Tag Archives: Kansas

Missouri softball ends Kansas rivalry with three shutout victories

Story by Barbara Maningat
Photos by Kelsie Heneghan

With two wins on Sunday, the No. 12 Missouri softball team took a three-game series from Big 12 rival Kansas by a combined score of 24-0.

Kelsi Jones scores

Mackenzie Sykes (4) Lindsey Muller (22) and Nicole Hudson (8) congratulate designated player Kelsi Jones after she hit her second home run of the series.

The games took the all-time border war record to 63-40 in favor of Missouri. The Tigers have recorded seven straight shutout victories and are on a 14-game winning streak. They have only allowed three runs over the 14 game span.

Overall, the Tigers are satisfied with how they ended the era.

“We definitely wanted to come out and show them how good we are. Go out on a good note,” senior Ashley Fleming said. “I don’t know if they’ll end up playing them in the regular season next year or not, but conference-wise this is the last time, so I don’t think we could’ve done it any better than we did.

Kansas struggled to respond to the 24 Missouri runs on the series and could only deliver 10 hits.

Kelsi Jones and Fleming led the Tigers. Each player recorded game-ending home runs in run-rule victories. Jones finished the series with a team high six RBIs, two runs and two hits. Fleming went 4-for-11 with three runs and three RBIs.

Jones contributions were clear on paper, but her teammates also took notice.

“To come in and pinch hit on Friday and to hit a home run, that’s pretty big and then she came up big again for us today,” Chelsea Thomas said. “So that confidence building, building into the next couple weekends, is going to be huge.”

Doubleheader Game 1, 5-0 Missouri

In the first game of the doubleheader, Chelsea Thomas threw a shutout. The win improved her record to 10-0 on the season. Jenna Marston and Fleming each went 2-for-3 and scored one run each. Lindsey Muller added two RBIs on one hit.

The Tigers took an early three run lead in the first inning. Corrin Genovese drew a walk and advanced to second on a line drive from Fleming. Nicole Hudson then reached first on a fielding error by Jayhawk first baseman Marissa Ingle and advanced to second. Genovese scored an unearned run on the same play to put Missouri on the board. A wild pitch by Alecia Pille allowed Fleming to come home for another unearned Tiger run. The pitch put Hudson in scoring position. Muller closed the inning with a sacrifice ground out to shortstop Mariah Montgomery to score Hudson.

The game slowed down until the bottom of the fourth inning. Marston singled up the middle and advanced to second after Genovese was hit by a pitch. Muller recorded her second RBI scoring Marston with a single to left field.

In the fourth inning, Mackenzie Sykes singled to right field and advanced to third off an Ashtin Stephens double. Sykes added another Tiger run when Jenna Marston grounded out to second base.

Doubleheader Game 2, 9-0 Missouri

Kristin Nottelmann pitched a season high six shutout innings. Nottelman struck out seven batters and allowed only two hits. This win improved her record to 6-2. Fleming and Jones led the game with three RBIs apiece.

The Tigers churned out six runs in the bottom of the third inning, while the Jayhawks struggled from the mound. Kansas pitcher Morgan Druhan issued a walk to Genovese and pushed Marston to second. Fleming then smacked a line drive double deep into center field, scoring Marston for the first run of the game. Druhan then issued walks to Hudson and Muller that scored Genovese and loaded the bases. A sacrifice fly by Princess Krebs sent Fleming home for a 3-0 lead before Jones homered to right field. Krebs gave Mizzou a 6-0 advantage.

The score would remain at 6-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning. The Tigers looked for just two runs to end the game. Marston added one when she doubled then scored off a hit by Angela Randazzo.

Then, in similar fashion to the game-winning home run by Jones in game one of the series, Fleming homered to right field for two RBIs and closed the game 9-0.

“It felt good. It was good to end the weekend on a hit like that,” Fleming said.

Missouri now sits at a 20-3 and 3-0 in conference play. The Tigers take on Iowa in another doubleheader on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Missouri makes no apologies for patsy schedule

By The Associated Press

Missouri coach Frank Haith.

When Frank Haith was hired at Missouri last April, the upcoming non-conference schedule was pretty much a blank slate. The Tigers were set for the early-season CBE Classic and that was just about it.

Missouri played a lot of soft teams and wound up being the last of the No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament despite its 30-4 record and a Big 12 tournament championship.

A day later, Haith didn’t seem to mind.

“Let’s move on,” Haith said on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “We’re fine. We’re excited about where we’re at.”

Haith said it was actually a scramble putting together the schedule that didn’t endear Missouri to the selection committee. Along with some of the weakest opponents in the nation such as Binghamton and Kennesaw State, the Tigers ran into bad luck when traditionally strong opponents such as Villanova and Illinois had down seasons and William & Mary had injury woes.

Missouri’s non-conference schedule was ranked a lowly 308th out of 344 Division I schools. Binghamton ranked dead last, Kennesaw State was 331st and other weak links were Navy (327), Southeast Missouri State (248), Niagara (218) and Northwestern State (216).

School spokesman Chad Moller described the situation in April as being “behind the curve,” with new staff getting acclimated. And he added, “Scheduling to keep your RPI strong is such a guessing game.”

Right after the NCAA bid was announced, Haith complained about a lack of consistency in selection criteria from year to year.

“Whether it’s RPI, strength of schedule, your last 10, your road record or conference record or tournament record, no one really knows where the weight is,” Haith said. “It surely didn’t look like the conference tournament was a factor in this year’s committee decision-making.”

Two non-conference opponents, California and Notre Dame, are in the tournament. Haith also pointed out that Missouri was 11-3 against teams in the top 50 RPI.

“We felt like we worked hard and deserved a No. 1 seed,” guard Michael Dixon said. “But that’s something that wasn’t in our control, so we can’t really worry about that right now.”

Given time to reflect, Haith is happy to have just the school’s second No. 2 seed in history. Whether he’ll attack the schedule differently this spring minus a time crunch is a question for another day.

Misty-eyed and choked with emotion after the Big 12 tourney title, Haith appeared locked in during the teleconference. After getting the news that Missouri would play first-time NCAA tournament qualifier No. 15 Norfolk State in the opening round of the West Regional on Friday in Omaha, Neb., Haith said the rest of Sunday night was devoted to preparation.

Opening on Friday will give his iron-man roster, just seven deep, time to recover from playing three games in three days in the Big 12 tournament.

“It is tough, there’s no doubt about it,” Haith said. “We got nicked up there a little bit, but we’ve got some time off to get ourselves ready. Guys are young and I think we’ll recoup pretty fine.”

Norfolk State (25-9) won the MEAC conference tournament after finishing second in the regular season, making a huge jump after going just 12-20 last season. Kyle O’Quinn is the conference player of the year and was also the tournament MVP, averaging 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.

Norfolk State beat TCU and Drexel early and lost to Marquette twice in the span of a week, by 31 points and by two.

Looking ahead, Missouri would face the Florida-Virginia winner in the second round, and perhaps No. 3 seed Marquette after that to get to the West Regional final. Though the Tigers have never made it to a Final Four, they made it to the West final in 1994, 2002 and 2009.

They enter this year’s tournament with momentum.

“Tremendous amount of confidence, especially in ourselves,” Dixon said. “I think that fuel is going to give us good confidence and motivation going into the tournament.”

There’s disappointment that Kansas, not Missouri, has a shot to play in St. Louis. Kansas is the No. 2 seed in the Midwest. But not too much.

“I guess it would have been easy to travel to St. Louis and see us play in the Edward Jones Dome,” said guard Kim English, the Big 12 tournament MVP. “We’re into winning games. It doesn’t matter where it is.”

Great day of basketball spoiled by end of game and of rivalry

darren hellwege logo

Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator

While I had a wonderful time in Lawrence last weekend, a great city that I will miss with the Tigers move to the SEC, like most associated with Mizzou, I left with a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. For three reasons, this greatest of games was less satisfying that it might have been.

First off, the end was deeply frustrating. The Tigers making a bad decision, getting off a bad shot, heaving up a brick, tossing it over the backboard, passing to that goofy looking new mascot of KU’s, anything would have been better than what we got — an entire team which seemed to forget that the entire game, that effort they’d given for the last couple of hours which cannot be described as anything less than inspirational, was all for naught if they didn’t get a shot off in eight seconds.

And they didn’t. The buzzer sounded with the ball still stuck in the hands of Mizzou players. And this is a little troubling. There have been several games where decisions at the very end of the game were a problem, from going into what looked like an old Dean Smith “Four Corners” offense and nearly giving away a lead at Baylor to flinging up nine 3-pointers, many of them desperate, off-balance shots that were painful to watch, this team has to work on it’s poise late in games. For a team full of intelligent seniors and the best coaching job we’ve seen in a lot of years in Columbia, this is one area in which the Tigers better tighten up the screws before they start playing with the nation watching. Yes, this was the most ferocious atmosphere I’ve ever seen in more than 40 years of haunting gyms, but this team is capable of better, and it’s a pity this loss that didn’t have to be didn’t get a better final effort out of MU.

The second reason is one I really don’t want to dwell upon much, for any number of reasons, not the least of which being there’s so little that can be done about it. I’m not sure why the officiating cannot be improved in college athletics. And while it would be patently absurd to say officials lost the game for Mizzou, but it’s a damn shame that both the shot that could have won it for the Tigers at the end of regulation and the foul that did win it at the end of OT for Kansas were such truly lousy calls. One can hope the SEC does a better job of addressing these issues, because it’s been a black eye for the Big 12 for far too long.

And finally, the one true shame of the day — that it’s the last time we get to do this. While this was far beyond the typical MU-KU battle, there was something very special about Saturday, and it’s so disappointing that egos in Lawrence are getting in the way of something that’s just so good for college basketball. There’ve been some asinine comments made over the course of this discussion, but the one recently from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, quoting Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, takes the cake: Keeping the rivalry going would be like a man divorcing his wife, then asking if they can still date.

Now, the governor is doing some two-fisted pandering here (and the line was far funnier when the much less prudish Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said it months ago) but it also raises a big question.

So, Kansas will never play against one of these traitors which left the Big 12, will never again “date” a divorced former partner? Take a gander at the spring soccer schedule, which shows on March 10 a match between the Jayhawks and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

So is this a game between the JayTramps and CornHussies? Or are the clocks in Topeka set to Jayhawk Double Standard Time?

Kansas Gov. Brownback not interested in continued relationship with Mizzou

By The Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Sam Brownback says he has no interest in keeping the University of Kansas’ rivalry with the University of Missouri alive when the Tigers leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference next year.

Brownback told reporters Friday on the eve of the last scheduled men’s basketball game between the Jayhawks and Tigers that Missouri is to blame for the storied series ending after 100-plus years.

He said Missouri nearly “cratered” the Big 12 by first talking three years ago about leaving for the Big Ten. Brownback said had the Big 12 dissolved, Kansas and Kansas State would have been in a tough position.

He quoted Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, that keeping rivalry going would be like a man divorcing his wife, then asking if they can still date.

Hellwege finds a lot to appreciate about this year’s Mizzou football team

A few thoughts the morning after…

darren hellwege logo

Darren Hellwege, sports commentator

While gloating over Mizzou’s win let’s not forget about the fine job in the first half by the Kansas defense. James Franklin helped a lot with a few gifts, but they came in fired up and did a good job of shutting down the MU offense. The Tigers got it going a lot better in the second half to pull away, but as KU’s defense has been consistently the worst in the Big 12, they deserve some recognition for the effort shown in the first half.

~•~

That said, even more credit belongs to the Mizzou defense. It’s the nature of football fans to focus more on the offensive players who score the points, but the Jayhawks had all of one promising drive all day long. They couldn’t run, weren’t given time to pass, and when they did get time to pass the Tiger secondary let nobody get open. It’s been many a year since there’s been a defense this good at Mizzou. Game ball to Dave Steckel. Very few offenses all year got the better of this defense.

~•~

James Franklin runs for a touchdown against Texas Tech.

Anyone doubting the inner strength and toughness of James Franklin can now officially exit stage left. On the first scoring drive of the second half, Franklin completed a perfect pass to Jerrel Jackson for 22 yards, one of the key plays of the most important drive of the day for the Missourians. It wasn’t a snappy pass to an open receiver, it was a timing route, finding a receiver moving who was marked at the time, getting the ball to a window and the receiver meeting it. It requires pinpoint accuracy and perfect timing, but it also requires trust—trust in the receiver (and Jackson’s earned that) but more importantly trust in your arm. There are several QBs in the league (I won’t name names) who couldn’t make that throw. We watched Franklin mature before our very eyes this season and he’ll continue that progress in the years to come. Early this season it looked as if the future might well be in the hands of Corbin Berkstresser or high school phenom and MU commit Maty Mauk. Now, they have serious work to do if they want to take over. This is Franklin’s team.

~•~

I’m pleased that I got the chance to have one last post-game visit with Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno. While you cannot begin to overstate their importance to this team, and both will have a real chance at playing on Sundays, I’m going to miss them in the interview room, too. Both are laid back, honest, tell it like it is guys, and they’ve been a pleasure both to talk to and to watch play over the years. Every year’s graduating class includes a few guys I just hate to see go from my own selfish standpoint and these two anchors of the defensive line are sure among this year’s. I’ve spent more than 25 years working with college students, and while it’s a great pleasure, there’s always the knowing, they don’t last. Next year, a bunch of them will be gone, and a bunch of new guys will show up. But we’ll miss Dom and Terrell.

My conversation with them also showed me an interesting point about the Mizzou-Kansas rivalry. I asked them both a nearly identical question: I know the pregame hype is a big deal, but once the game starts is that just another guy you have to beat across from you, or do you feel differently about them because they’re from KU? It was fascinating to hear very different answers. Hamilton said once the game started, it was no different, just another guy to beat. Resonno’s answer was the polar opposite, saying he saw that blue and red across from him and wanted to destroy that enemy, talking of how he always hated the Jayhawks.

The difference? Hamilton played high school ball in the west Texas town of El Paso and now lives with his dad in New York state (military family, they moved around a lot.) The Resonnos are firmly planted in Jefferson City. While every Tiger wants to beat the Jayhawks, it’s a different deal for someone who’s been born into the rivalry and those who learned when they arrived on campus, “we hate those guys.”

Oddly enough, the guy Resonno called his closest friend plays for the Jayhawks. Fellow Jeff City Jay Richard Johnson, Jr., finished his KU career on Saturday. We’ve talked with Johnson before about how he fell in love with the Kansas campus when he visited and how glad he is he made the choice to go to Lawrence. Like Resonno and Hamilton, Johnson’s one of the good guys and we wish him a lot of luck in the future. He spotted me after the game and made a point of coming over and saying hi. I hope it’s not the last time I see Johnson. Even if he is, and always will be, a Jayhawk.

Johnson and Resonno aren’t the only ones who know when to hate the other side and when to let it go. I imagine some of you experienced different, but this is the fifth of these games I’ve covered in Kansas City and I’ve always seen nothing but good-natured ribbing in the tailgate areas, where KU and MU fans seem to party next to one another fairly peacefully. I’m sure there were a few knuckleheads, but for the most part folks got along well and I’ve always been proud of the Mizzou fans at Arrowhead.

~•~

There’ve been times in recent years where a lot of folks saw the MU secondary as a liability, but especially in the last couple of games they were one of the real unsung heroes of the team. Again on Saturday there were both big plays and just solid consistent excellence from the unit. Kansas put only one real sustained drive together on Saturday, but it was worrisome. A touchdown would have pulled the Hawkers into a seven-point deficit and given KU the one thing Mizzou couldn’t afford to give them—hope. Instead, Kenji Jackson cut their hearts out with an interception with the Tigers backs to the goal line. KU knew that moment that they were destined to not win this final matchup with their archrivals.

~•~

Credit also a terrific game from Tiger linebackers. From the blazing speed of Zavier Gooden to the great play of Andrew Wilson and Luke Lambert, some of the best pure tacklers on the team. This unit’s done things right this season and, like the rest of the club, has improved over the course of the year. Gooden will be a senior next year and should be a serious candidate for all-SEC. Couple his play with the potential return of Will Ebner, Wilson, and some youngsters like Darvin Ruise and Jared Parham and Mizzou has a strong linebacker group for 2012. (Ebner has another year of eligibility that could improve his draft stock, or he could make the run to the NFL now if he wants.)

~•~

One play struck me as symptomatic of the problems in Lawrence. Shortly after an MU touchdown, Kansas put a decent drive together, getting into Mizzou territory. They faced a key play, a fourth and one. Jayhawk coach Turner Gill called a time out, knowing that Mizzou had outplayed his team and they were tied only by some luck, knowing MU’s defense was stingy, knowing they had to take advantage of this opportunity or the game could start slipping away. They had to get everything exactly right. So, they called time out, figured the perfect play, lined up…and the KU tight end jumps offside. Those things happen, but in one of the key moments of the game, this late into the season? It’s not usually a sign of a well-coached team. Two years isn’t enough time to turn a program around, and Gill’s had turmoil in his staff beyond anyone’s control. There are some impressive recruits coming in, but not so many that you’d bet your house, your car, and grandpa’s watch on them winning much in the near future. The KU football program fell fast and hard after the Mark Mangino years, for any number of reasons. But with conference lineups so unpredictable these days, especially in the Big 12, a major university like Kansas just cannot afford to sit back and live with a terrible football program. I like coach Gill a lot, and there are some excellent assistants like Chuck Long on the sideline beside him. But, unfortunately, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him show up on the unemployment line soon. (Editor’s note: Gill was fired on Sunday.)

~•~

Now, speaking of coaching, consider these numbers: 81, 114, 67; and these: 20, 30, 25. These are stats on penalty yards for the Tigers in their first three games and their last three. Yes, a certain amount of maturing happens through the course of the season, but these numbers say loud and clear Missouri is a well-coached team. And while we already knew this, the incredible discipline they showed in the game with Texas Tech during Gary Pinkel’s suspension confirmed it once again. Saying Missouri is well coached isn’t just about Pinkel. Few schools have a better and more stable bunch of assistant coaches than Missouri does. And the few that leap to mind are much bigger programs, paying a lot more money (think Oklahoma.) The first job Pinkel had when he came to Mizzou was to hire a staff of assistant coaches. His having done that job so very well is a major reason so many other things have gone well for Pinkel here at Ol’ Mizzou. Looking at Dave Yost after the game at Arrowhead, I saw a lot of joy, but I also think I saw a bit of relief. This has been a tough year on this team, from Mike Alden on down to the water boy and the team has built up strength in dealing with adversity. From early losses that frankly should not have been losses, to major losses to injury (not just Henry Josey, remember Elvis Fisher? Will Ebner?) to Pinkel’s drunk driving bust, this team will be all the more emotionally prepared to deal with, and succeed against, what the SEC throws at them. They all need to remember one thing, though. This team looked like it would break its bowl streak of seven consecutive years and they dug deep to make it to bowl eligibility. MU’s put together some pretty puny bowl game performances in recent years. Let’s hope this isn’t one of them. This team’s goal shouldn’t be a bowl appearance—it should be a bowl win.

~•~

On Saturday Gary Pinkel pointed out that it’s unlikely the Big 12 will do MU any favors in bowl placement. There are several options, I have a feeling most likely is the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium. It lacks the prestige of bowls MU’s been to in the past, but it will be a thrill for the players to step into one of the greatest stadiums in America. As a Yankee rooter myself, it ain’t the House that Ruth Built, but it’s still Yankee Stadium, with the façade, the monuments, the incredible sports history. Some of the best athletic events ever happened there. Championship fights. Baseball history. And, it’s easy to forget but a great deal of football history as well. It should be a very special trip. This team’s earned it.

 ~•~

I’ll wax philosophic and get all weepy about the final Big 12 football game in the days to come. Count on it, I grew up with the Big 8 and Saturday was a sad one for me. Yeah, there were a lot of rivalries that have lasted more than 100 years. There was a lot of hate. There was a lot of anger and ugly moments. There was no small amount of bitterness over the years. But it was also a partnership, a collective not of football teams or basketball teams but of institutions of higher learning with the same purpose: the development of young people. As I left the stadium from my final Big 12 game, Richard Johnson, Jr. and Turner Gill both shook my hand, and those two good men and the other friends I’ve made in Norman and Ames and Boulder and Austin and Stillwater and Manhattan and Lincoln and…and, yeah, in Lawrence…will be what I miss the most.

Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell. Much luck and much love to those eight remaining schools and the people there.

We’re headed south, y’all.

Mizzou gets down to business in second half, beats Kansas in border war

Story by Mike Anderson
Photos by Sherman Fabes

Dominique Hamilton (90) and Beau Brinkley share the Border Showdown drum with fans after beating Kansas in the yearly rivalry game.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Tigers successfully battled back from an early 10-point deficit against Kansas to win the 120th — and possibly final — Border Showdown on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.

Mizzou quarterback James Franklin looks disgusted with himself after throwing three interceptions in the first half.

Self-inflicted wounds initially put Missouri in an unexpected hole against the 26-point underdogs from Lawrence. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin threw three first-half interceptions in a span of only four pass attempts. The first came on a Tiger first down play from the Kansas 40-yard line when Jayhawk sophomore cornerback Tyler Patmon intercepted a deep Franklin pass at his own 15-yard line. Patmon nearly turned the play into immediate points but Tiger senior right guard Austin Wuebbels made a diving right-handed tackle. Prior to that, Franklin had completed 124 consecutive passes, a streak that started after an interception versus Oklahoma State on Oct. 22.

This was coach Gary Pinkel's first game back since his suspension following his arrest for DWI.

The Tiger defense stiffened, forcing a Kansas punt, but it would take only three plays for Franklin to throw a third-down interception in the arms of junior cornerback Greg Brown. The Missouri defense held KU to a field goal and only a 3-0 advantage.

The Tigers would then start their next drive at their own 35-yard line and after three rushes and an incomplete pass, Jayhawks’ junior safety Brad McDougald took a third MU interception 57-yards for a 10-0 Kansas lead. The score marked Kansas’s first interception return for a touchdown since Sept. 19, 2009 against Duke and first three-interception game since Nov. 1, 2008 versus Kansas State.

The Tiger offense then stuck to the ground game on its next drive, marching 59-yards in 5:15 for a field goal that cut the Kansas lead to a touchdown. The drive, Missouri’s sixth of the game and first to end in points, included only four yards through the air. Junior placekicker Trey Barrows’ 23-yard field goal represented the final points of the first half, but only because Tiger left tackle Justin Britt recovered a Franklin fumble at the MU 32-yard line with under a minute remaining.

The Tiger defense, after only allowing 60-yards of total offense and two Kansas first downs in the first half, forced a three-and-out by the Jayhawks to open the second half. Punting from its own 32-yard line, Kansas’ long snapper Justin Carnes lifted a snap high and off the hands of sophomore Ron Doherty and Missouri recovered the ball at the Kansas 14-yard line.

Missouri would again produce from a powerful rushing attack, as junior running back Kendial Lawrence carried for 14 yards on the next three plays, culminating in the game’s tying touchdown just over three minutes into the half.

Kansas started from their own 25-yard line on their next possession and turned to a new quarterback to change their offensive efficiency. Sophomore Christian Matthews took over for the majority of the snaps in the second half, as fellow sophomore and Union, Mo., native Jordan Webb completed four passes for 23-yards in the first half, including an interception by MU’s Xaviar Gooden. The Jayhawk drive quickly went 31-yards into MU territory where second-year Kansas head coach Turner Gill was forced with a difficult decision: whether or not to go on fourth-and-1 at the Tiger 44-yard line with the game tied. Gill ultimately decided it was worth the risk, but a crucial false start by Jayhawk tight end AJ Steward backed the Jayhawks up five yards and forced another KU punt.

With 8:44 left in the third quarter Franklin made up for his early mistakes by leading the Tigers 93-yards down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. Franklin’s 25-yard pass to Wes Kemp completed a nine-play drive that took just over three minutes and saw the Tigers rush for 33 yards, pass for 60 and gain positive yardage on all but one play.

Tiger defense held the Jayhawks’ on their possession, including an 8-yard sack by junior safety Kenronte Walker, the first of his career. After a booming 62-yard punt by Doherty that was largely aided by a constant howling wind, the Tigers took over at their own 18-yard line.

Franklin ran a drive that would only take five plays in 2:08 for another touchdown and a 24-10 lead. Three De’Vion Moore rushes went for 14-yards, a crucial third down completion to Jerrel Jackson went for 15-yards and the knockout blow came when Franklin hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Marcus Lucas for a 53-yard touchdown on second-and-one.

Missouri recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Kansas 12, but only gained a net total four yards on three plays and Barrow missed the 27-yard field goal attempt. The positive of the drive was Britt’s first career pass reception, a lateral that the 6 foot 5 inch, 295-pound Lebanon, Mo., native carried for seven yards.

Down 14 points with 13:13 remaining, the Jayhawks used 18 plays and 8:52 to drive 43-yards to the MU 37. Faced with fourth-and-27, Kansas’s Webb threw his second interception of the game, this one a 37-yard touchdown attempt that senior safety Kenji Jackson picked off on the one-yard line.

Darren’s Take: Week 11 predictions

darren hellwege logo

Darren Hellwege, sports commentator

After this week, it’s a little hard to be completely focused on the games. Regardless of what you feel about the decision to fire coach Joe Paterno at Penn State, college athletics is worse off without him. His dedication to his players extended far beyond winning football games. He ran his program the right way, without recruiting shenanigans, without cheating on biology tests. There are still good men and women in the coaching profession, but Paterno was one of the best and it was terribly sad to see his more than 50 years at Penn State end this way. I’ll not use words like “tragedy” or “victim,” at least not in reference to JoePa or his players. There are young men whose lives were destroyed by a sexual predator, and that’s the tragedy, they’re the victims. But the well-being of the Penn State athletes seems to me to have taken a backseat to public relations and what looks good. I’m always going to be disappointed when that happens.

So, on to the games.

Texas at Missouri
When I said there are still good women and men in the coaching profession, I had Mack Brown in mind. I love doing what I do because I can meet people like this, and tell you about them. But there’s also a game to tell you about, and for Tiger fans it’s of major importance. Missouri needs this game, badly. And I like their chances.

My pick: MU has been very strong at home this season, their only loss coming to the team I’d rank No. 1 in the nation, Oklahoma State. It will be a whale of a match-up, the Tigers’ impressive running game against the Longhorns’ impressive rush defense. It may come down to two things: James Franklin’s ability to throw downfield and find open receivers, and Mizzou overcoming this baffling, weird trouble of the third quarter in games this season. It’ll be an exciting, close game and one that would show us a lot of character on the part of Franklin and the Tigers. I think we’ll see just that, and see a Missouri win.

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Of all the topics I come back to over and over again in talking with coaches, one is near the top of the list—what is it that causes a team to win the close one. While some would see the Cowboys near-loss to Kansas State in Stillwater as a sign that they’re vulnerable (of course they are, everyone is) I see something else. The last minute of the game serves as a reminder that Oklahoma State has the top red-zone defense in the Big 12. Contrary to the stories you hear of how awful OSU’s defense is, in fact, they have some real guts, especially when it counts. Texas Tech’s a good team and Seth Doege’s probably the most underrated quarterback in the league, one of the most underrated in the nation. Tech’s defense, a real liability in past seasons, is improved. But, in one of those odd things numbers can do, Tech isn’t especially strong at home. It’s just 2-3 at Lubbock and their signature win of the year over Oklahoma was on the road.

My pick: Oklahoma State knows it’s playing for a shot at a national championship. Not only would it be the first ever for the Cowboys, this is already among the two or three best seasons in school history. With the maturity of their quarterback Brandon “AARP” Weeden, they’re not about to let a game like this sneak up on them. The Pokes will be ready and will win this one big. I already can’t wait for Dec. 3, the day when the eyes of the nation will be on Stillwater for the biggest Bedlam game ever. The winner deserves a shot at the national championship, whether it’s the team in red or orange.

Baylor at Kansas
Upsets happen. We’ve seen a few doozies in the Big 12 this season. Texas Tech beats Oklahoma then loses to Iowa State. Sometimes, a game just has this vibe about it that tells you, “watch out, this could be deeper than you think.” But I just don’t see any way KU comes away with a victory here. For one thing, Kansas’ defense is just awful and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III is a one-man wrecking crew. Baylor leads the league in total offense and that’s almost entirely about RG3 (although they have a very good offensive line, too.) KU’s Steven Johnson leads the conference in tackles and there’s something to be said about that. But really, there’s almost nothing else going on at KU.

My pick: Senior Day, the final home game in Lawrence this season. You almost feel sorry for the Jayhawks. But this is just one more loss in a season that I expect to be nothing but losses for Kansas. Baylor runs away with it.

Texas A&M at Kansas State
How things change over the course of a season. At the beginning I picked A&M third in the conference and KSU ninth. Oops. A&M’s still a good team, standing at 5-4 with Missouri being the only team that’s beaten them that’s not still in the mix for the national championship. But as the Aggies may be less than we’d expected, KSU is far more. I’ve said repeatedly that this is mostly about Bill Snyder, the best coach the Big 12’s ever seen. But you know what? I also want to give some praise to the players, particularly quarterback Collin Klein. He’s No. 9 in pass efficiency in a 10-team league and has no receivers among the league’s best, yet he’s second only to Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle in scoring. Nigel Malone leads the league in interceptions. A bunch of guys I thought were nobodies at the start of the season have come together to be somebodies, very good somebodies. Kansas State’s not got the third best talent in the league. Not even close. But they have found a way to win over teams with better players. They’re smart and they’re gutsy.

My pick: Over and over this year, Kansas State’s beaten teams they shouldn’t. The roll continues. The Aggies have better football players, but K-State’s a better football team. The Wildcats win it.

~•~

Extra Credit–Yeah, it’s time to start getting ready for these guys…

• Alabama wipes out Mississippi State in Starkville.

• Arkansas keeps their championship hopes alive, beating Tennessee at home.

• Game of the week’s in Athens, where two strong teams meet. Georgia’s been on a hot streak of late and I like the Dawgs to beat Auburn.

• I really like South Carolina, especially in front of their awesome fans in that other Columbia, take the Gamecocks over Florida.

• Western Kentucky’s going to be slaughtered by LSU in Baton Rouge.

• Louisiana Tech’s 5-4 but has won four in a row and lost three of those games by razor thin margins to Southern Miss, Mississippi State and a very under-appreciated Houston club. I like the Bulldogs to upset Ole Miss in Oxford.

 

How’s that for a first week in the SEC, y’all?

 

BIG 12 FOOTBALL PREVIEW, #10: Kansas

Quarterback questions and a tougher schedule may doom Jayhawks to basement

by Darren Hellwege, KBIA Sports Director
Note: This is the first of the previews of the Big 12 teams.

Update, Aug. 11, 2011: Kansas fans received bad news this week with news that defensive end D. J. Marshall has left the team. Marshall, who successfully fought off cancer last year, will remain in school, majoring in Africa and African-American Studies.

Tee it up. Football’s back.

First, we celebrate the successful avoidance of a loss of an NFL season, which I’m sure had us all deeply worried.

Turner Gill

What were we going to do on Sundays? Clean the house? Spend time with our family? Are you kidding? I’ve already applied for credentials to cover the Rams and KBIA Sports Extra will put more effort than ever in the year to come into bringing you news of Mizzou alums in the NFL. There are more than ever to follow, from the new guys like Aldon Smith and Blaine Gabbert to the old pros like the new Buffalo Bill Brad Smith. (It will be a struggle for a lifelong Rams fan to talk so much about the 49ers, but I like Aldon a lot so I’ll get by.) I’m excited about the Rams, the Chiefs (with the signing of Kelly Gregg, a strong defensive lineman out of my beloved hometown of Edmond, Okla.,) and this might even be the year my Texans finally break into the postseason.

But mostly this fall we’ll talk college ball and plenty of it. Starting today I’ll be bringing you previews of the Big 12 conference teams, while Nick Gerhardt will be previewing the Mizzou Tigers position by position. We will bring you a team each day in the order of my predicted finish in the Big 12 standings, last to first. And like most observers I predict the bottom of the standings to be occupied by the Kansas Jayhawks.

With his winning ways at University of Buffalo, there was reason for KU fans to be optimistic when Turner Gill was hired to replace Mark Mangino in Lawrence. And while Mangino didn’t leave a great amount of talent when he split the banks of the Kaw, it was still a rude shock to Kansas supporters when last year’s team limped to a sad 3-9 record. When the season started with an incredible 6-3 loss to North Dakota State it was obvious this wasn’t going to be an Orange Bowl team. The 2010 Jayhawks were hard to figure, that a team could lose to NDSU, then beat 15th ranked Georgia Tech may indicate there were struggles adjusting to the new staff. They averaged 10 points a game in losses to Baylor, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Iowa State, then scored 52 in its victory over Colorado.

The quarterback position will be filled, at least at first, by sophomore Jordan Webb. Sometimes it’s encouraging to have a returning starter back, but in this case KU fans may not be thrilled at seeing Webb, who only had two wins in the starting role last year (Georgia Tech and New Mexico State.) But with Kale Pick moving to the wide receiver role and the rest of the quarterbacks consisting of Quinn Mecham (who wasn’t exactly Johnny Unitas in limited time last year filling in for the injured Webb) and a bunch of freshmen…well, Webb it is, at least to start the season.
However, Gill has indicated that he’s open to some competition and there is some talent there. Particularly worth watching is a run/pass dual threat true freshman named Brock Berglund. The kid from Colorado was very highly touted coming in and while he’s had some off-field problems (he’s facing misdemeanor assault charges from a fight at a party) Berglund may well be at the helm for the Jayhawks by the time the Tigers see them in Arrowhead on November 26. Not only is Berglund dangerous, but the Jayhawks have commitments from two other top dual-threat quarterbacks for next season, so we may see that become a part of the Jayhawks offense.

As for the rest of the offense, most of the running-back-by-committee guys from last year are back, including top rusher James Sims. Sims doesn’t have the breakaway speed to go flying for 80 yard TDs, but he’s a tough, smart runner who moves the chains for you. And with a strong and experienced offensive line, led by a slimmed-down Jeremiah Hatch (the center lost nearly 40 pounds in the offseason) KU could be one of the better running teams in the conference.

Between the lack of an established quarterback and returning only one starter at wideout (last year’s top receiver, Daymond Patterson) things may be a bit more iffy for the passing game. The Big 12 has become known for fast and furious passing teams, but KU may look like an old style “two yards and a cloud of dust” type team. I enjoy watching this kind of manly-man’s football, but it’s hard to imagine it being tremendously successful against some of the outstanding defensive fronts KU will face in conference play.

As for the Jayhawks defense, the line may be somewhat improved, but that’s not saying much. Most observers viewed KU’s as the weakest line in the Big 12, and they lost their top man in Jake Laptad. They didn’t put on much of a rush nor were they great at stopping the run. I do admit a little part of me is hoping to see fourth-year starter Richard Johnson, a former Jefferson City Jay, finish his career on a high note.

The linebackers could be a stronger bunch, with former freshman All-American Huldon Tharp back after missing the 2010 season to injury. Also worth watching here is Steven Johnson, who seemed to be everywhere against Mizzou last year, ringing up 13 tackles. There are also some fast young newcomers, so this area has a bright future.

The secondary has improved, with five players who have some starting experience on the roster. Improved, but not outstanding. This is another area where the Jayhawks may be building more for 2012 than 2011.

The defense will have to adjust a bit to new coordinator Vic Shealy, pressed into service after the retirement of Carl Torbush due to his cancer diagnosis.

Yes, look for the Jayhawks at the bottom of the Big 12 in 2011. But better days may be coming with the young talent on this team and Gill is putting together what looks to be a fine recruiting class. If KU fans are patient, I predict that better days aren’t too far off in Lawrence. But this year, with the question marks at QB and the defensive line being less than stellar, plus a tougher schedule than last year, KU may have to be happy with one more win.

Our prediction for the Jayhawks? Another three-win season, with victories over McNeese State and Northern Illinois in the non-conference schedule and a (minor) upset of Kansas State in the Sunflower Showdown.

Mizzou basketball notes: What is it with the road, anyway?

Marcus Denmon scored 15 against Oklahoma State, but it wasn't enough for Mizzou to win its first road game in Big 12 play against Oklahoma State Wednesday. (Photo by Ross Taylor)

It was easy to chalk up Mizzou’s road loss to Colorado as an Alec Burks-led aberration. It was easy to feel good after Mizzou’s overtime road loss to Texas A&M, given the Tigers took a top 15 team to overtime away from Columbia. It was easy to gloss over Mizzou’s road loss to Texas, because Texas was (and still is) playing like a team that should be favored to make the Final Four.

And then there’s Wednesday’s road loss to Oklahoma State. Maybe we can chalk up the loss to Mother Nature, as Mizzou didn’t get into Stillwater, Okla., until about six hours prior to tipoff.

Or maybe there is something to the thought that Mizzou isn’t as good a team in hostile road environments.

Contrary to popular myth, the Tigers have won away from the state of Missouri this year. Mizzou beat Wyoming and La Salle back before Thanksgiving in Mexico, and a week later, Mizzou squeaked out a two-point win at Oregon. That win against the Ducks came two days after Mizzou’s emotionally and physically-draining overtime loss to Georgetown, too.

But we’re talking about ancient history with those three wins out of the state. Fact is, Mizzou was favored to win its road games against Colorado and Oklahoma State—both teams ranked well below Mizzou in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. And Mizzou missed a few opportunities to knock off Texas A&M in College Station. In a perfect world, Mizzou would be 3-1 on the road in conference play.

But that’s not how things work. Mizzou’s not the only team to run into some maladies on the road this season.

Take Vanderbilt, which lost an overtime heartbreaker to Mizzou Dec. 8 in Columbia. The Commodores—who are ranked No. 30 by Pomeroy, probably about the range to which Mizzou will fall in Pomeroy’s updated rankings—have two road wins this season. Those came against Middle Tennessee State (No. 201) and Mississippi State (No. 158).

Conversely, Vandy has lost four road games—against Mizzou (No. 22), Florida (No. 36), Tennessee (No. 46), and South Carolina (No. 105). Mizzou’s four road losses this season have come to the Nos. 2, 41, 53 and 86 teams in Pomeroy’s rankings (with Oklahoma State being the worst loss at No. 86).

Look around the Big East. While that conference has unparalleled strength, every week seemingly brings an upset with a top team losing on the road. Georgetown and Notre Dame lost to St. John’s (which also beat Duke at home). Villanova and Louisville lost to Providence. And there are sure to be more of these losses as the season goes on.

Just remember that Mizzou’s road woes are not unique to the Tigers. While the 0-4 road record in the Big 12 doesn’t look good, predicting Mizzou will go 0-8 away from Columbia in Big 12 play is unreasonable. Mizzou has had a chance—whether it’s been good or just a foot in the door—in three of its four losses on the road in the conference. Eventually, a few bounces (or whistles) will go Mizzou’s way on the road and the Tigers will pick up a win or two.

Maybe that road win will come against an undermanned Iowa State team or a floundering Kansas State squad. Don’t count on that first win coming Monday in Lawrence against Kansas, though. But hey, that would be a pretty neat way for Mizzou to win its first road game in the Big 12, right?

Brown leads Mizzou women past Kansas

By Darren Hellwege, KBIA Sports Director

“The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is essentially a part of it.” — Charles de Lint

The Mizzou Tigers are back on the road to success.

For much of Wednesday night’s game between the women’s basketball teams of the Universities of Missouri and Kansas, the clubs were on the same road at about the same pace. But in two powerful bursts, Mizzou simply ran over the Jayhawks, putting together a first half 12-0 run and then blistering the Jayhawks in a late 15-0 run that turned a white-knuckle border showdown affair into a comfortable win as the Tigers beat KU 66-52 before 1,632 fans at Mizzou Arena.

RaeShara Brown led the way for the Tigers with 22 points while BreAnna Brock added 12 to go with eight rebounds. With the win, Mizzou improves to 2-4 on the season in Big 12 play and is back to .500 overall, at 10-10 on the year. KU is 1-5 in conference, 14-6 overall.

Brown’s leadership was evident in her comments about the game, the Tigers first win after four straight losses.

“Before this game, we had 11 games left, and the way you approach the next game can determine whether you go down the same road, or change it,” said Brown. “We had some tough losses coming in, but we push them to the back burner and we learn from them. We came in, we got the W tonight. We’re going down a different road now.”

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