Win enhances Tigers' bowl standing

Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel clapped his hands as he ran off the field after Saturday's 42-17 victory over Kansas in Columbia, Mo. (L.G. PATTERSON ~ Associated Press)

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The bowl picture turned considerably brighter at Missouri after a victory over rival Kansas that reduced the Jayhawks to wishful thinking.

Both schools were bowl-eligible entering Saturday's game. Missouri (8-4, 4-4 in the Big 12) exited with enhanced prospects after pulling away for a 42-17 victory, while Kansas (6-6, 3-5) may get left out.

Among the options for the Tigers' third bowl trip in four years are the Insight, Houston and Texas bowls. Representatives from the Insight and Texas attended Saturday's game, and Insight representative Tom Fridena gushed about the winners.

"No. 1, its an exciting team," Fridena said. "Also, eight wins is tremendous. Eight wins, in this conference, are you kidding me? That's fantastic. This is a good, good deal."

But Fridena isn't sure the Tigers will be available when the Insight Bowl's turn comes to pick a Big 12 team to oppose Minnesota on Dec. 29. The Cotton, Holiday, Gator, Alamo and Sun bowls are ahead in the pecking order, although the Sun Bowl will select a Big 12 team only if the Gator does not.

The Poinsietta and Motor City Bowls are possibilities for Kansas. The Poinsietta Bowl, Dec. 19 in San Diego, pits a Mountain West team against an at-large selection. The Motor City Bowl, Dec. 26 in Detroit, pits an MAC team against a Big 10 team, but the Big 10 does not have enough bowl-eligible teams.

Missouri's bowl picture was shakier after last week's 21-16 loss at Iowa State, its fourth loss in five games. But after a convincing win over the Jayhawks, in which quarterback Chase Daniel threw for a career high 356 yards and four touchdowns, the Tigers seem assured of an invitation to one of the Big 12's eight guaranteed bowls.

"You know what, it's nice to be able to project, speculate," Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said.

Kansas, though, left the field wondering if it had played its last game. Bowl officials are required to pick teams with a winning record over teams that are .500, which could leave Kansas, trying for consecutive bowl bids for the first time in school history, on the outside.

"I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful like our players are," coach Mark Mangino said. "I think our kids deserve it, and I hope we get that opportunity."

Alden said the announcement could come this week, but will most likely not take place until after the Big 12 Championship game is played Saturday.

Big win for Pinkel

Missouri took its share of criticism for signing coach Gary Pinkel to a five-year contract extension before the season ended, especially after the Tigers were humbled the next day in a loss to lowly Iowa State.

So there was a feeling of vindication Saturday when the Tigers beat Kansas.

Missouri won only two of its last six games after a 6-0 start.

"We got one for coach Pinkel," Daniel said.

Pinkel made it a point to thank the administration for the vote of confidence.

"They stood up and said, along with the curators, that we believe in our football program," Pinkel said. "I'm very, very appreciative of that."

No one would admit to it, but there had to be a collective sigh of relief from those who signed off on the deal.

Overcoming adversity

Missouri twice led Kansas by 13 in the first half, but the lead was shaved to three in the third quarter soon after offsetting personal fouls away from the play nullified a 75-yard touchdown pass from Daniel to Brad Ekwerekwu. Officials first announced that the score would count but changed their minds after the play was reviewed.

"When they talked about it, signaled touchdown and then changed it, obviously all of us were a little frustrated," Pinkel said. "At that time of the game, certainly you've got a chance to overcome it, so that's what we did."

Replay official John Laurie said he was involved only because it was a scoring play.

"I kept looking at the screen and it was obvious to me that Missouri had fouled prior to the touchdown," Laurie said.

Missouri's Jared Perry and Kansas' Jerome Kemp exchanged clips while Ekwerekwu was sprinting to the end zone. The Tigers ended up punting after a third-down incompletion, and Kansas needed only three plays to narrow the gap to 20-17 when Aqib Talib scored on a 42-yard swing pass from Kerry Meier.

-- The Associated Press

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