Break gives Missouri football team time to focus on KU

Monday, November 22, 2010 | 6:44 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — With his players free from classes because of Thanksgiving break, Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel has 100 percent of their attention. That’s particularly important this week with the Tigers set to take on Kansas on Saturday, a matchup that has produced three straight wild games.

Kansas appears to be in a rebuilding year with first-year coach Turner Gill. The Jayhawks are 3-8 overall and 1-6 in Big 12 Conference play, but Pinkel said that because of the rivalry, he expects another competitive game.

“You can throw the records out. It means so much to each team,” Pinkel said. “We’ll get KU’s best effort and their best football game because that’s what they do.”

The Tigers faced Gill when he coached Buffalo in 2008. Missouri won 42-21, but the game was closer than the final score showed.

“They were a very well coached football team and they were really good,” Pinkel said. “I’ve got great respect for him (Gill). He’s a great guy and a great football coach … He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s got a plan, a philosophy … I wish him all the success except when he plays us.”

Injury update

Middle linebacker Will Ebner is once again listed as a starter after missing two straight games with a neck injury.

“I think will Ebner will be back next week,” Pinkel said. “We expected him to be back last week … He’s doing better right now than he has for several weeks.”

Senior safety Jasper Simmons will remain indefinitely suspended and miss Missouri’s final regular season game. Senior safety Jarrell Harrison will get the start at safety. He played some linebacker the past two games with Missouri battling several injuries at that position.

Senor linebacker Luke Lambert will remain sidelined this week.

“We’re looking into a possible redshirt for him,” Pinkel said. “We’ll get back later to that situation.”

Coach’s composure

Nebraska football Coach Bo Pelini received a great deal of national attention for his behavior during the Husker’s loss to Texas A&M last week. Pelini was shown screaming at freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez during the game and also at the referees.

Pinkel has typically coached in a mild and reserved manner, completely opposite of his Big 12 rival. 

“I’m better off when I stay in control,” Pinkel said. “I explain that to my players … with all the stuff going on out there, they’re going to look to me and see that he’s still under control.”

Top tight end

Junior tight end Michael Egnew was named as a finalist for the 2010 John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate tight end. He is one of three finalists.

Egnew leads the country with 78 receptions out of the tight end position. He also leads the pack with 663 receiving yards.

“Michael, he just changed so much the first two years,” Pinkel said. “It’s just remarkable how he matured into this great competitor. It doesn’t surprise me. It seems like he gets tougher every week.” 

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