TIGER KICKOFF: Missouri football players say numbers don't matter against Kansas

Thursday, November 24, 2011 | 11:30 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The numbers are bad. Really bad.

There are 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Kansas ranks 118th in rushing defense, 115th in passing defense and 120th in points allowed per game. The Jayhawks have lost nine consecutive games by an average of more than 29 points.

After a 0-8 start to conference play, the Jayhawks can become the first team in the Big 12 to lose nine conference games. Rumors are swirling that the heat is on coach Turner Gill.

If you ask Missouri, the numbers don’t matter.

The Tigers insist they’re paying no attention to the disarray that is Kansas football. This is the Border Showdown. Throw the records out, they say. In the last meeting between the two teams for the foreseeable future, nothing else matters.

“Their record does speak a lot, but this KU, this is a rivalry game,” Missouri defensive tackle Dominique Hamilton said. “It’s a rivalry game, it’s going to be hard any time.”

According to Missouri, the series stands at 56-54-9 in favor of the Tigers, but because of a discrepancy in the 1960 game, Kansas claims the series is at 55-55-9. Whatever it is, Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel understands what the rivalry means.

“My brother went to Kansas. I love my brother,” Steckel said. “I don’t talk to him this week.”

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel returned Thursday from a one-week suspension for a DWI arrest, and Missouri is coming off of its first set of consecutive wins in 2011. The Tigers seem to be playing their best football of the season.

“We’re getting to play our rival, we’re on a two-game winning streak, if you’re not excited about this, then the blood’s not pumping through your veins,” Steckel said. “I guarantee if you they’re not, come tomorrow they will be.”

Kansas had looked to be improving as well. On Nov. 5, the Jayhawks held Iowa State to 13 points in a 13-10 loss, and then fell by just a point in overtime to Robert Griffin III and Baylor. But all that momentum disappeared in the course of a 61-7 thrashing at the hands of Texas A&M last week.

Now they face questions about Gill’s future, and about how they can break a losing streak that dates back to Sept. 10.

“It’s kind of like a little funk that you have to fight out of,” Kansas linebacker Steven Johnson said. “I’m pretty sure that we can fight out of it, it’s just going to take an all-out effort to do it”

Kansas wide receiver Kale Pick took a similar view to Hamilton's: When it comes to the Border Showdown, nothing else matters.

“Records don’t really matter, past doesn’t really matter, future doesn’t really matter. It’s just about what’s happening right at the time that you’re playing,” Pick said. “You really have to focus on present, and I think that’s what we’ll be doing on Saturday.”

Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost knows what it feels like to lose in this rivalry. He doesn’t want to feel it again.

“You come up short one time and then it kind of really starts eating at you, and becomes a focus for you, and why you kind of look toward the KU game every year,” Yost said. “After you finish it, 365 days from there you mark it on your schedule”

There not likely to be another game 365 days from Saturday to mark. Saturday looks to be the last of the series for now. As if Missouri needed anything else to get them going.

“We don’t need any extra motivation,” tailback De’Vion Moore said. “All we need to know is that we’re playing KU.”

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