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November 17, 2007
MANHATTAN, Kan. ? Trotting off the field after a resounding, historic victory, Missouri players were serenaded by a group of shirtless, chest-painted Kansas State fans: "Beat KU! Beat KU! Beat KU!"
After weeks of listening to the build up and trying not to look ahead, it was a sweet sound for the Tigers, who can finally shift their attention to next week's showdown with rival Kansas.
Jeremy Maclin scored three touchdowns and had 252 total yards to set the NCAA single-season freshman record for all-purpose yardage, helping No. 6 Missouri set up one of the biggest college football games this season with a 49-32 victory over Kansas State on Saturday.
"A storm is coming," Missouri defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams said. "I don't know who's bringing it, but a storm is coming."
Missouri (10-1, 6-1 Big 12) entered the weekend ranked fifth in the BCS, needing wins over Kansas State and Kansas, No. 3 in the BCS, to remain in the national championship hunt.
The Tigers took care of Kansas State (5-6, 3-5) by winning in Manhattan for the first time since 1989, and are sure to move up in the BCS standings after No. 2 Oregon's loss to Arizona on Thursday night.
"We're excited about the opportunity," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "That place is going to be wild."
The game next Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., has been billed as the biggest in the history of the border rivalry - provided both teams beat unranked opponents this week.
The Tigers almost didn't keep their end of the bargain, struggling offensively and allowing a blocked punt return for a touchdown in a tighter-than-expected first half.
But Missouri pulled away early in the third quarter, with Chase Daniel throwing a pair of touchdown passes to turn a 21-18 lead into a rout. The victory secured the second 10-win season in school history - first since 1960 - and gave the Tigers six conference wins for the first time since 1969.
More importantly, it kept up Missouri's hopes for the first national title in its 117-year history of playing football.
"I clearly feel after today that we played a team that has a chance, from a talent standpoint, to win the national championship," Kansas State coach Ron Prince said.
Maclin made sure the Tigers still have that a chance.
The redshirt freshman caught an 8-yard TD pass 67 seconds into the game, making a sliding grab in the end zone two plays after William Moore intercepted Josh Freeman's second pass. Maclin followed Brooks Rossman's 18-yard field goal by breaking two tackles and streaking down the sideline for a 99-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.
It was Missouri's first kick return for a touchdown since Ricky Doby scored on a reverse against Oklahoma State in 1982, the nation's longest drought.
Maclin then put the game all but out of reach midway through the third quarter, somehow sneaking up the middle unnoticed for a 44-yard touchdown catch that put Missouri up 35-18. That gave him 2,201 all-purpose yards for the season, 175 more than Terrell Willis of Rutgers had in 1993.
"It feels good - that's what all that preparation goes toward," said Maclin, who finished with nine catches for 143 yards. "When you do all that stuff, you can go out there and win a game, set you up for big-time games like next week against Kansas."
Kansas State made it tougher than the Tigers would have liked, at least in the first half.
James Johnson ran for 172 yards - 119 in the first quarter - and Freeman passed for 243 yards, giving him 3,097 for the season and breaking Michael Bishop's school record set in 1998.
But what kept the Wildcats close was defense. Kansas State allowed one sustained drive and held Missouri, which averaged 514 total yards through nine games, to 145 in the first 30 minutes.
Missouri led 21-18 at halftime, but it wasn't because of the defense: One score came on Maclin's kick return and another, Maclin's 8-yard catch from Daniel, came after an interception at the Kansas State 15 on the third play of the game.
But the Wildcats couldn't sustain the pressure in the second half, allowing four touchdowns in their third straight loss.
"Missouri showed their true stripes," Kansas State linebacker Ian Campbell said. "They weren't going to let a little roll or a little momentum swing take everything away from them. Us not being able to come through and capitalize on some of the things that we had going for us shows the reason that we're not ranked No. 3, 4 or 5 in the country."
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