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Big 12 cellar-dwellers Missouri, Kansas having early success

9/15/2003 - College Football

DALLAS -- Missouri or Kansas have finished at the bottom of
the Big 12 North Division standings in each of the past four
seasons.

The perennial cellar-dwellers haven't had a chance yet this
season to improve their conference standing -- that won't happen
until they play their Big 12 opener against each other Sept. 27.
But they are having some early success.

Missouri is 3-0 for the first time since 1981. The Tigers are
also ranked 23rd, their first appearance in The Associated Press
Top 25 poll since the final poll of the 1998 season when they were
21st after going 8-5 with a win at the Insight.com Bowl.

Kansas (2-1) has already matched its win total from last season
with consecutive wins, scoring more than 40 points in wins over
Mountain West Conference teams UNLV and Wyoming, after an
eight-game losing streak.

The next step for Tigers coach Gary Pinkel and Kansas coach Mark
Mangino is to see how their teams handle their good fortune.

"It's important to have a quick start. There were some things
we wanted accomplish ... teach our players how to win," said
Pinkel, who is in his third season. "I've been there before, our
players haven't. The big thing we have to do is deal with the
psychology of how to handle winning. ... Will the work ethic be the
same? Will the mental prep be the same? I have to make the right
moves."

Missouri followed its 1998 success by finishing last in the
six-team North Division in 1999 and 2000, and fifth the last two
seasons, ahead of only Kansas.

The Tigers, who followed a season-opening win over Illinois with
consecutive wins over Division I-AA teams, play Saturday against
Middle Tennessee State (0-3).

After its first consecutive wins since 2000, Kansas plays
Division I-AA Jacksonville State, a game that Mangino said Monday
that his team won't take for granted.

"We've worked so hard to get to this point and I don't think
our kids want to jeopardize that," said Mangino, in his second
season. "They've had a taste of losing, and it's very bitter. I
think they enjoy the sweetness of winning. Winning feels good, you
want to keep that feeling as long as you can."

Kansas has never finished in the upper half of the division
standings, its best showing fourth place (5-7, 3-5 Big 12) in 1999.

The Jayhawks were 2-10 in their first season under Mangino,
winless in the conference and serving as the victim for the end of
Baylor's 29-game Big 12 losing streak. They entered 2003 with seven
straight losses, so Mangino is ecstatic about two straight wins.

"It helps our kids develop that confidence," Mangino said.
"We can talk about confidence and all of those things, but nothing
builds confidence like winning. We know our toughest games are
still ahead."<

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^HAPPY TO RUN:@ Oklahoma State have 3,000-yard passer Josh
Fields and Big 12 receiving record holder Rashaun Woods back from
last season. But the Cowboys are gaining more yards running the
ball than passing it.

The Cowboys have averaged 398 total yards a game, 228 rushing
and 170 passing.

"What teams are doing, they're paying so much attention to our
passing attack that our running lanes are wide open," said
Oklahoma State coach Les Miles. "If people keep playing as far off
as that, we look forward to running the ball."

Tatum Bell (143 yards and four TDs) and Seymore Shaw (107 yards
and a TD) both ran for more than 100 yards in a 42-3 win over
Southwest Missouri State on Saturday night.

Bell, a 1,000-yard rusher a season ago, is the Big 12's top
runner at 148.3 yards per game and seven TDs. Woods is still sixth
in the Big 12 with 17 catches for 270 yards.<

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^HURRICANE WATCH:@ After having last weekend off, Texas Tech and
Texas A&M both are preparing for the games on the East Coast, which
is bracing for Hurricane Isabel.

The Aggies are scheduled to play Thursday night at eighth-ranked
Virginia Tech. Texas Tech is supposed to play at North Carolina
State on Saturday.

Forecasters have said the hurricane could hit anywhere from
North Carolina to New Jersey Thursday or Friday with sustained wind
of up to 130 mph.

"We can't worry too much about that. We have to get ready to
play the game," said A&M coach Dennis Franchione, adding that he
wasn't aware of any changes in travel plans or the game schedule.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said he wasn't worried at this
point: "Not at all, what would it change?"<

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^QUOTABLE:@ "People will stay mad about Arkansas. We're
disappointed about it, it sure wasn't good. There is nothing we can
do to change it, so the coaches and players have to go back to work
because you don't want Arkansas to beat you twice." -- Texas coach
MackBrown on rebounding from a 38-28 loss to Arkansas.<

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^QUICK HITS:@ Oklahoma LB Lance Mitchell was scheduled for an
MRI on his injured left knee. After Saturday's win over Fresno
State, coach Bob Stoops said the injury looked severe. "We're
still sort of holding out hope. He had virtually no swelling and no
soreness. We're hoping it's not quite what it seems," Stoops said
Monday. ... Baylor DE Khari Long tore a ligament in his left knee
and is out indefinitely. ... Colorado coach Gary Barnett was
excited about the prospects of his defense before the season, but
it has given up at least 35 points twice. "It has been a puzzle, I
guess I misread them," he said. ... Sixth-ranked Kansas State gave
up the first TD to I-AA UMass before winning 38-7. "Once reality
set in, the players responded quite well," said Wildcats coach
Bill Snyder. ... Nebraska is 3-0 for the seventh year in a row. ...
Iowa State has an open date this weekend.