LAWRENCE — It felt a little bit like deja(gra) vu. Or, at least, Kansas fans can hope it ends up feeling that way on Saturday afternoon.
Kansas coach Turner Gill announced Tuesday that Jordan Webb is his starting quarterback. Then he talked about needing to emphasize the running of freshman tailback James Sims. Then Gill praised the opponent, the No. 15 Missouri Tigers.
The last time the Jayhawks played a team ranked 15th, it was Georgia Tech on Sept. 11, and Gill followed the same routine. He announced that Webb would get his first start and that Sims would play in his first game, and KU stunned the Yellow Jackets 28-25 for one of the lone bright spots of this season.
On paper, a Kansas victory in Saturday's Border War at Arrowhead Stadium would be equally stunning, if not more. But the Jayhawks are counting on Webb, who has not started since Oct. 23 when he injured his right shoulder against Texas A&M, to have a similar effect.
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"It's gonna be a spark for the offense," KU wide receiver Daymond Patterson said. "Jordan brings a lot of fire. He can move around and make plays with his feet, keep the play alive. So we're just gonna rally behind him like we did when he first got in there."
Much has happened since then for Webb. He won another game, against New Mexico State, and seemed to have the offense going somewhere. But a brutal start to Big 12 play, which included his injury against the Aggies, created some doubt as to whether he would be the quarterback of the future. That is still in doubt — Quinn Mecham started the last four games and had his moments — but Webb will get another shot to show what he can do against a very capable MU defense.
Webb is probably the right guy to start this one, no matter what the reason. He grew up in Union, Mo., and knows what it means when these bitter rivals meet.
"I'm definitely excited," said Webb, a redshirt freshman. "I've been looking forward to it all season and pretty much since I committed here. It's something I had hoped for. All my friends have been talking about this for a long time. They'll be excited to know I got the start. It's gonna be fun."
As for Webb's backfield mate, Sims has been the most consistent force for the KU offense this season. He has carried 147 times for 660 yards and eight touchdowns, and Gill said he'll see plenty of the pig against the Tigers.
"As we have looked back at our last 11 games that we've played, the one common denominator is in the three games we've won, James Sims has had over 100 yards in all three of those games," Gill said. "So that's something that we've seen that has pushed us forward to get 'Ws', so we'll see if we can get that done."