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Archive for Tuesday, October 16, 2001

KU, MU already looking ahead to Saturday

October 16, 2001

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Apparently that's not the case when it comes to Kansas University and Missouri's Border War.

"I understand this is the biggest game on our schedule," MU coach Gary Pinkel said during the Big 12 coaches' weekly teleconference Monday morning. "It was brought to my attention the day I took this job by many, many people the importance of this football game on both sides, and we're going to work real hard to play well."

Kickoff is 1 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers (2-3 overall, 1-2 Big 12) were thwarted by Iowa State, 20-14, on Saturday in Columbia, Mo., after coming up short four straight times inside the 10-yard line during the closing minutes. On the other hand, Kansas (2-3, 1-2) was manhandled by No. 2 Oklahoma, 38-10, during the Jayhawks' homecoming Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

Prior to last weekend, both teams had been coming off thrilling overtime victories on the road -- KU, 34-31, in double overtime at Texas Tech, and MU, 41-38, in three OTs at Oklahoma State.

"I think both teams have been through some tough football games, have had some big wins and some tough losses," KU coach Terry Allen said. "But you can throw all that out when Missouri and Kansas play. The players feel that, the coaches feel that and the fans feel that. Historically, in my fifth year being here now, we've never had to do a lot to ignite our players as far as getting them ready to play against Missouri. It's a big game for us."

The all-time series between the two schools stands at 50-50-9, but the Jayhawks have taken home the Marching Band Drum traveling trophy in six of the past eight meetings. Allen is 3-1 against the Tigers.

MU's struggles with its neighbor to the east are part of the reason why former coach Larry Smith was dismissed last year, something that's not lost on Pinkel.

"I think after I got the job and after the interviewing process I met alumni everywhere I went and they talked about the Kansas game," the first-year MU coach said. "I think it came up about 400 times every place I was at, so it didn't take me long to figure that out. Plus, I know a little bit about the history of the rivalry between the two schools. That's what makes college football great."

Perhaps equally as important as the rivalry is that both teams are trying to even their records at 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference.

"We've had a lot of success against Missouri and it's a game we get up for," KU senior right tackle Justin Hartwig said. "Offensively, we're really upset about how we played (against the Sooners). I know I'll be on the guys in practice this week to get ready for Missouri."

Not so wild 'Cats: With Saturday's 38-19 thumping by Texas Tech, Kansas State has dropped three straight games, opened 0-3 in the conference for the first time since 1992 and is unranked for the first time in 107 consecutive weeks.

Is KSU coach Bill Snyder surprised by the three-game slide?

"I can't say surprised is the word," Snyder said. "Would we have anticipated it? No, certainly not. We feel that it's capable of happening. I think it's always the case, at least it's my belief, if you're not well prepared, if you don't execute well, if you don't play hard, if you don't do all those types of things then, yes, anything is possible.

"Then losing three, five, seven, 10 -- whatever the number might be -- is certainly possible when you play in this conference with as many talented, very strong football teams as you have."

Stoops satisfied: OU football coach Bob Stoops was pleased with the Sooners' performance against the Jayhawks to win their 19th straight game.

"I'm really proud and feel good about our football team, the way we approached and went after that game," Stoops said. "Going away from home and their homecoming game, having them coming off a big win in overtime at Tech, we realized we need to be prepared and play well, and it felt like we did. I felt real good about the way our team played defensively."

Still hurting: Allen said during his weekly coach's radio show that Kinsey still was bothered by the turf toe he suffered against the Sooners and might not play against Missouri.

"One of the things that's unfortunate about Mario is he's got a real bad turf toe," Allen said during Hawk Talk. "He had to come out of the game for a while because of that and, to be very honest with you, we don't know if he'll be able to play on Saturday. That's still very much up in the air whether we'll have Mario on Saturday. We'll go with Zach Dyer if that's the case and we'll just press on."

Allen also commented on the strength of the Jayhawks' schedule. The three teams KU has lost to are a combined 17-1, and the foes remaining on the schedule following Mizzou have a combined 18-5 mark.

"If you came to every home KU football game, I'd venture to say that you'd see the team that's going to be competing for the national championship," Allen noted, "whether it be Oklahoma, whether it be Nebraska, whether it be UCLA " one of those three teams, I believe, will be in the championship game."

-- Sports writer Robert Sinclair can be reached at 832-7185.

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