Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino had been trying for weeks to convince quarterback Bill Whittemore to slide or run out of bounds rather than take hit after hit from opposing defenses.
Ironically, Whittemore was trying to slide Saturday at Columbia, Mo., when he was hit by Missouri lineman Russ Bell and linebacker Sean Doyle late in the third quarter. Whittemore suffered an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and came out of the game.
KU, already trailing 27-12, managed just 12 yards in the fourth quarter with backup quarterback Jonas Weatherbie running the offense and suffered a 36-12 defeat at Faurot Field.
"Last night I asked Bill, 'What happened there? Was it kind of a high-low?'" Mangino said Sunday. "He said, 'Believe it or not, coach, I was trying to break into a slide.' Oh, boy. I need to keep my mouth shut, huh? He was better off keeping his pads down. So much for my coaching."
Whittemore has developed a reputation for his toughness, often putting his pads down and running over defenders. He entered Saturday's game leading KU in carries (129), rushing yards (522) and rushing touchdowns (11) before running eight times for 27 yards. He had carried the ball more than 20 times in each of the Jayhawks' previous two games.
"What a tough kid," Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said. "I'd coach him in a minute. My hat's off to him. I hope he's OK. You talk about tough. He got hit a lot prior to his injury. I pray he's OK."
So do the Jayhawks (2-7, 0-5 Big 12), who play host to Kansas State (6-2, 2-2) on Saturday. If Whittemore can't play, Weatherbie would likely start with red-shirt freshman Brian Luke as backup.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he played this weekend just because he's tough and he's a guy that heals up from injuries," Mangino said. "He's done it all year, but I can't guarantee that."
Whittemore underwent an MRI on Sunday, but Mangino declined to reveal the severity of the injury.
"We're trying to keep an eye on him, seeing his range of motion, swelling and things of that nature," said Mangino, whose team has three games remaining on its schedule. "That will determine, probably in a few days, when and if he can return this season."
KU's athletic trainers told Mangino there was "a chance" the junior quarterback could be ready to play against the Wildcats.
"Percentage-wise, they didn't want to go out on a limb, and I don't blame them," he said.
Mangino, however, thought it was a 50-50 proposition.
"Maybe some other players or other people, it might be 20 percent go and 80 percent not," he said. "With Bill and his demeanor and his competitive spirit, it's probably 50-50. But if there's any chance of further damage, our medical staff won't allow him to go and neither will I."
KU made an effort Saturday to take the burden of the run game off Whittemore, who had been banged up in recent weeks. Red-shirt freshman Clark Green ran for 95 yards on 23 carries, his second-highest total of the season in both categories.
Green, who also caught three passes for 21 yards, moved ahead of Whittemore for the team lead in carries (138) and rushing yards (565).
"That's really encouraging," Mangino said. "I've been saying all along that we need to develop our run game with the tailback. Clark is a workhorse. He has the respect of his teammates because he goes hard every single snap. He's not afraid to put his nose in there and get the tough yards a lot of backs can't get. It was a really welcome sight, and we're pretty excited about Clark."