Missouri and Kansas have decided they’re gonna play each other in football again, renewing a series last played in 2011 when a Gary Pinkel’s 6-5 Tigers team beat a 2-9 Kansas led by Turner Gill. Gill got fired the next day, Kansas decided to throw $12 million or so at Charlie Weis, and everything’s been fine in Lawrence since then!
If you don’t have a side in this rivalry, the one game you likely remember from its history is 2007, when both teams started the year unranked and wound up meeting in a primetime match that would send the winner to the Big 12 Championship Game and the top of the BCS.
The ensuing Missouri win knocked Kansas out of the national title race, and it’s probably gonna be a minute before the Jayhawks have that good of a chance again. When the series resumes, the 2007 game will undoubtedly be part of the pregame video broadcast, and that’s going to suck for Kansas fans.
I don’t work for ESPN or Fox, so I can’t really do anything about that. What I can do is provide an emotional counterbalance, in the form of five times Kansas absolutely screwed up a season for Missouri.
1960: Kansas 23*, Missouri 7
Mizzou came into this game having spent all year kicking ass. At 9-0, only one of their opponents (Oklahoma) had scored in double digits, and only one (Colorado) had held the Tigers under 20 points.
Kansas was good, but not unbeatable. They’d already lost to Syracuse and Iowa, both of which were top teams in 1960, and they played a bad Oklahoma team to a 13-13 tie.
How did the Tigers lose this game? Three fumbles didn’t help, though Kansas committed five turnovers of their own. The KU defense held Mizzou to six first downs, all of which came in the second half. Oh, and two Kansas touchdowns were scored by Bert Coan, who the conference ruled retroactively ineligible a few weeks after this game due to recruiting violations.
By that point, the AP and Coaches Polls had already picked their champion, undefeated Minnesota. The Football Writers Association of America didn’t hand out their national championship trophy for the season until January 1961, and they went with 10-0-1 Ole Miss.
To review: Missouri lost a not-all-that-close game to Kansas, had the result overturned by the Big Eight, finished the season undefeated (kind of) and untied for the first and only time in program history ... and does not even have a share of a national title claim to show for it.
2008: Kansas 40, Missouri 37
Most of the teams that enjoyed a meteoric rise in the haunted carnival ride 2007 came back to Earth the next year. LSU plummeted from a national championship to a sub-.500 record in the SEC. West Virginia lost a road game in Week 2 to East Carolina by 21 points. Boston College gave Vanderbilt its first bowl win in over fifty years, and then fired their coach for daring to talk to NFL teams. (Like Lawrence, everything’s been fine in Chestnut Hill since then!)
Missouri managed to buck that trend for a couple months, entering the Kansas game at 9-2 with the Big 12 North title already locked up. A BCS berth was basically impossible, but with a win over Kansas and a close game with Oklahoma, a Gator Bowl spot was all but guaranteed, with some room to jump up to the Cotton Bowl.
Kansas, meanwhile, had no standout wins and a couple of blowout losses, and they looked the part of their 6-5 record, trailing Mizzou late. The Tigers proceeded to give up a 26-yard touchdown on 4th and 7, got blown out by Oklahoma, and earned the privilege of beating Northwestern in overtime at the Alamo Bowl. Whoops!
1997: Kansas 15, Missouri 7
Missouri’s ‘97 season can teach you a lot about perspective. 7-5 doesn’t seem like a good record, but it’s great when you consider the Tigers hadn’t finished above .500 since 1983. Nobody played eventual national champion Nebraska tougher, but the play that saved the Huskers is an incredibly painful way to watch a win slip out of reach.
As middling seasons go, however, it’s one you could be happy with – you only lost to very good teams and your conference record was solid. Ohio State beat Mizzou easily and wound up in the Sugar Bowl. Kansas State won by 30 and finished the year 11-1.
And then there is the Kansas game. Let’s see what local media had to say!
1976: Kansas 41, Missouri 14
Everything I’m about to tell you is true:
- In one season, Mizzou beat USC, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Colorado.
- Three of those teams finished in the AP Top 10; Colorado finished 16th.
- The wins over the Trojans, Buckeyes, and Huskers were all on the road.
- USC won the Rose Bowl and Ohio State beat Colorado in the Orange Bowl.
- Missouri finished the year 6-5, unranked, and uninvited to a bowl game.
First off, HOW. HOW DID YOU DO ALL THIS, MISSOURI? HOW DID YOU BREAK MATH??
Second, let’s focus on that bowl game bit.
The abstract painting that was Mizzou’s ‘76 season culminated with the Tigers entering the Kansas game at 6-4 and ranked 19th. The Jayhawks, by comparison, were an entirely ordinary 5-5; the teams they beat were almost uniformly bad, and the teams they lost to were all good.
Beating Kansas would have been a nice feather in Missouri’s misshapen cap. More importantly, it would likely have given them a bowl slot; the Sun Bowl reportedly had representatives at the game ready to invite Mizzou to El Paso.
Instead, Kansas rushed for 421 yards on 83 carries (and completed one pass for two yards) and palindromed their rivals. Further reports suggest the Sun Bowl reps left the game early, which, yikes.
1934: Kansas 20, Missouri 0
In the interest of fairness, let’s close with a year Kansas didn’t beat a promising Missouri team to end the year.
This time they beat a terrible Missouri team, one that entered this game 0-7-1 and got shut out at home to complete the program’s first and only winless season.