Kansas football fever may be the most intense right now than it's been for 47 years. A 12-1 record and a major bowl victory can do that for a program which has had so many convolutions since its debut in 1890.
Max Rife, Jerry Rogers, Jerry Waugh, Floyd Temple and John Hadl were around for that wildly anticipated 1961 season. They'll attest how the joint jumped. The KU Nation had savored its storied '60 campaign (7-2-1) and figured '61 would be even better. It was, sort of (7-3-1). The '08 preseason atmosphere crackles as much as it did then.
Why not? The '08 Jayhawks have battle-proven entities such as quarterback Todd Reesing, wide receiver Kerry Meier, running back Jake Sharp, center Ryan Cantrell; senior defensive contributors such as Russell Brorsen, Joe Mortensen, Mike Rivera, Darrell Stuckey, James Holt, John Larson, Kendrick Harper.
These are not just phantom names somebody threw into a sack and shook up for fun. They and others on the KU roster are real people fans know about, appreciate and look forward to watching. Coach Mark Mangino and Co. have assembled able, motivated people with a stick-to-it-ive attitude to produce another tremendous season.
Names make news. That old journalism adage surely holds true here. Frenzied fans really are eager to be involved with these promising Jayhawks.
If KU can get past menacing South Florida and register a 4-0 start, four games will determine whether the Jayhawks go 8-4 or better - Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas and Missouri. Beat one of them, it's a nine-win regular season; two and it's 10-2. Three, lordy, it's another BCS bowl miracle and please, gridiron gods, make one of those victims Missouri.
Little wonder KU zealots were as fired-up about 1961 as they seem to be about 2008. KU had a brilliant 1960. Its only losses were to Syracuse and Iowa, both rated No. 1 at the time. There was an Oklahoma tie when KU panicked and blew a field goal that would have won. Then came that 23-7 romp over unbeaten Missouri to close the season. MU legislated a forfeit of that game due to the Bert Coan mess, but KU still logged that in its victory column.
Vowing revenge against Missouri here in '61, Kansas returned John Hadl, Curtis McClinton, Larry Allen, Elvin Basham, Benny Boydston, Jim Jarrett, Mike Fisher and Larry Lousch. Yet for all the furor, a lousy start.
KU fell, 17-16, at TCU, got tied, 6-6, by Wyoming and entered the fourth quarter at Colorado with a 19-0 lead only to fall, 20-19. A ghastly 0-2-1 start! The rejuvenated Jayhawks took a 6-0 run into the MU game here, but blew it, 7-10. So much for national honors. Victory in the Bluebonnet Bowl pushed it to 7-3-1, but what a letdown after such early promise!
The current Jayhawks need to go to their Anderson Complex shrine, briefly worship that 12-1 of a year ago and then vow they're not going to get hare-lipped the way the 1961 team did. Trouble is, it could happen. Or not.