Border War Cease Fire?

This isn't just another Kansas-Missouri football game Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium at 2:30 p.m. (CT) on Fox Sports Net.

With MU bolting to the SEC next season, this could be the last time KU (2-9, 0-8 Big 12) and the Tigers (6-5, 4-4) battle on the gridiron in what's been the nation's second-most played rivalry at 119 games.

And they'll also be fighting to get the upper hand with the all-time series tied at 55-55-9.

Make no mistake, every player, every coach and every fan will remember the last Border War between the two schools as part of the Big 12 Conference.

"As a legacy, people are always going to talk about the last game played, so I think that is what brings about a little more significance to this game," KU coach Turner Gill said. "It is the last opportunity to play in this type of situation, so it is very, very meaningful and is definitely going to leave a good legacy with whoever wins this football game."

The Jayhawks, of course, would like to end the season and the KU-MU rivalry with a banner victory after dropping the last eight straight. Missouri, meanwhile, would also love to knock off its bitter rival and win its third straight game and four of its last five after becoming bowl eligible with a 31-27 victory over Texas Tech last Saturday.

MU features the top rushing offense in the Big 12 and No. 11 nationally. However, the Tigers' top runner, sophomore tailback Henry Josey (1,168 yards), suffered an injury two weeks ago against Texas and is out for the season. Missouri still has plenty of weapons, though, with quarterback James Franklin ranking No. 14 nationally in total offense with 794 yards rushing and 2,553 yards passing.

His two favorite targets are wide receiver T.J. Moe (51 catches for 629 yards) and tight end Michael Egnew (46 receptions for 467 yards).

Defensively, head coach Gary Pinkel's Tigers boast a solid defense, which ranks No. 3 in the Big 12 with allowing just 24.7 yards per game. MU has held three of its foes without a touchdown this season, and limited then-No. 21 Texas to just 76 yards rushing in its 17-5 victory on Nov. 12.

Gill knows Missouri will offer a stern challenge with Franklin engineering the offense.

"I think the difference from last year to this year is that (Franklin) is a little bit more of a runner," Gill said. "He is definitely going to take off more than (former MU QB) Blaine Gabbert did last year. Franklin has been very efficient as far as throwing the football, so Missouri has shown they have a little bit more balanced attack. They rush the ball really well and they also throw the ball very well."

Gill also believes KU must be prepared for MU's defense, which he said "does a lot in terms of their fronts and their secondary."

"They have a lot of movement and in their secondary, their pre-snap read, they will give you one look, and then post-snap read they will give you another look, so we have to make sure we are all on track as far as what they are trying to get accomplished," Gill said.

KU certainly didn't get much accomplished in its 61-7 loss to Texas A&M last Saturday in College Station, the Jayhawks' worst setback of the season. While the defeat just amplified speculation that this could be Gill's last game at Kansas on Saturday, the coach remains steadfast in his mission of moving the program in a positive direction.
"I expect to be here for a long time," Gill said Tuesday at his press conference.

Gill is just focused now about the challenge at Arrowhead Stadium.

"Kansas-Missouri, I don't think there is anything else that needs to be said," Gill said. "This has been a great rivalry since its inception in 1891 and I think we have a great opportunity to get a big win for this program and continue to move it forward. Our players and our entire staff are extremely excited about the opportunity to go out and perform at a high level and try to finish this year on a good note with a victory in this prestigious rivalry game."

For KU's 15 seniors, this will be the last time they suit up as a Jayhawk. And senior Steven Johnson, for one, wants to go out in style. He said he'd love to win the game for former KU coach Don Fambrough, who died the morning of KU's season opener on Sept. 3. Fambrough was well-known for his hatred of MU and firing the players up before the Border War game with an impassioned speech.

"I've heard that speech maybe three times," Johnson said. "I've got it in my head. It's a pretty famous speech about just more inch. If you're a running back, you're running with the ball and someone's tackling you, you just keep on going, just one more inch. If you are tackling or blocking, you just keep on going, just one more inch. That's a speech that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Even when things get hard, just keep going. When you can't go anymore, just push one more inch. This game of football is all about inches, it's all about the little things. If you do those right, you can be successful."

Johnson and the Jayhawks hope that's the case on Saturday. And so would the late Fambrough.

"There's a lot of inspiration," Johnson said of winning for Fambrough. "He's a guy that put his heart and everything on the line for this whole university and program. A guy that's been fired once or twice and still came back and did his all, so this is going to be a big uplift for coach Fam if we get this win. I know I'm going to go out there and try to leave it on the line, and I'm pretty sure my teammates are going to try the same. We're going to do everything in our power to get this win."

A win to give KU the edge in the all-time series. A win to remember in what could be the last game ever played between the two schools. And a win for lasting bragging rights in Lawrence and Jayhawk Nation.

It's all "on the line" Saturday at Arrowhead.

"This is kind of like that last battle, the whole war," Johnson said. "It's been a long journey, and this is the game that's going to decide it all for a while and we want to come out with a victory."

Phog.net Top Stories