COLUMBIA, Mo. - Bowl eligibility is one thing. Physically being invited to a bowl is another.
Last week, with a 39-20 win over Kansas State, KU secured its sixth win of the season for the third time in four years. For the first time in those three bowl eligible campaigns, it was accomplished before the regular season finale. Also for the first time, getting to a bowl game isn't such a slam dunk.
To secure their Christmas plans, the Jayhawks need to win today against archrival Missouri at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo., in a game set to kick off at 11 a.m.
Bowl officials are hand, too. Representatives from the Texas Bowl, played Dec. 28 in Houston, and the Insight Bowl, Dec. 29 in Phoenix, are in the press box to watch the game unfold. The Insight Bowl has already had one invitation extended and accepted by Minnesota, coached by former Jayhawk frontman Glen Mason.
The Jayhawks enter their regular season finale having recovered from a 3-5 record after a heartbreaking 36-35 loss on the road to Baylor with a three-game win streak. Kansas is 6-5 overall and 3-4 in Big 12 play.
Mizzou is coming off of a 21-16 loss at Iowa State, and enters the game at 7-4 overall and 3-4 in the conference.
KU gave Mizzou outstanding field position at its own 35 to start the game when Scott Webb's opening boot sailed out of bounds at the five-yard line.
The Tigers opened the game with a bit of trickery, running a double reverse to receiver Jared Perry for a nine-yard gain. It was followed by a seven-yard Tony Temple run to the right side.
From there, KU was able to force a third-and-four, but Daniel picked the Jayhawk secondary apart with a 28-yard bullet down the seam to Brad Ekwerekwu. It set Mizzou up in the KU red zone at the 15. Two plays later, Daniel struck Jason Ray on the left side to the three. But the play was waived off by a 15-yard personal foul call on tight end Chase Coffman, putting the ball at the 31.
MISSOURI 3, KANSAS 0
The drive was unable to build much from there. An incompletion downfield to Coffman was followed by a four-yard gainer from Daniel to Temple. Jeff Wolfert hammered home a 44-yard field goal to put the Tigers on the board first, 3-0.
KU was unable to open with the same offensive pop with which Missouri did. After Jon Cornish was stuffed in the backfield on the Jayhawks' first offensive snap, Kerry Meier hit Jonathan Lamb for a minimal gain, and then misfired while getting hit on third down. Kyle Tucker's punt was returned to the Missouri 40-yard line, again giving the Tigers solid starting ground.
Daniel escaped pressure on second-and-10 to find Tommy Saunders for 16 yards to again put Mizzou in KU territory.
Daniel then hit yet another target, this time making it Martin Rucker for an 11-yard gain, coming on the heels of a near-pick by Aqib Talib on a deep ball to the endzone. Daniel was aided by a Tony Temple eight-yard run, making a third-and-two easily convertible on a short out pass to Terry. Daniel then ran it himself for 10 yards inside the KU 10.
MISSOURI 6, KANSAS 0
But Missouri again couldn't punch it in from close range. Daniel was flushed from the pocket on third down and fired a rocket through a pack of players on the right side of the end zone. The result was a 27-yard Wolfert field goal to make the score 6-0 with 6:05 to play in the first quarter.
Marcus Herford returned the ensuing kick to the Missouri 37, following up his first return of the game which also gave KU decent field position. But KU was immediately pushed back five yards on a false start call.
The return went to waste, though. KU earned another false start call, sandwiched around a seven-yard gain from Dexton Fields. Kyle Tucker's punt set Mizzou up at its own 11-yard line.
MISSOURI 13, KANSAS 0
After a couple of nice Tony Temple jogs on the option read, Daniel hit Perry on a quick slant, and the freshman receiver streaked 74 yards upfield for the game's first touchdown. It also went down as a career-long pass for Chase Daniel, and a career-long haul for Jared Perry.
Herford was true to form on his third kick return of the day, taking the ball 37 yards to the Mizzou 48.
Cornish took just his second carry of the game six yards up the middle to start the drive.
MISSOURI 13, KANSAS 7
One more carry was all Cornish needed to give KU some momentum of its own with just a minute left in the opening frame. He took the option pitch 42 yards down the left sideline, tightroping the final 20 or so yards to put Kansas on the board.
KU had a chance to seize some control on the first play of Mizzou's next drive on a Daniel overthrow, but senior safety Jerome Kemp dropped a wide open interception opportunity. A one-yard Temple run brought the first quarter to a close.
The long third down was converted as Daniel fled the pocket to find Ekwerekwu on a slant ahead of Dominic Roux up to the Mizzou 39.
Mizzou went into the bag of tricks again, running a double reverse flea-clicker, leaving Martin Rucker wide open deep. Daniel hit him down to the KU 10.
MISSOURI 20, KANSAS 7
Following the big play, Mizzou experimented again with the run. After it was unsuccessful in finding paydirt, Missouri went back to what worked. Daniel hit Coffman for a five-yard score. On the play, he beat Dominic Roux, who also lost his shoe and fell down in the end zone.
KU was subsequently set up with its first unfavorable field position of the game. Meier started the drive with an eight-yard strike to Dexton Fields, and it was followed by a nine-yard jog by Cornish to quiet the crowd a bit.
Cornish followed it by ripping off another 10 yards, continuing his march toward the KU single season rushing record. He started the game 112 yards away from Tony Sands' record, set in 1991.
KU's ground-oriented drive was shut short, though, on a third-and-two from the Mizzou 42, when an option play was blown, and Meier was dropped for a loss, giving the ball back to the Tigers at their own 14.
After a seven-yard gain to start the drive, Daniel continued his connection with Coffman, getting 24 yards over the middle on second-and-three. That was followed by a pass to Tommy Saunders down to the KU 36.
KU was able to stop the swelling there, though. A reverse on second-and-seven gave Missouri a third-and-three, but a short pass play after that netted just one yard, leaving a fourth-and-two at the KU 28.
On the fourth down play, after a timeout, Daniel took off up the middle when his routes broke down, gaining three yards to the 25, keeping the drive alive with less than five minutes to play in the first half.
Mike Rivera made Daniel pay two plays later, though, sacking the Mizzou signalcaller for a 15-yard loss on second-and-12. The drive stalled there, as Jimmy Jackson took a handoff for just four yards on third-and-27. It marked the first series Mizzou's offense was unable to put points on the board. Though Mizzou's special teams was able to put teh ball down at the one-yard line, leaving KU with the longest of long fields with 2:55 to go in the half.
KU got a little breathing room with a short Brandon McAnderson run, but then earned much more on a Cornish run out to the 24-yard line, leaving him 18 yards from tying the record. Kerry Meier followed it with a seven-yard run on a broken play, and then a six-yard pass to Cornish for another first down.
The drive stalled out short of midfield, and a Kyle Tucker punt followed by a Chase Daniel kneel-down brought the half to a close, with Mizzou leading 20-7. KU will get the ball to start the second half.
KU started the second half on its own 33-yard line, and Cornish moved the Jayhawks ahead 10 yards on the first play straight up the middle.
Cornish would lose two on his next carry, but Kansas then executed its prettiest pass play of the game on a 26-yard toss from Meier to tight end Derek Fine, moving KU into Mizzou territory.
Meier took the ball five yards himself on the next play, and a 10-yard pass to Fields set KU up in the red zone for the first time on the afternoon at the 20-yard line.
MISSOURI 20, KANSAS 10
The run game failed from the 20, and on third-and-six, Meier was sacked back at the 20, setting up Scott Webb for his first field goal attempt of the day. He struck the 37-yarder from the right hashmark, pulling KU to within 10 points wtih 10:42 to play in the third quarter.
It didn't take Chase Daniel long to continue his torrid first half pace. He bettered his 74-yard first half touchdown pass by three feet with a 75-yarder over the middle ot Ekwerekwu.
But hold the phone.
Offsetting penalties on KU's Jerome Kemp and MU's Jared Perry brought the play back and forced teh third-and-five to be replayed, bringing on a drowning dose of boos from the home crowd.
The potential turning point continued to spin, as Daniel lofted an incomplete pass on third down, and Jonathan Lamb's punt return set KU up at its own 44.
MISSOURI 20, KANSAS 17
KU stuck with the run for two plays before pulling the fast one on everyone. Meier threw a swing pass to Aqib Talib for his first career reception. The All-Big 12 candidate took the ball 42 yards in swift fashion for a score to make it a three-point game.
Missouri worked the ball nine yards on two plays, and on third-and-short held Tony Temple to a loss, visibly upsetting Chase Daniel who wanted to throw the ball. KU was called for lining up in the neutral zone while lining up for the punt, though, giving MU new life on the drive.
MISSOURI 27, KANSAS 17
The Tigers continued to be unfazed by KU's momentum-changing push. They took advantage of the special teams penalty earlier in the drive by putting together a workmanlike drive, capped with a 20-yard touchdown run by Rockhurst product Tony Temple.
Jon Cornish opened the next drive with an eight-yard run, giving him the single season rushing record at Kansas, set by Tony Sands in 1991. He then followed it with a seven-yard gain to give KU a first down and a bit more breathing room after starting the drive at its own 13.
The drive wouldn't advance much further, though, as Meier threw a deep incompletion on third-and-nine, bringing Kyle Tucker back onto the field. His punt was somewhat shanked and set Missouri up at its own 39.
Missouri started the fourth quarter with Daniel taking the ball himself 11 yards down the right side. He was then pelted by Jerome Kemp while going out of bounds and drew a 15-yard penalty on top of it to put the ball at the KU 34.
KU again forced Mizzou into a third-down situation, but again couldn't hold the fort, as Daniel hit Tommy Saunders for seven more yards.
MISSOURI 30, KANSAS 17
The drive finally stalled after Temple carried the Tigers inside the Jayhawk 10-yard line. Wolfert came in to knock home a 23-yard field goal for Mizzou to make it a 30-17 contest, keeping the Jayhawks within a two-touchdown range.
On KU's next drive, not only did a chop block penalty lose ground for KU, but on third-and-long, Meier was sacked and turned the ball over on a fumble recovered by MU's Lorenzo Williams at the KU 14.
It went down as the game's first turnover.
MISSOURI 37, KANSAS 17
Daniel might have put the game on ice three place later by finding Coffman for a 10-yard strike in which he spun around a defender to put KU up 36-17 following a failed two-point conversion. This leaves teh Jayhawks 9:52 to generate three scores and stop a Mizzou offense which hasn't slowed for most of the day.
Todd Reesing came into the game at quarterback on the Jayhawks' next possession looking to provide some kind of a spark, but it certainly did not happen. The three-and-out series culminated in a one-yard loss on a sack following two incompletions, and led to an embarassing fair catch interference call on the ensuing punt against KU's Justin Thornton.
It set MU up at the KU 43.
MISSOURI 42, KANSAS 17
To rub some dirt in KU's face, Daniel set a new career-high with 356 passing yards on the day, the final 26 of which coming on a 26-yarder over the middle to Greg Bracey. The two-point conversion failed, giving MU a commanding 42-17 lead with just 5:06 to go.
With Reesing behind center, the Jayhawks mount a promising drive but on second-and-ten from the Tigers' 12 yard line, Reesing lofts a pass to the endzone that falls short and is intercepted by MU's Domoni Johnson. The turnover was the second of the game for Kansas and the Tigers run out the clock to snap a three-game losing streak to KU, posting a final score of 42-17.