BIG 12 CONFERENCE
Kansas (3-6, 1-4 Big 12) at
No. 9 Nebraska (8-1, 4-1), 7 p.m. (PPV)
Line — Nebraska by 35.
Series Record — Nebraska leads 90-23-3.
Last Meeting — 2009, Nebraska 31-17.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Nebraska is closing in on the Big 12 North title and can’t afford to slip up against a team the likes of the Jayhawks. The Huskers have a dangerous road game at Texas A&M next week. The Jayhawks healed their damaged psyche a bit with a historic comeback against Colorado last week, but they finish with Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Missouri.
QB Quinn Mecham vs. Nebraska defense. Mecham, who’ll make his third start, led KU’s 28-point, fourth-quarter comeback against Colorado and completed all 11 of his passes for 165 yards in the second half. It’ll take all he can muster to keep this offense moving against Nebraska.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kansas: RB James Sims has posted three 100-yard rushing games. His 558 yards rushing this season is the most by a KU freshman since Clark Green had 813 in 2002. The Jayhawks need Sims to find his rhythm early to help keep Nebraska’s offense off the field.
Nebraska: QB Taylor Martinez sat out the second half against Missouri and all but one play against Iowa State because of a sprained right ankle. Coaches said they expect him to play, but they said the same thing early in the week before the Iowa State game.
FACTS & FIGURES
The game marks the end of the nation’s longest continuous series, at 105 games. Nebraska goes to the Big Ten next year. ... Nebraska LB Lavonte David had 10 tackles against Iowa State for his fifth double-figure tackle game. ... Kansas allows 34.4 points a game and ranks among the 12 worst FBS teams in rushing defense and pass efficiency defense.
LAWRENCE (AP) — One can only imagine how emotional Turner Gill’s return to Nebraska will be.
Seriously — one can only imagine. Gill won’t say.
The Kansas coach and former Nebraska quarterback insists the spotlight should shine only on the players Saturday, when he leads his Jayhawks onto the hallowed field in Lincoln where he starred for three of the greatest years in Cornhuskers history.
“The game is not about me,” said the first-year Kansas coach. “It’s about the players. That’s the truth of it all. I have tremendous respect for Nebraska and the people and coaches, everything about it. But this is about Nebraska playing Kansas and we’re trying to do the best we can to go out and win a football game.”
People who know the cool, reserved Gill are not surprised at this approach to what ought to be one of the most memorable days of his career. As a player in the early 1980s, he was always stoic and composed while helping his coach and close friend Tom Osborne win three straight Big Eight championships.
With Gill at the control of a high-powered offense that included Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier, Nebraska went 28-2 in three seasons, including 20-0 in conference play. He is still immensely popular throughout the state.
“I’m sure he’s going to have some emotions going into this game,” said Chuck Long, Gill’s offensive coordinator. “We’ll never see them. But I’m sure there’ll be maybe an extra jump in his step going into the game. I’m sure it’s going to hit him when he walks on the field in front of those fans.”
Gill later served as an assistant coach at Nebraska, and even asked his old coach to be best man at his wedding. The two have remained close. Osborne, who now oversees Nebraska as athletic director, called him this week. He agrees that seeing Gill as an enemy instead of an ally is going to feel odd.
“It will be a little different, but competition is competition,” Osborne said. “You can have competition without animosity. Sometimes you have the best boxing matches with your brother. You try to beat them, but when it’s over, it’s over.”
Something Gill is willing to discuss is his admiration for Osborne and the Nebraska football tradition. Both as a player and assistant coach, he wrote notes to himself about what he observed, what made the program click. He still has those notes.
“That’s part of the plan and makeup I have, from coach Osborne, what I saw, what I witnessed, what I played with, being a part of what he did,” Gill said. “I think that’s the reason why Nebraska consistently won over many, many years is how you go about developing relationships with people. The continuity with the staff. Keeping the same plan and believing in what you really believe in. Be yourself.”
“We will always be good friends no matter what happens, but, naturally, we would like to see Nebraska play very well on Saturday because that’s the school I represent,” Osborne said. “So that will be an interesting circumstance, and I am certainly glad that we won’t be playing him after this, at least for a long time, because it is a little bit of an awkward situation.”
Gill’s players know that no matter how he tries to downplay it all, Saturday has to be a special day for him.
“That’s a great atmosphere in college football,” KU offensive lineman Brad Thorson said. “I’m glad I get to go into battle with him and he’s on our sideline, not theirs. It will probably be emotional, but he does a great job of approaching the game, at least to this point, very much under control. And I think he’ll have that same mentality in Lincoln. I expect him to be the same guy he always is.”