Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Border War

The oldest football rivalry west of the Mississippi is renewed on Saturday afternoon when Kansas and Missouri square off in Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO. And, the bitterness of the rivalry is reflected in the official records kept by both schools--Kansas believes the all-time series stands at 55-53-9 while Missouri reports it as 54-54-9. The game in dispute is the one in 1960 when KU beat MU but used Bert Coan, an ineligible player, in the contest.

I estimate that I've listened to, watched or attended 50 of the 117 football games which these two teams have played. Here, then, are my most memorable memories from this rivalry.

1961: Missouri - 10, Kansas - 7, in Lawrence. Kansas was driving for the score which would cement this victory away when Ken Coleman fumbled the ball at the goal line and it was returned by a Missouri defender for a touchdown.

1962: Kansas - 3, Missouri - 3, in Columbia. I attended this game with my parents and can only remember the bitter cold, as we sat at the top of the stadium, in this tie.

1968: Kansas - 21, Missouri - 19, in Columbia. In the Dave Morgan game, Kansas eked out a win over MU to get the chance to attend its first Orange Bowl since 1947. Morgan, a KU defensive back, intercepted two passes (one for a touchdown) and recovered a fumble.

1969: Missouri - 69, Kansas - 21, in Lawrence. A year after the thrilling victory in Columbia, I sat threw a complete humiliation as Kansas fnished off a 1-9 season with no wins in the Big Eight conference.

1973: Kansas - 14, Missouri - 13, in Lawrence. David Jaynes hit Emmett Edwards, on fourth and two, for a touchdown to guide Kansas to victory. This team, who would lose in the Liberty Bowl to North Carolina State, had close games all season--a one touchdown win versus Kansas State, a two point win at Iowa State, a one point loss at Tennessee, a two point win over Colorado and a tie against Oklahoma State.

1975: Kansas - 42, Missouri - 24, in Lawrence. Kansas ran the wishbone, with Nolan Cromwell at quarterback, but instituted a new wrinkle in this game by sending running back Billy Campfield in motion on most every play. The game was tight but broken open in the second half as running back Laverne Smith had a big day.

1989: Kansas - 46, Missouri - 44, in Columbia. Neither team was all that good in '89 but I remember listening to this game on the radio and thinking "it will all come down to who has the ball last." Little did I know that this sentiment would play itself out in future contests between the two team when both instituted their spread offenses.

1991: Kansas - 53, Missouri - 29, in Lawrence. Tony Sands set an NCAA rushing record on this day with 396 yards...and the Missouri radio announcers had the audacity of suggesting that Kansas coach Glen Mason was running up the score.

2007: Missouri - 36, Kansas - 28, in Kansas City. "Armageddon at Arrowhead." Kansas was #2, Missouri was #3; ESPN Game Day was broadcasting from the parking lot; national television; bitter cold. In an incredibly entertaining game, Kansas' comeback falls short and Missouri's win catapults them--briefly--to #1 in the polls. Both teams would end up with big bowl wins--Kansas over Virginia Tech in the BCS Orange Bowl and Missouri over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

2008: Kansas - 40, Missouri - 37, in Kansas City. A year later, the stakes weren't quite as high but the game was even better. KU's Darrell Stuckey had his best game ever but the game will always be remembered for perhaps the greatest play in Kansas football history--Todd Reesing finds Kerry Meier behind the MU secondary for a touchdown on fourth and seven with 30 seconds remaining. The snowy setting and packed stadium made this a classic football moment.

So, what should we expect this year? Unfortunately, Mangino-gate has taken too much of the focus away from what's at stake on Saturday. Missouri is playing for a decent bowl game after its two straight victories; Kansas is playing for bowl eligibility and undisputed leadership in the all-time series record between these two schools.

In the 118th "Border War," I'm predicting that Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander will be too much for Kansas' defense, that Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier will have big days, and that MU will ultimately prevail by a score of 37-31.

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