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November 17, 2005

Stopping the streak

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Tony Temple was seven years old in 1992. He didn't share with us his memories of the first grade or his pee-wee football team. But Temple knows the significance of the year.

"I know what you're about to get to," Temple says with a smile.

On November 14th of that year, Missouri beat Kansas State 27-14 in Columbia. The Tigers haven't done it since.

"The team may not (think about it) and nobody else, but going on fourteen years is a long time to me," Temple said. "When they recruited me, they brought that in my house. They were showing me stats of it on a poster board. I was like, 'Wow.' That's like a little cloud over your head that you just want to get rid of and I think we really need to think about that."

Even Gary Pinkel, who nearly never admits looking at such things, admitted it this week.

"One of the things that we always talk about is what's out there. What's out there in this game, our players are aware that it's been since 1992 since we've beat Kansas State," Pinkel said. "I think we recognize that, but we are better and it's probably because we're a fairly young football team, we're a lot better understanding it, then not talking about it and working on preparation. If we get caught up in, we've got to beat them, got to beat them, haven't beat them for a long time, you're not preparing for a football game, you're playing a psychological war."

His players take varying approaches.

"I wasn't even aware of it until this week when somebody said something," said sophomore tight end Martin Rucker. "Coach Pinkel told us about it the other day, but it was nothing more than just letting us know."

"It means a lot. I haven't beat them since I've been here and that's one of my motivators for it. Seven and four's all great, but I'd like to knock down this last barrier," countered senior safety Jason Simpson. "That's a big motivator for me just to beat K-State. I don't know what that's like so I'd like to know."

Not a single Tiger knows what it's like. Not a single coach was even around the last time Mizzou topped K-State. There have been close games, 21-18 to No. 11 Kansas State in 1994 and 31-25 to the No. 2 Wildcats in 1998. There have been blowouts; does 66-0 ring a bell? There was the utter collapse last season when Mizzou blew a three-touchdown lead to fall 35-24. But one thing has remained constant: the Tigers have always come up on the short end of the scoreboard. The Tigers insist the Cats aren't in their heads, but admit K-State might play with a little extra swagger when it faces Mizzou.

"I think that's something that a lot of teams possess, that confidence that no matter what goes on, they're gonna think that they got the edge," Simpson said. "The only way you take that away is by beating them. I guess we're gonna see how it shakes out on Saturday, but I think they're gonna have that. I would if I was that team. The last 12 years, keep beating us, why wouldn't you?"

"You can't think that way," Rucker said. "The day you think that way is the day that you get beat."

Will Saturday finally be the day the Wildcats get beat by Missouri? The Tigers figure the last dozen years won't have much to do with the answer to that question.

"Facts are facts, you know. All we can do is play our best this year. That's what counts," said wide receivers coach Andy Hill. "We can't do anything about what happened in the past, but we can do something about what happens Saturday."

The rest of the answers will come on Saturday afternoon in Manhattan.



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