|Heisman hopeful leads Missouri into Kansas showdown|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 19 November 2007 15:36|
While getting some ice cream during a recruiting visit to Missouri, fans told him if he could just beat Kansas four times his career with the Tigers would be a success.
``They said, 'Beat KU all four years and we'll love you,''' Daniel said.
For once, beating KU means a lot more than bragging rights and a bass drum trophy. The winner of this unlikely marquee matchup at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Saturday night stays in the national championship picture and advances to the Big 12 championship game.
Even Daniel, Missouri's Heisman Trophy hopeful, is amazed at the progress both schools have made. Neither has ever won the Big 12 North, and now they're playing in one of the biggest games of the season.
``It's a big game because we made it a big game,'' Daniel added. ``Kansas made it a big game.''
Missouri (10-1) has 10 regular-season victories for the first time in school history, the No. 3 ranking is its best since the 1960 team was No. 1 for a week and the No. 4 ranking in the BCS is a high-water mark.
Headed into the 116th renewal of the nation's second-longest rivalry, Kansas (11-0) has achieved even more with a No. 2 ranking in both the AP poll and the BCS that are both bests in school history. The Jayhawks, picked to finish a typical fourth in the Big 12 North, are second in the nation with a 45.8-point average and second in scoring defense at 14.2 points per game.
``Everybody's going to remember the 2007 Missouri-Kansas game, I guarantee you that,'' Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. ``Forever.''
Daniel has a lot to do with the Tigers getting to this point, leading an offense that is in the top 10 in the NCAA in virtually all meaningful categories. Missouri is sixth in the nation with a 42-point average, fifth with an average of 334 yards per game and Daniel has 30 touchdown passes with only nine interceptions.
The Tigers broke the previous school record for points two weeks ago and are the only school in the country to score at least 30 points in every game, with Daniel using a host of options. Jeremy Maclin broke the freshman record for all-purpose yards last week, tight ends Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman are both NFL prospects, and Tony Temple has run for eight touchdowns.
``That's the hardest thing about my job,'' Daniel said. ``I also have the best job in America because I get to distribute the ball to these playmakers, and they're making the plays.''
His Kansas counterpart, sophomore Todd Reesing, has a similar pedigree with a school-record 205 passes without an interception. Reesing hit 19 of his first 20 passes for four touchdowns in last week's 45-7 trouncing of Iowa State, and could also merit Heisman attention.
``I don't see why he's not up there,'' Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer said. ``I'd say the only reason he's not up there is because he doesn't go to one of the glamour schools.''
Kansas coach Mark Mangino is not openly campaigning for Reesing, who was not the starter until he ousted incumbent Kerry Meier in August.
``You have to really study the Heisman and who's being considered to understand it, and I haven't,'' Mangino said. ``Here's the best compliment I can pay to Todd: I wouldn't trade him for anybody else. I wouldn't trade him for any other player who's being mentioned for that.''
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has often said the same thing, and last week the Tigers unveiled ChaseTheHeisman.com, detailing Daniel's exploits. One of the junior's best assets has been an unflappable nature, and the last two victories are examples.
M twice cut its deficit to five points in the second half before Daniel led a putaway surge, and Missouri stretched a three-point lead to 24 on Saturday at Kansas State before the Wildcats got a late touchdown in a 49-32 victory that was the Tigers' first in Manhattan, Kan., since 1989.
``I think it's just me staying calm and our offense staying calm, and remembering what Coach Pinkel says about winning the game in the fourth quarter,'' Daniel said. ``We've been in this position before, and we know how to react to it this time.''
Daniel is a big football fan as well as one of the top quarterbacks in the country, so he's well aware of the Heisman talk. He also knows it's about what you've done lately.
``You just can't focus on it,'' Daniel said. ``It would be wise for us to concentrate on preparing as well as we can and if I'm supposed to win an award, I will.''