November 8, 2008

K-State regroups, heads to Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- No secret Kansas State already needed to be at its best to have a chance at No. 13 Missouri. Now comes the real question: Will the Wildcats show up? With the three-year Ron Prince era down to 14 days if the squad doesn't go to a bowl, the Wildcats must seek to curb their floundering ways. But they'll be unwelcome guests as the North-contending Tigers in their home finale celebrate their most accomplished senior class in the school's history.

While the Wildcats' state-of-mind remains uncertain three days after it was announced Prince wouldn't be retained for a fourth season, the division co-leading Tigers carry high hopes but heavy hearts into the 6 p.m. kickoff at Faurot Field.

Missouri's 23-member senior class will post its 35th victory to add to its record four-year total if it can defeat K-State for the third straight time, something the Tigers haven't accomplished in the series since 1988-90.

The inability to beat Missouri, along with division rivals Kansas and Nebraska, hounded Prince in his first two seasons. An embarrassing 52-21 loss at Kansas last weekend made him 0-7 against the foes, adding to the mounting speculation that the 39-year-old would be terminated at the end of the season -- if not before.

Prince announced his firing to his team during a Wednesday meeting and prior to a news conference, during which he stated several times that the team would focus on the task at hand.

But exactly what the Wildcats, 4-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12, do on the field against the Tigers, 7-2 and 3-2, is anybody's guess for the regionally televised game on Fox Sports Net.

"We are going to continue to practice and train to accomplish what we need to accomplish, which is to become bowl eligible," said Prince, 16-18, and whose team is mired in a three-game losing streak. "Ultimately, it's about being able to go on the road and get a win, then we have two home games -- that was really the message (to the team).

"Based on where we (were) in the course of the week, I wanted to make sure that keeping our focus on Missouri is ultimately most important."

K-State has focused on its problems throughout the season, but to no avail behind a defense that ranks 108th in giving up 444.7 yards per game and 33.7 points, 107th in the nation. The Wildcats, who have lost seven of the last eight on the road, face a hefty task as they look to avoid surrendering 50 points in three-straight outings for the first time in 21 years.

Missouri has won 19 of its last 21 at home and ranks fourth nationally, averaging 45.6 points and sixth with 514.1 yards per contest. The Tigers handed the Wildcats a 49-32 loss on their Senior Day a year ago in Manhattan. In front of a sold-out crowd that is expected to exceed 68.349, Missouri this time could hand the Wildcats a piece of futility.

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