KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Gary Pinkel hopes that Missouri and Kansas will keep their 120-year-old rivalry alive even after the Tigers depart the Big 12 for the SEC.
It's hard to blame him. The Tigers have made a habit of hammering their bitter adversary.
James Franklin rebounded from three early interceptions to toss two second-half touchdown passes Saturday, and the Tigers rallied for a 24-10 victory, their third straight in the series.
"This thing can continue if the schools decide they want to," said Pinkel, who returned to the sideline after serving a one-game suspension following a drunken driving arrest.
"It's not too complex, I don't think. You can make it work. I wish they were willing to do that. We'd like to keep this rivalry going, and hopefully people will get together and do what's right."
Kansas has been noncommittal about playing Missouri out of conference.
There was a meager crowd of 47,059 on hand at Arrowhead Stadium to see what could be the finale of a series that began in 1891, and is second in games played only to Wisconsin-Minnesota among major college football rivalries. Those who were left on a cold, dreary afternoon - mostly clad in black and gold - began chanting "SEC! SEC!" in the closing minutes.
The Tigers (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) improved their bowl prospects by winning their third straight to finish the regular season. Pinkel believes that will be good enough to land a decent destination, even though he acknowledged that Missouri won't be high on the Big 12's list of priorities.
"When you're 4-5, you have the integrity of the program to protect," Pinkel said. "We've done enough around here in recent years, becoming bowl eligible and all those things is important."
While school officials at Kansas (2-10, 0-9) mull whether to play Missouri again, their first order of business will be to decide whether Turner Gill returns next season as the coach.
Gill is just 5-19 in two seasons in charge, and 10 straight losses to finish this season - many in lopsided fashion - may have sealed his fate. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has said he will decide soon about Gill, who has three years and $6 million left on his contract.
"I do think we made good progress," said Gill, adding that he had not yet spoken with Zenger about his job. "I guess it may be we have more to go than we anticipated, including myself, coming in. I just think we can still get some things done here and move this program the right direction."
Jordan Webb finished with 60 yards passing and two interceptions for the Jayhawks (2-10), who managed only 137 yards of total offense. James Sims carried 15 times for 35 yards.
"We worked hard, and unfortunately things didn't fall our way," Webb said.
They did early on, when Franklin was the Jayhawks' most valuable player.
The Missouri quarterback, who had gone four games without throwing an interception, was picked off by Tyler Patmon midway through the first quarter.
On their ensuing series, Franklin was pressured by Toben Opurum and threw a wobbly pass that was intercepted by Greg Brown. He returned it 20 yards to the Tigers 15, but the Jayhawks could manage only a field goal when three plays netted them minus-1 yard.
Franklin's third pick was the most costly.
Facing third-and-16 from the 47, the sophomore quarterback threw a pass that was undercut by Kansas safety Bradley McDougald. He started up the Missouri sideline, bobbing and weaving his way through traffic before sprinting the rest of the way for a 57-yard touchdown return.
The first pick-six for the Jayhawks since Sept. 19, 2009, made it 10-0.
"My teammates and coaches were telling me, 'It's all right, don't worry about it,'" Franklin said. "That's what gave me confidence, because all my teammates were there supporting me."
The Tigers finally got something going on offense later in the second quarter, marching 59 yards in 5:12 - largely on the ground - before Trey Barrow kicked a 23-yard field goal.
The Jayhawks looked like a two-win team on their first possession of the second half, when three plays netted minus-2 yards. When they tried to punt it away, the snap nearly went over the head of Ron Doherty, giving Missouri the ball at the Kansas 14-yard line.
It took Kendial Lawrence only three carries to tie the game at 10.
After the Jayhawks were forced to punt, the Tigers went 93 yards for a score; the big plays were a 22-yard completion to Jerrell Jackson, a 20-yard run by T.J. Moe and a 25-yard TD pass from Franklin to Wes Kemp in the back of the end zone. The pass was initially called incomplete, but the officials reviewed it and ruled that Kemp's feet came down inbounds.
Franklin hit Marcus Lucas for a 53-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, at which point the side of Arrowhead clad in red and blue began clearing out - quite possibly for the final time against Missouri.
"I hope that doesn't happen. There's got to be a way to work it out," Pinkel said. "Why can't it work? Just decide that it's important."