KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri has never played better defensively in a Big 12 game -- and now the Tigers might never play another Big 12 game.
In a 35-7 victory over Kansas on Saturday, the No. 15 Tigers held their archrivals to 141 yards, the fewest they've allowed a conference opponent in the Big 12's 15 seasons.
While Kansas and Missouri will continue the second-longest running rivalry in college football, the Big 12 next year will no longer be what's it has been, since Colorado and Nebraska are moving on to other conferences and the league will reduce to 10 members. It could even change names.
"They are a very good defensive football team," Kansas coach Turner Gill said. "They have a good D-line, and with their linebackers and their whole secondary is a pretty good football team."
Setting the tone on the first possession, the Tigers sacked Jordan Webb twice as Kansas lost 19 yards. The Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) then scored on their first two possessions en route to their third victory over the bitter border rivals since their annual season-ending showdown was moved to Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium four years ago.
"I don't want to say I knew it then, because it's way too early, but you do get a feeling that it's going to be a good day for the defense and a good day for Mizzou as a whole," Missouri defensive end Kevin Rutland said. "And it kept going from there. The offense was rolling, the defense was rolling and it was a great team victory."
De'Vion Moore scored two touchdowns for the Tigers, who drew 95 yards in penalties but still dominated their archrivals. No. 16 Nebraska's victory over Colorado on Friday had made it impossible for the Tigers to finish higher than second in the Big 12 North.
The Jayhawks (3-9, 1-7) ended a miserable season in Gill's first year as head coach and have lost 16 of 19 after opening 2009 with five straight wins.
"When you have spring practice, you have an idea," said Gill, who replaced the gruff, volatile Mark Mangino with a softer-voiced, player-friendly approach. "But once they play in a game you get an idea of where the team is at. Now they have played in twelve games, and I have been assessing everybody."
Blaine Gabbert directed scoring drives on Missouri's first two possessions and later scored on a 1-yard run himself, sending the Tigers into the bowl season with losses only to Nebraska and Texas Tech on back-to-back weekends.
Missouri rolled up 397 yards of total offense while recording the fourth 10-win season in its 119-year history and giving coach Gary Pinkel his 150th career win.
"It's great to get 10 wins, it's great to beat KU, and I'm excited to see where we go from here," said Pinkel. "We'll see what happens."
Just where the Tigers will go bowling seemed to be anybody's guess.
"We've been doing a lot of things in terms of sending information out to all the bowls," Pinkel said.
On Missouri's first possession, Gabbert hit T.J. Moe for 16 yards and then got 19 yards on a quarterback keeper to help set up Moore's 3-yard touchdown run. Moore also capped Missouri's day with a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:56 to play, following Carl Gettis' interception of Quin Mecham.
"We've worked hard, fought adversity, and won big games," Gabbert said. "I'd like to have two of those games back, but in the end we got 10 wins, we're the fourth team in Mizzou history to get 10 wins in the regular season, so we're pretty happy and all the bowl scenarios will fall."
The Jayhawks finally got on the board after Bradley McDougald intercepted Gabbert's pass in the third quarter. Three times in the 13-play, 46-yard drive, Webb converted third downs, including when he was forced out of the pocket on third-and 7 and scrambled 8 yards to the 3. James Sims scored on the next play, breaking a scoring drought of 100 minutes, 29 seconds for the Jayhawks. Webb was 7 of 20 for 45 yards.
That made it 21-7, but the Tigers came right back. Gabbert finished a drive with a TD on a 1-yard plunge.
He was an efficient 16 of 26 for 179 yards.
"That quarterback is really good," Kansas defensive back Chris Harris said. "He doesn't make many turnovers. They came and did everything we thought they were going to do. It's obviously been a tough season."
After Kansas lost 19 yards on its first possession, Moe scored on an end-around, becoming the eighth Missouri player with a rushing touchdown this year.
After Kansas failed on fourth-and-3 in the third quarter, Kendial Lawrence made it 21-0 with a 21-yard run.
|De'Vion Moore scores on Missouri's first drive, then caps the Tigers' output with a fourth-quarter touchdown. (AP)|
|MO||De'Vion Moore 3 yd run (Grant Ressel kick)|
|MO||T.J. Moe 2 yd run (Grant Ressel kick)|
|MO||Kendial Lawrence 31 yd run (Grant Ressel kick)|
|KS||James Sims 3 yd run (Jacob Branstetter kick)|
|MO||Blaine Gabbert 1 yd run (Grant Ressel kick)|
|MO||De'Vion Moore 5 yd run (Grant Ressel kick)|
|Third Down Efficiency||4-15||9-16|
|Fourth Down Efficiency||1-3||1-1|
|Kick Return Yds||87||40|
|Punt Return Yds||11||11|
|Time of Poss.||26:53||33:7|
|KS: James Sims 21-82, Deshaun Sands 6-35, Angus Quigley 1-5, Jordan Webb 8--26|
|MO: Kendial Lawrence 10-75, Henry Josey 7-49, De'Vion Moore 10-38, Blaine Gabbert 11-31, Marcus Murphy 4-11, Jerrell Jackson 2-7, James Franklin 1-5, T.J. Moe 1-2|
|KS: Jordan Webb 7-20-45-2, Quinn Mecham 0-4-0-1|
|MO: Blaine Gabbert 16-26-179-2|
|KS: Johnathan Wilson 1-11, Tim Biere 1-9, Kale Pick 1-9, Chris Omigie 1-8, James Sims 1-4, Daymond Patterson 1-4, Angus Quigley 1-0|
|MO: T.J. Moe 5-83, Michael Egnew 5-35, Jerrell Jackson 3-33, Kendial Lawrence 1-24, Wes Kemp 1-7, Henry Josey 1--3|