Border War Preview

Turner Gill was well aware of the KU-Missouri rivalry before accepting the head coaching position at Kansas in December of 2009.

He said at his introductory press conference that one of his top priorities was to "beat Missouri."

And now that game is finally here.

Gill has had an extra bounce in his step and extra lift in his voice all week in preparation for today's Border Showdown at 11:30 a.m. (CT) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

"I'm excited," Gill said on Tuesday. "It got turned on pretty quick, right after the Oklahoma State game (OSU beat KU last Saturday in Lawrence, 48-14). My heart and everything is ready to get this one going. This is for our fans, this is for our alumni, this is for our players."

Gill said he had always viewed the rivalry from afar, but had gotten a great education from his daughter the past few years. Jordan Gill is a junior now at KU.

And what did Gill's eldest daughter tell him about this game.

"'Dad, you better win this one,'" Gill said with a smile.

After losing six of its last seven games, Gill and the Jayhawks (3-8, 1-6 Big 12) definitely hope to beat No. 15 MU (9-2, 5-2) in the season finale and end 2010 on a high note.

Missouri won its first seven games this year before losing consecutive road contests to Nebraska and Texas Tech. The Tigers bounced back with a home victory over K-State and a 14-0 win at Iowa State last Saturday. MU is guaranteed a second-place finish in the Big 12 North regardless of today's outcome after Nebraska beat Colorado Friday to clinch the North Division title.

The Tigers feature an impressive offensive and defensive attack. Offensively, they boast one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12 in junior Blaine Gabbert and one of the top tight ends in the county in junior Michael Egnew, who was voted one of three finalists for the 2010 John Mackey Award. Egnew leads the nation among tight ends with 77 catches for 663 yards, while Gabbert has completed 244 of 392 passes for 2,573 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Gabbert's other top receiver is sophomore T.J. Moe, who's caught 72 passes for 810 yards.

Defensively, Mizzou is holding opponents to just 15.91 points per game, the nation's No. 7 scoring defense. Senior linebacker Andrew Gachkar leads the team with 74 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, while sophomore defensive lineman Brad Madison paces MU with 7.5 sacks and also a team-best 11 tackles for loss.

"They're a very good football team," Gill said. "(MU head coach) Gary Pinkel is very well respected in the coaching profession. I tip my hat off to him for what he has done there for the last nine-10 years. It starts with his offense. His offense has always been very, very good. They have another good quarterback in Gabbert. He throws the ball extremely well and has a very strong arm. The other thing about him is that he will take off running and he can run. He can make some plays there with his legs.
 
"Defensively, I think that's where they really have made improvements," Gill added. "Their defense is fast, they run well, they get off blocks. They do create pressure on the quarterback. ... But I think their biggest stat is their scoring. I think they've given up 16 or 17 points or less in every game."
 
KU's struggling offense hopes to put some points on the board with redshirt freshman Jordan Webb getting the starting nod at quarterback. He played in his first game against Oklahoma State last week (6 of 9 completions for 36 yards) since injuring his shoulder against Texas A&M on Oct. 23.

KU is hungry to beat its bitter rival and end the season in style. The players are treating their season finale like a bowl game.

"It couldn't get better than playing Mizzou for your last gams," said redshirt freshman defensive end Kevin Young, "and what would be better than ending it with a win going into the offseason."

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