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Friday, November 24, 2006

Mangino versed in Border War lore

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Mark Mangino didn't pretend fully to understand the importance of the Border War game when he arrived in Lawrence prior to the 2002 season. But he was introduced to it quickly.

Kansas University's football coach, shortly after being hired, sat in his Allen Fieldhouse seat during a basketball game when a gentleman approached him.

The fan's first order of business was to welcome Mangino to Kansas.

His second? To let the coach know that the Missouri game was the one game Kansas HAD to win each year.

"He said, 'When I go to the games (in Columbia), I gas my car at home, I pack my lunch and I come back home,'" Mangino recalls, suggesting the man had no desire to spend any money in Missouri. "I started to laugh, and he looked at me with a serious look. He didn't find it funny."

You can bet Mangino understands the importance now. He is about to be on the sidelines for his fifth Kansas-Missouri game, which kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.

Mangino has seen goalposts torn down twice after Mizzou games in Lawrence - and once after a lopsided loss in Columbia.

He saw former KU coach Don Fambrough come to tears after the Jayhawks beat the Tigers in 2004.

And he has heard from the fans - so many supporters with a unique way to say the same thing.

"I'd like to have a dollar for every guy who's said, 'Coach, I don't care if you win any games as long as you win the Border rivalry,'" Mangino said with a chuckle. "How long are you going to last at 1-11? How many years can you do that?"

Certainly, even those from afar learn to appreciate the KU-MU rivalry in a flash.

KU running back Jon Cornish, a native of Canada, admitted he didn't know much about the Border War when he was playing high school football in British Columbia.

Now, he's playing in his fourth installment, hoping for a sweep. Kansas has won the last three, with Cornish scoring the game-icing touchdown in last year's 13-3 KU victory.

"Anyone can see that this is one of the greatest rivalries in the country," Cornish said. "Nobody wants to lose this game."

It's the second-longest continuous series, trailing only Wisconsin-Minnesota. Shots have been traded back and forth, with the series never getting lopsided. The Jayhawks have a 54-51-9 lead according to KU and a 53-52-9 edge according to Missouri.

The difference - which seems to be celebrated now - stems from the 1960 game, which was won on the field by KU but later forfeited due to the controversial ruling that a Kansas player was ineligible.

"The schools can't agree what the record is," Mangino said. "If that's not a rivalry, what is?"

Mangino tried to say that preparation stays the same this week. But it's well known that's not exactly the case.

For one, Fambrough speaks to the team about the importance of the rivalry a couple of days before the game, surely slipping in a few white lies to get the point across.

And the big plays always get remembered a little more, including the late safety that propelled Missouri to a two-point victory in 1956 and Tony Sands' 396-yard rushing game in 1991. More recently, KU has celebrated the play of quarterbacks Bill Whittemore (2003) and Brian Luke (2004), as well as the interception of an errant Brad Smith option pitch by rising star cornerback Aqib Talib last season.

"That was my first time getting to play in the rivalry," Talib said. "I immediately saw everyone preparing for the game different. You're a little bit more serious. There's a little more talking going on during the game. There's a little bit more after the play."

Talib paused for a split second

"There's a little more everything," he said, "with Missouri."

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