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Friday, September 15, 2006

Mayer: Fridays can be cruel

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Friday night lights? Seems everyone around here is playing football tonight. Seldom has Kansas University seen action on this night of the week.

But this erratic KU team certainly doesn't want to duplicate a Friday nightmare the Jayhawks suffered through in 1957, while Lawrence High was burying Argentine, 57-0, at Haskell Stadium. KU was rag-dolled 48-6 in 80-degree weather in Miami as LHS, with John Hadl, Andy Graham, Larry Hatfield and Co., cruised in almost embarrassing fashion in 30-degree temperatures.

The public address announcer at Haskell would announce the status for KU-Miami each time Al Woolard's Lions scored. The crowd would cheer LHS, then groan about Kansas in its fourth and final year under Chuck Mather. A 5-5, 145-pound quarterback, Fran Curci, orchestrated Miami's rout.

First off, whether the current Jayhawks are aware of it, they have a modest two-game victory string for televised games after last season's wins over Iowa State and Houston. More good news: They can stretch that to 4-0 by upsetting Toledo tonight and handling South Florida on Sept. 23.

The bad news: KU has a shabby record for televised games. Before the Iowa State win, the Jayhawks had dropped eight straight on TV. In recent years, KU has had a lot of four-to-six-loss strings on video. Producers so often used KU as a sacrificial lamb for

ratings-boosters like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas and Notre Dame.

But this is now. Kansas can boost its ego and bowl hopes immensely by beating Toledo and South Florida. Then who knows what might happen in Game Five at Nebraska?

Rewind to '57. Kansas was 1-4-1 after the Miami debacle, and coach Mather was in the process of resigning before he was fired. Caramba! The faltering Jayhawks went to Nebraska and stunned the Huskers, 14-12, before a crowd estimated at only 30,000, honest. Then the Jayhawks closed out a 4-0 stretch run with home wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma State - and Missouri, 9-7, on television yet!

At 2-0 right now, KU needs only to win five of its final 10 games to be assured of a reasonably decent bowl game. That's definitely reachable. But the Rockets and the Bulls MUST be beaten. KU controls its own fate and will have nobody to blame but itself if it blows this golden chance.

Gotta rehash a little of that 57-0 Lawrence-Argentine romp, in '57, where Hadl, Graham and Hatfield got substantial help from another unbeaten squad with the likes of Phil Kipp, Marvin Pine, Roger Scott, Dennis Cawley, John Mull and Les Nesmith. That was No. 17 in the latest LHS win string.

Hadl, then a halfback, handled the ball only five times, scoring three times on runs, throwing for a touchdown and having a long scoring run called back by a penalty. Lawrence exploded so fast it had three touchdown before it even registered its first first down. The starters saw combat for only nine plays, and every Lion who wasn't in traction or the ICU saw action, lots of it.

People like to kid quarterback Larry (No Arm) Hatfield as the guy who did little more than hand off to Hadl and Graham, who also later starred at KU. Give the kid credit; The Hat had one game where he was 4-for-4 as a passer. He just wanted to stay in Hadl's good graces, where he still is.

Now Lawrence High desperately needs a victory tonight, and KU is an underdog at Toledo. May this be a Friday night when both of them realize their urgent dreams.

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