COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - If not for a change of heart, Blaine Gabbert may still be starting in Thursday's Nebraska-Missouri game, just for the other team.
Missouri's sophomore quarterback initially made a verbal commitment to play at Nebraska during his senior year at Parkway West High School in suburban St. Louis in 2007. But weeks later, Gabbert changed his mind, citing uncertainty after the firing of athletic director Steve Pederson.
Instead, Gabbert went to his home state team. He spent last season backing up Chase Daniel.
So far, his first season as a starter has been a success. Gabbert has thrown for 1,161 yards and 11 touchdowns as Missouri (4-0) has moved up to No. 24.
The Cornhuskers (3-1) are doing fine, too, heading into the Thursday night Big 12-opening matchup in Columbia, Mo. Nebraska is ranked 21st. And Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee is ranked third in the conference in passing efficiency. Gabbert is ranked first in the Big 12 and fourth nationally.
Gabbert, who is 6-foot-5, was heavily recruited out of high school. He was ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback by recruiting Web site Rivals.com, and originally wanted to play under pass-happy Nebraska coach Bill Callahan.
But Callahan's future became cloudy following the firing of Pederson, who hired him. Callahan was eventually fired, too, after a 5-7 season.
Less than three weeks after backing out of Nebraska, Gabbert committed to Missouri. He said that long-ago decision isn't even on his mind.
"I'm not even focused on that at all," Gabbert said. "I'm a Mizzou Tiger."
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has adopted Gabbert's philosophy on the situation.
"I haven't talked to him about it at all," Pinkel said. "I'm just glad he's here."
Pinkel said the thing he's been most impressed with is the fact that Gabbert has yet to throw an interception.
"I've been impressed with his poise," Pinkel said. "He's a bright guy and he works real hard at it."
Gabbert will need that poise against a Nebraska defense that has allowed just 28 points so far.
"It's about getting back and getting focused," Pinkel said as Missouri returns from a bye week. "Every experience for a quarterback helps them get better."
After decades of dominating Missouri, Nebraska now finds itself seeking revenge for recent stinging defeats, including last season's 52-17 loss in Lincoln, Neb.
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