KANSAS CITY — You might not expect it, but Andrew Gachkar is fast. Really fast.
The senior linebacker had a memorable performance in his final regular-season game for the Missouri football team, recording a sack, an interception and seven tackles, two of them for losses. Gachkar showed off his speed and helped establish Missouri’s early advantage in the Tigers' 35-7 victory over Kansas on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The game meant a lot to Gachkar, a native of Overland Park, Kan. As the team’s honorary captain, Gachkar was on the field when Missouri won the coin toss, and he has always known this would be an important game in his football career.
“I was telling the guys last night that I’ve been waiting for this for four years,” Gachkar said.
On Kansas’s first drive of the game, Gachkar made his presence known. As Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb retreated, Gachkar broke out of the box and sacked him on the Kansas 10-yard line for a loss of 16 yards. Then in the second quarter, Gachkar intercepted Webb’s pass and returned it for 6 yards. On both plays the linebacker displayed the breakaway speed that Pinkel has complimented him on all season.
“We can run. I mean … at the very end, I was just watching these guys and watching their speed and explosiveness,” Pinkel said of his defense.
Fellow linebacker Will Ebner, whose return from a neck injury allowed Gachkar some time to rest in Saturday’s win, said that Gachkar is one of the fastest linebackers he has seen.
“He’s incredibly fast, and deceptively fast as well,” Ebner said.
Gachkar might not look like the speediest player at the line of scrimmage, Ebner said, and many opponents fail to realize just how fast he is.
“I think it’s definitely a big advantage in this game, and you can see it on the field in the plays he makes,” Ebner said.
Gachkar said Ebner’s return was crucial to his ability to make big plays. Gachkar played every defensive snap of last week’s victory over Iowa State, and he said that no matter how fit he is, it’s always hard not being able to take a few seconds to catch his breath.
“After the pick, I was so out of breath, even before I got the ball on the play,” Gachkar said. “To not go out the next drive, for Will to go out there and give us some subs is amazing.”
Gachkar’s sack and interception went a long way toward establishing Missouri’s dominance early in the game. He said he felt like the Tigers were fighting for more and playing for more than Kansas was, and that came through in the big plays that Missouri made. After he tackled Webb, Gachkar said he could tell that the Jayhawks were not only making mistakes — they were demoralized.
“Immediately, you could just tell by their demeanor that they, I don’t know, I don’t want to say anything about them, but I feel like we wanted it more than they did,” Gachkar said.
Despite what was arguably his best game of the season, Gachkar said there was one disappointment. He wished the Tigers could have held Kansas to a shutout. Despite the good field position that Kansas had on its touchdown drive, which ended the defense’s streak of six scoreless quarters, Gachkar said he felt like they could have stopped them. Not one to assume a victory, he didn’t even want to concede the one touchdown.
Despite the point differential, Gachkar didn’t think that the game was over until there were about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, but once he realized that his team would win, he couldn’t have felt better.
“Every single time, it feels amazing. I always will remember my record against KU — we’re 3-1 is my record — and I take that to sleep every single night. I love beating them,” Gachkar said.