No. 20 Missouri seeks rebound in home finale
Just a few weeks ago, Missouri was unbeaten, No. 6 in the BCS
and atop the Big 12 North after what appeared to be a defining
victory over Oklahoma.
The Tigers’ national profile has all but vanished heading into
the home finale, the goal posts no longer in danger.
Instead, senior day on Saturday against Kansas State (6-3, 3-3
Big 12) won’t be such a big deal for fans who deliriously stormed
the field after the Sooners were toppled from atop the BCS. The
offense fizzled last week at Texas Tech, and the week before that
it was the defense that needed an earlier wakeup call at
It’s still been a pretty nice year, but now the Tigers appear to
playing for bowl position rather than a slot in the conference
championship game given they’re a game behind Nebraska and the
Cornhuskers hold the tiebreaker.
”It’s a big game,” quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. ”We have
to send these seniors out on a positive note. Everyone is being
responsible for their own actions and we all have to get our job
Gabbert is the easiest target for those looking to assess blame
for the two-game skid at Missouri (7-2, 3-2 Big 12). Last week, the
junior was held to a career-low 95 yards passing, misfiring enough
to allow Texas Tech to overcome a 17-3 deficit to win 24-17.
Dropped passes, one in the end zone late in the game, haven’t
helped. But Gabbert also has appeared skittish in the pocket and
has only 12 touchdown passes all year, plus he’s facing a K-State
defense that had five interceptions in a 39-14 victory over
”There are a lot variables out there and he’s not perfect,”
coach Gary Pinkel said. ”If we make some catches or have better
protection or he makes some throws, the whole passing game
”He had some struggles but he’s still a good player and he’s
got my support 100 percent.”
Missouri’s defense allows only 16 points per game, among the
best in the nation. But early defensive breakdowns cost Missouri
the previous week, allowing Nebraska to grab an easy, early 24-0
”I think it’s hard to get over the two losses because you
expect so much out of your team,” cornerback Kevin Rutland said.
”We have to bounce back and focus and practice hard and not worry
about the BCS or about championships or anything like that.”
Kansas State is bowl eligible for the first time since 2006 with
three games to go in the regular season, and ranked 24th in the
BCS. Dangerous, too. The week before whipping Texas, the Wildcats
kept it tight in a 10-point home loss to Oklahoma State.
The Wildcats have one of the top rushing offenses in the nation,
averaging 201 yards. Daniel Thomas’ 122-yard average is sixth-best
in the nation and he has 1,102 yards – the school’s best-ever
rushing total after nine games.
”It’s a great accomplishment because there have been a lot of
great running backs that have come through this program,” Thomas
said. ”I think it’s a good stat.”
Collin Klein provided a second rushing threat last week, getting
his first career start at quarterback and getting 127 yards and two
scores. Coach Bill Snyder had not announced whether Klein would
start again in place of Carson Coffman, who had been also hampered
”Well, I think part of it will be how well they perform during
the course of the week and their preparations,” Snyder said. ”I
think that Carson is pretty much back to full strength and that was
part of it last week. He was not at full strength.”
Missouri has won four straight against Kansas State, and spoiled
the Wildcats’ senior day last year, winning 38-12 in Manhattan,
Kan. Although the big dreams have faded, the Tigers were nearly two
touchdown favorites to finish an unbeaten home schedule.
The senior class has 37 wins, one shy of the school record set
last year, and Missouri is 5-0 at home.
”It’s always easier playing at home,” wide receiver T.J. Moe
said. ”You have 70,000 fans behind you and that’s always easier
than 70,000 fans against you.”