- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
HOW APT that a KU program that for many years plumbed the depths was once coached by a man named Jules Verne (J.V.) Sikes. The 1950 Border War was played on Thanksgiving. The day before, the Jayhawks checked into a hotel outside Columbia. Overnight, a snowstorm moved in. "The temperature got down to nine degrees," recalls Fambrough. "All the stores were closed, we couldn't buy long johns, couldn't buy any gloves."
Sikes directed his young assistant to ask the Tigers if they might spare any extra clothing—"any tore up old jerseys or anything to keep us warm." Fambrough posed the question to Missouri's equipment manager. "Hell, no," came the reply. "We hope you freeze your asses off."
The visitors didn't win, but neither did they freeze. Sikes instructed the driver of the team bus to park the vehicle behind the bench, where it idled throughout the game, providing shelter for players between series. (To park there, Fambrough says, the driver had to ram a padlocked gate. No word on whether the Jayhawks were invoiced for the damage.)
IT'S THE Jayhawks' turn to host the Border War, but Memorial Stadium will be empty this Saturday. Last January the schools announced a two-year deal to move the game to Arrowhead. At the time, understandably, no sober person suspected that handing away home field advantage—Arrowhead is expected to be nearly half full of Mizzou fans—might cost Kansas the chance to play for the national title.
The Border War will showcase highly similar attacks: no-huddle, shotgun offenses using four- and five-receiver sets, both run by native Texans who have emerged as Heisman candidates but to whom the Longhorns could not be bothered to give the time of day. The Jayhawks are averaging 45.8 points per game, 3.5 more than Mizzou. Kansas sophomore Todd Reesing has thrown 30 touchdown passes, as has Tigers junior Chase Daniel. Reesing's efficiency rating is 156.5—1.4 points higher than that of Daniel, who has completed 69.3% of his passes, compared with Reesing's 63.3%, and thrown for almost 700 more yards. The biggest difference: Daniel has tossed nine interceptions, five more than Reesing. That focus and discipline are qualities shared by the entire Jayhawks squad, which is tied with Army for the fewest penalties in the nation. ( Missouri has been almost as sharp, drawing the fourth-fewest penalties.)
Mizzou, the only team in Division I-A to have scored at least 30 points in every game this season, has more playmakers, including the country's most dangerous tandem of tight ends in Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker. Though Rucker caught a pair of touchdown passes against K-State, he was overshadowed by wideout Jeremy Maclin, the redshirt freshman with world-class wheels. Maclin's three touchdowns included a 99-yard kickoff return, Missouri's first kickoff return for a TD since 1982, ending the nation's longest such drought. He finished with a school-record 360 all-purpose yards, breaking the NCAA's freshman record for most all-purpose yards in a season. (He has 2,309.)
Both programs are now in terra incognita. "I've never seen anything like this," says longtime Jayhawks radio broadcaster Max Falkenstien, who retired last year. "People are so wrapped up in football, they almost forgot basketball season was starting."
Even Bill Self, the Kansas hoops coach, is thrilled for the football team. " Illinois-Missouri was a huge rivalry," says Self, who came to Lawrence from Champaign. "This is different. There's some real, pent-up bitterness. I think it's healthy." He pauses. "Well, maybe the bitterness isn't so healthy."
It's somewhere on the border.