By DOUG TUCKER
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Unthinkable in September, Missouri is one victory away from playing for its first national championship.
Chase Daniel threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns and the third-ranked Tigers ruined No. 2 Kansas' unbeaten season Saturday night with a 36-28 victory in the most important football game either school ever played.
As Big 12 North champions, the surprising Tigers (11-1, 7-1 Big 12) will head to San Antonio and a date in the Big 12 championship game with No. 10 Oklahoma, the only team to beat them this season. A victory there will almost certainly propel Missouri into the BCS national championship game on Jan. 7.
``I'm excited about that, but we didn't get here thinking about it,'' Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. ``You know, we had to win five straight games to have a chance to play in this one for the divisional championship. I'm just so proud of everybody.''
Todd Reesing's 5-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Henry with 2:03 drew the Jayhawks within six points and Missouri's Tony Temple was stopped on third down to give the Jayhawks (11-1, 7-1) one last slim chance.
Lorenzo Williams put the finishing touches on it for Mizzou, sacking Reesing in the end zone for a safety with 12 seconds left. The Kansas quarterback walked off dejected, a muddy divot stuck in his face mask.
The game between the bitter archrivals drew 80,537, the second-biggest crowd in the 35-year history of Arrowhead Stadium.
The Tigers, who had never won 11 games in a season, should become No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time since 1960 and figure to be no worse than No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
On Friday, No. 1 LSU lost 50-48 in three overtimes to Arkansas, putting the top ranking and top spot in the BCS standings up for grabs. No. 4 West Virginia bombed No. 20 Connecticut 66-21 earlier Saturday and figures to move up at least one spot to second in the BCS standings when they come out Sunday. West Virginia finishes its season against Pittsburgh next week.
Kansas came into the game second nationally averaging almost 46 points a game, but fell behind 21-0 before Reesing finally got the Jayhawks into the end zone. Scott Webb missed two field goals in the second quarter for the Jayhawks, who had been an even bigger surprise than Missouri up to this point and were gunning for what would have been their first national championship as well.
In what had been billed as a Heisman Trophy subplot in the 116th meeting of the rivals, Daniel was the star. He went 40-for-49 with no interceptions and outplayed his Kansas counterpart.
Reesing had thrown a school-record 205 straight passes without an interception but was picked off twice, each one leading to a Missouri touchdown. He finished 28-of-49 for 349 yards and two touchdowns.
Temple rushed for 98 yards for Missouri, which did not break into the national rankings until reaching No. 25 after the third week. Danario Alexander caught eight passes for 117 yards, including a 16-yard gain on third-and-14 with 6:46 to play after Reesing's touchdown pass to Dexton Fields pulled Kansas to 31-21.
A moment later, Jeff Wolfert kicked his second field goal, a 43-yarder, for a 34-21 lead with 3:31 to go.
Daniel managed to avoid turnovers but the Tigers were flagged 14 times for 144 yards.
The Tigers had only one first down on their first three possessions but finally broke through with a 78-yard touchdown drive once Daniel found his groove.
Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 1 on his fourth possession, Daniel hit tight end Martin Rucker on a quick slant for the night's first touchdown with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
Reesing seemed to find his touch after a poor first quarter when he hit Kerry Meier for a 39-yard gain on the first play of the second quarter. That was his school-record 213th straight pass without an interception. But on the next play, safety William Moore stepped in front of Fields at the 2 and made the pick. It was his seventh interception of the season, tying the Missouri record of NFL Hall of Famer defensive back Roger Wehrli, and gave all the momentum right back to the Tigers.
Temple immediately got 17 yards and then, after a false start penalty on the Tigers, Daniel began connecting with Alexander. An 11-yard pass moved the ball to the Missouri 47. Then the Jayhawks, one of the nation's least-penalized teams, were charged with defensive holding after stopping Missouri on third-and-12 from the 40.
Given new life, Daniel found Alexander for 20 yards and then on third and goal from the 11, the junior quarterback danced away from pressure and fired a pass to Alexander as he fell into the corner of the end zone, capping a 13-play, 98-yard drive.
Twice Kansas, which had scored on 22 straight trips to the red zone, got to the Missouri 16. But both times, Webb missed field goals.
Reesing threw behind Henry, who turned and tipped the ball right into the hands of Missouri's Castine Bridges. He returned it 49 yards to the Kansas 40, and seven plays later Jimmy Jackson plowed over from the 1 for a 21-0 Missouri lead.
Brandon McAnderson's 1-yard touchdown run finally got Kansas on the board with 7:21 left in the third.
Daniel responded with his best drive of the night, going 8-for-8 for 68 yards in a 13-play, 69-yard drive. Freshman Derrick Washington took a 3-yard swing pass into the end zone for the score.
Reesing's 5-yard run on fourth-and-2 from the 5 was answered by Wolfert's 43-yard field goal for a 31-14 Missouri lead.
Tommy Saunders had eight catches for 82 yards for Missouri while Fields led the Jayhawks with eight receptions for 116 yards.
Source: ncaafootball.com; Photo Credit: Mizzou Media Relations