By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Matt Triplett got back to his hotel room at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa on Saturday night and laid down, frustrated.
Team Lucas Oil was 0-2, and Triplett himself had begun the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, 0-for-4.
Triplett knew he had to get things figured out, and fast, if he wanted to turn things around before Championship Sunday and the team’s must-win game vs. Team Cat.
“First few days I think I just put way too much pressure from having that C on my back and I overly tried,” Triplett told PBR.com Sunday morning. “I was fighting my head.”
Therefore, Triplett picked up his iPhone and reached out to his good friend and former Global Cup USA coach Justin McBride.
McBride, who is actually the General Manager of Team Pendleton Whisky and also a CBS Sports Network commentator, had simple advice for Triplett.
“Chill out and let the game come to you,” McBride explained to CBS Sports Networks Craig Hummer, about what advice he gave Triplett.
Triplett did just that, riding Comfortably Numb for 87.25 points, as he helped Team Lucas Oil (1-2) notch a crucial 171.25-0 victory over Team Cat (0-3) on Sunday morning at the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena in Las Vegas.
“Justin McBride kind of gave me some pointers and got my head back to where it needed to be,” Triplett told PBR.com Sunday following his team’s win. “That guy is amazing, and he is my hero. I have always looked up to him. To be able to call a guy like that and him give you some pointers is huge in life.
“Me and Justin have been dang good buddies ever since I come on tour. That is why I respect him so much. He is a GM of another team, but he isn’t scared to go out of his way to still help his buddies out. That is one reason why I have always looked up to him and he has been my hero. Just because of the way he carries himself. He doesn’t act like he is better than anybody else. He just acts like he is Justin McBride, and that is why I love him.
Triplett realized he just had to relax and slow things down. He was letting the captain label affect his approach to the team-formatted competition.
Team Lucas Oil was one of the favorites heading into Division B competition, and Triplett felt the need to be something bigger than himself. The reality is, though, that Matt Triplett being Matt Triplett is all he has to do for his unit to find success.
“We have a target on our back, and I was looking at that,” Triplett said. “I don’t need to look at it that way. I need to take care of my own business and let my buddies take care of their business, and not worry about them and how they are going to handle it. I need to just take care of myself and let it fall where it may. I know the buddies on my team ride just as good as me and want it just as bad as me. I don’t need to worry about them. I need to worry about my job, and when I do, it will be great. When I go and try and worry about that, then I am not focused about what I need to do on my bull. I need to focus on my job and let the chips fall where they may.”
2016 World Finals event winner Ryan Dirteater got things started for Team Lucas Oil with an 84.25-point ride on Pistol before Triplett ended the first half with a qualified ride.
The teams would combine for six buckoffs in the second half, and Team Lucas Oil got the necessary victory vs. falling to the basement of the Division B standings.
Instead, Team Lucas Oil is 1-2 and in fourth place in Division B, but it is only one game behind No. 2 Team South Point and No. 3 Team Pendleton Whisky.
Team Lucas Oil takes on No. 5 Team Boot Barn (1-2) Friday when the final weekend of Division B resumes in Las Vegas live on CBS Sports Network and RidePass.
The Monster Energy Team Challenge features 12 teams, and two Divisions (A & B). The Top 3 teams in each division, based upon win-loss record, qualify for Championship Weekend and a single-elimination tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12 in front of fans.
Following Division A competition, Team Cooper Tires, Team Las Vegas and Team Can-Am have clinched playoff berths.
“Today, I am happy for my team,” Triplett said. “Dirt has been phenomenal this weekend. He is the man and he is the one that carried the team this weekend. I have to come in next weekend and do the same for Dirt and (Dalton) Kasel and everybody. Come and have fun, and not take it so damn serious because if I take it serious, I suck.”
Dirteater pulled himself out of the second half to give alternate Scottie Knapp an opportunity to ride on Sunday, but he will be OK for next weekend’s games. Team Lucas Oil takes on No. 3 Team Pendleton Whisky (2-1) on Saturday before learning its opponent for Sunday.
Team Lucas Oil does have some injury concerns with Kasel straining his left groin on Saturday night in the team’s loss to Team South Point. Triplett said he would discuss with General Manager Jerome Davis about possibly making a move if Kasel informs him that he will not be able to compete next week.
Kasel has been plagued with groin injuries for over a year now, and he had reconstructive surgery on both of his groins in the offseason. The 2019 Rookie of the Year went 0-for-2 Sunday and continues to be hindered by his injuries in 2020.
With or without Kasel, Triplett believes there is still an opportunity for himself and Dirteater to help push Team Lucas Oil to Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12.
“I don’t know what it is going to take to get to Sioux Falls,” Triplett said when asked if he thought his team needed to win its final three Division B games to qualify for the playoffs. “I put myself into this situation, and I have been in bigger holes, and I am just going to get myself out of this hole. If I do my job, let the chips fall where they may be, because whoever deserves to go deserves to go. I am not guaranteed going to Sioux Falls, but if I do my job everything will fall into place.”
Professional Bull Riders – Team Challenge – Game 25
Las Vegas, NV, 2020
Event Leaders (Round 1-Round 2-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Matt Triplett, 87-0-87.00
2. Ryan Dirteater, 84.25-0-84.25
Dalton Kasel, 0-0-0.00
Dakota Louis, 0-0-0.00
Kyle Jones, 0-0-0.00
Ouncie Mitchell, 0-0-0.00
Scottie Knapp, 0-0-0.00
Clayton Sellars, 0-0-0.00
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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