Sports

Kansas-Mizzou rivalry not lost on Gill

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This week, Kansas coach Turner Gill wanted to make sure everybody knew how pumped up he was to be coaching in his first Border War.

"I'm excited," Gill said. "This week is here: The Missouri game. It got turned on pretty quick, right after the Oklahoma State game. My heart and everything is ready to get this one going. This is for our fans. This is for our alumni. This is for our players."

This is also for Gill's daughter, Jordan, a current KU undergraduate student who has been through a couple of KU-Missouri battles already. When Gill got the job last December, she made it very clear how she felt about the Tigers.

"Dad, you better win this one," Gill recalled her saying.

You don't have to be a KU student, alum or fan to understand what today's game means. One of KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long's daughters bought him a "Beat Mizzou" T-shirt.

Unlike Gill and Long, defensive coordinator Carl Torbush doesn't have a daughter to let him know about his new border rival, but he didn't need any notification.

"I always consider this a letter jacket game," Torbush said. "You win this ball game, you'll be able to talk about them for 365 days. If you don't win it, they're gonna talk about you for 365 days. I do understand the importance of a cross-town rivalry."

Every school has rivals, and Torbush has coached at plenty of them. He's seen Alabama-Auburn, North Carolina-North Carolina State and Mississippi-Mississippi State from both sides. He knew that KU had two bitter rivals, and it wasn't hard to figure out which one contained the most vitriol.

"Well," Torbush said, "if you pick out a team that the fans here or the alumni here (want to beat), it's probably gonna be Missouri. I'd say you'd get an 85- or 90-percent vote on that. It didn't take long once I got here to figure out who was really important on your schedule."

The Tigers are even more important after the Jayhawks lost to Kansas State 59-7 earlier this season. Things have not gone as planned for Gill in year one, but at KU, there's a big difference in going 3-9 with losses to both rivals and going 4-8 with a win over Missouri.

"It would help," Gill said. "I'm not going to sit here and say that it's going to be just totally overjoyed. We set our goals to have an opportunity to be the Big 12 North champions and play in the Big 12 championship game, win that and go to a bowl game — all those things. It isn't going to make up for all of what has occurred here in this football season. But I think it will help us to move forward."

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