Jayhawks look for vengeance

Saturday, September 27, 2003

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Trudging away a loser while victorious fans whoop and holler and tear the goalposts down is bad enough.

What Missouri did was worse -- much worse according to Kansas.

To the disbelief of the defeated Jayhawks, victorious Missouri players actually jumped onto the crossbars and helped bring them to the ground at the of end of their 36-12 triumph last October in Columbia.

"I remember thinking, 'Why?'" Kansas safety Tony Stubbs said. "It was like they won the Big 12 championship."

The Jayhawks are not likely to forget the sight. But in case any had, their coaches taped a picture to everyone's locker stall this week of those Tiger players hopping onto the crossbars.

Kansas (3-1) may be a 10-point underdog to No. 23 Missouri (4-0). But the Jayhawks will not lack desire today in the first Missouri-Kansas match in many years that might actually have bowl implications.

"That's big-time motivation for us," Stubbs said.

The winner will take a giant step toward a possible six victories and what would be a very rewarding postseason bid for a team struggling to get back on its feet. Missouri, in its third year under Gary Pinkel, is led by sophomore quarterback Brad Smith, one of the best in the country.

Although Pinkel had no ties to Missouri until he was hired, he cannot help but notice all the rubber Jayhawks nailed to doors and tied to car bumpers all over Columbia.

"When I got here," said Pinkel. "the first 50 people I met said, 'How are you doing? Beat Kansas.'"

Kansas has appeared to make giant strides in its second year with Mark Mangino at the helm. Led by senior quarterback Bill Whittemore and an offensive line that's nearly completely rebuilt, the Jayhawks will be looking for their first four-game win streak since 1995.

While doing everything possible to make sure his players are fired up, Mangino has tried to strike a different pose with the public.

"For us, it's an important game because it's a Big 12 game," he said. "It's the next game, and it's important for us to make progress. We want to improve and we want to get better against Big 12 competition. That's our aim."

They first played this game in 1891 and quickly dubbed it "the Border War" because it harkened back to violent clashes during the Civil War between Missourians, who were sympathizers of the Confederacy, and free state Kansans sympathetic to the Union cause.

If Kansas players think Tiger players tearing down their own goalposts was the worst atrocity Missouri ever visited upon the Sunflower State, they need a quick refresher course in area history.

During the tumultuous Civil War period, Missouri raiders came riding into Lawrence one day looting and burning and almost destroying the place.

The two sides are so quarrelsome, they can't even agree on the all-time series record. Kansas lists a dead heat at 51-51-9.

Not true, says Missouri. The Tigers claim a victory in 1960 when Kansas had to forfeit its win after the NCAA declared the Jayhawks had used an ineligible player. According to Missouri, the Tigers lead 52-50-9.

Regardless of history, the game could be a shootout.

Kansas' offense ranks fourth in the nation, averaging a shade under 500 yards a game. Missouri ranks ninth in the Big 12 in total defense, one spot above the Jayhawks.

"This is the most excited I've seen this team since I've been here," Kansas linebacker Banks Floodman said. "People are running around. Players are even excited before practice."

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