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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Jayhawks end season on good note

Kansas tops Missouri, 31-14, in finale

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— It wasn't the season Kansas University's football team wanted, but at least it ended with a win over a bitter rival.

The Jayhawks, just a few breaks away from entering Saturday's game against Missouri with an 8-2 record and a chance at the Big 12 North title, defeated the Tigers, 31-14, in a Border War battle at Farout Field.

"... (T)his ball club, in this locker room, will stick with me for a long time," KU head coach Mark Mangino said. "It may be the most courageous team I've been associated with.

"We don't qualify for postseason play, but things couldn't have ended better for us. Our kids just keep fighting and competing. This game should be a good vault into next year."

With the win, KU picked up its first road victory since defeating Wyoming, 42-35, on Sept. 13, 2003, and its first Big 12 Conference road win under Mangino. It also was KU's second straight victory over Missouri, following last year's 35-14 win in Lawrence.

Kansas struck first Saturday, taking a 7-0 lead on its second drive of the game. Clark Green finished the possession with a 12-yard run through numerous defenders and attempted tackles.

The Jayhawks (4-7) upped their lead to 14-0 almost an entire quarter later on an eight-yard pass from Brian Luke to Brandon Rideau. Six minutes later, Austine Nwabuisi scored on a one-yard plunge, giving KU a 21-0 lead it carried into halftime.

Part of KU's three-touchdown lead at intermission was thanks to Missouri failing on all nine of its third-down conversion attempts in the first half. KU also held Brad Smith to 7-of-17 passing for 86 yards before halftime.

Kansas increased its lead to 28 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter on a 30-yard pass to Lyonel Anderson from Luke, who finished 24-of-36 passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

"Brian Luke is a young man, and he's had some tough plays in his career here," Mangino said. "He is just a competitor and a resilient young man. What an exhibition he put on out there."

Missouri made a spirited comeback early in the fourth period, scoring twice on passes from Smith to Sean Coffey less than a minute and a half apart. After a punt by KU, the Tigers appeared to draw within a touchdown on a 42-yard screen pass to Damien Nash, but the play was called back for holding on Martin Rucker.

David McMillan came up with his second big sack of the day on the next play, dropping Smith for a loss of 12 yards, and the Tigers punted two plays later.

"That was devestating, obviously that was a huge play," MU head coach Gary Pinkel said of Nash's near touchdown. "We were going through the proper procedure and checking, but it doesn't matter now anyway. And then to take a sack the next play, that was huge. We had a great opportunity, if we would have had that touchdown."

Kansas couldn't do much on offense, punting again three plays later, but Charles Gordon picked off Smith two plays into the ensuing drive. The interception was Gordon's seventh of the season, which leads the nation.

Johnny Beck finished the scoring with a 35-yard field goal with just less than two minutes remaining, sealing KU's victory.

The Jayhawks held the Tigers to minus-6 yards rushing, Missouri's lowest rushing output in at least a decade. Kansas had 135 rushing yards, 118 by Green. Luke chipped in with 18 yards on five carries.

Rideau caught eight passes for 100 yards, Anderson had four receptions for 60 yards, and Green caught four passes for 31 yards.

Smith finished 15-of-40 passing for 262 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He rushed 13 times for minus-41 yards - the first time in his collegiate career he had rushed for negative yards.

"I explained it several times, there are certain things running the football that people have seen he's done," Pinkel said. "That's why we want to become a better throwing football team."

Damien Nash led MU on the ground with 38 yards on 12 rushes. Coffey caught five passes for 91 yards, and Thomson Omboga had 51 yards on three receptions.

The Tigers converted just one of 16 third-down plays, while KU was 9-of-18 on third-down conversion attempts. KU was a perfect 4 for 4 on red-zone chances.

Notes:
¢ Travis Dambach started at right tackle for KU.

  • KU wore its red stockings, which it hadn't worn since the Iowa State game.
  • Jayhawk cornerback Theo Baines did not suit.
  • Kickoff temperature was 49 degrees under cloudy skies with winds 7 mph out of the west. Attendance was announced at 53,480.

All stats are unofficial.

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