessed what we felt after that game last year and definitely going to help us drive through this week.

Q.  And do you guys relish the chance to play the No. 1  team in the country?  Is that something you're looking forward to?
MITCH MORSE:  Absolutely.  It's a great competition, and it's fantastic we get to play an amazing football team.  So we can't wait to showcase our skills in a national television light and face a great team.  So it will be a great competition come Saturday, and we're really looking forward to it.

Q.  Mitch, you had a little bit of a slow start against Arkansas, and then you guys as a line really picked it up.  How important is it to start well and start quickly against the Crimson Tide on Saturday?
MITCH MORSE:  I think something the Crimson Tide brings is you can't start slow.  They're going to jump on you from play one, and we know that.  I think it was a great learning experience last Saturday on‑‑ it was a tale of two halves, I suppose.  So we're just going to have to bring our A game come Saturday, and that's going to be a great challenge for this offensive line.

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