Senior Missouri football players pass down meaning of Kansas rivalry

Friday, November 27, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA – Before senior safety Del Howard arrived at MU, he didn't know much about the school's rivalry with Kansas.

Monday, he said the older players on the Missouri football team have a responsibility to let their younger teammates know why playing Kansas means not only added hype ahead of time but also more difficult game circumstances.

Howard recalled the 2006 Missouri-Kansas matchup in Columbia, when he was a freshman and the Tigers won 42-17. He said the game was much tougher than the score indicated.

"I can remember almost everything that happened," he said. "I just remember how tough a game it was. It wasn't like we went out there and dominated. It was a very physical game. In order to beat Kansas we know we have to have a physical mindset."

One moment in particular from that game, courtesy of a former Missouri running back, stands out to Howard three years later.

"The main play I remember is when Tony Temple ran over one of the safeties and knocked his helmet off," Howard said. "That just symbolizes the physicalness we need to have, just running tough."

Coach Gary Pinkel said the high number of young athletes contributing makes it especially important to preach the need for physical play.

"It's our responsibility as leaders to get it across to everybody," he said.

Senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said that not long ago, he was one of those young players learning about the rivalry from former Tigers Lorenzo Williams and Martin Rucker.

"Staying with those guys in the summer, they kind of clued me in on what was going on and how big it (the Kansas game) was," he said. "And then just being in the community, just seeing how uptight everybody is about this game. They really want you to win this one."

With a win Saturday, Missouri will have won three of its past four games against Kansas, after losing three straight in the series before any of the current players arrived at MU.

"Lorenzo always told me you remembered a few things when you left Mizzou," Weatherspoon said. "One thing would be your KU record, so definitely got to go out there and try to do well with that."

Howard and Weatherspoon are both from Texas. Howard said growing up, the annual Red River Rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma was the rivalry that he knew best.

"What Texas-OU is, that is basically the same as the Missouri-Kansas rivalry," he said. "Coming up here and learning that, something new."

Howard echoed Pinkel in saying that younger players need to be as mentally prepared as their teammates. Still, he said even freshmen are now accustomed to the practice routine.

That is one benefit of playing Kansas late in the year, Howard said.

"Those young guys, I feel like they're not going to be young anymore," Howard said. "They've played 10 or 11 games, so they should know what it takes in order to be winners. I don't really consider them young.

"They might not have been in the heat of the rivalry with Kansas as much as I have, but they know what it takes in order to get a win."

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