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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nothing to lose: Reeling KU huge underdog for a change

Texas’ massive Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will be the site of today’s Kansas-Texas game. The Jayhawks enter as a 271⁄2- point underdog.

Texas’ massive Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will be the site of today’s Kansas-Texas game. The Jayhawks enter as a 271⁄2- point underdog.

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For each of the past five weeks, the Kansas University football team either has been favored or a single-digit underdog according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.

Not this week.

When the Jayhawks (5-5 overall, 1-5 in Big 12 play) take on No. 3 Texas (10-0, 6-0) at 7 tonight in Austin, Texas, they’ll enter the game as nearly a 30-point underdog.

That number is as much an indication of UT’s power as KU’s pain. And it might be just what the Jayhawks need to snap the five-game losing skid that has led to total turmoil within the program.

The KU players know that leaving Austin with a victory won’t be easy. Kansas is 0-3 all-time in Austin and has just one win against a top-five team since the inception of the Big 12. But many Jayhawks said the heavy underdog role provided an opportunity to take a carefree attitude into kickoff.

“There’s always pressure in college football. You always want to go out there and play the best you can,” junior cornerback Chris Harris said. “But I guess this relieves it a little bit. They’re the No. 3 team in the country, and they’re going to play like it. We just have to go down there and be ready.”

That’s exactly what the Jayhawks expect from the Longhorns. Although some might theorize that Texas could be overlooking Kansas, the Jayhawks know that’s unlikely, especially with UT sitting three victories from a probable berth in the BCS national championship game.

“Just knowing Texas, and them having a great coach like Mack Brown, I’m pretty sure they’ll be ready for us,” Harris said. “They’re not going to allow anyone to sneak up on them. So when we go down there, we have to bring our A game.”

The recent storm surrounding the conduct — and perhaps the future — of Kansas coach Mark Mangino won’t be the only factor that could be a distraction. Tonight’s game also marks the last chance for KU quarterback Todd Reesing to play against a team from his native Texas. Reesing is 4-3 against Texas schools during his KU career, but the three losses came against Texas Tech (twice) and Texas, while the victories were over Baylor, Texas A&M;, Sam Houston State and UTEP.

Toss into the equation the fact that KU’s two-year bowl streak could be in jeopardy, and it’s clear that there are a lot of things on the minds of the Jayhawks these days. Reesing, who hails from Lake Travis High in Austin, said none of those would matter at kickoff.

“I am focused on playing Texas and doing whatever I can to get ready for that game,” Reesing said. “That is what I am going to tell the rest of the guys. You have to find it within yourself to stay focused on the task at hand, and I think for the vast majority of guys it will be easy. They share the same belief I have in where we stand and what we want to do in these next two weeks.”

In their only game against Texas in the Reesing era, the Jayhawks fell, 35-7, last season at Memorial Stadium. The only thing similar between the two games is where the Longhorns stand. At this point last season, the Texas players knew they had to win out to have a shot at a national championship. The same is true for this year’s Longhorns, and the Jayhawks are aware of that.

“They still have those nice national title hopes,” red-shirt freshman Tanner Hawkinson said. “So if we can go down there and put a great game together, we have an opportunity to change that.”

Added senior wideout Kerry Meier: “We’re excited to go and try to give these perfect Longhorns a challenge. We’re going to go down there to try and disrupt some things and try to play a good ballgame because we’ve got nothing to lose.”

Still, Mangino doesn’t expect his team to turn this week’s game into anything more than it is — the 11th game on the schedule.

“I’m not really one that’s, ‘It’s us against the world’ type of thing,” Mangino said. “We’d like to have a win. I think that’s the thing that’s on all of our minds — what can we do to win a game. Let’s do everything that’s in our power as players and coaches to get a win. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Comments

okiedave 10 years, 3 months ago

Nobody in this Galaxy thinks we have a prayer. Will we win? No. Texas has too much riding on this game and they are going to bring their "A" game and try to score big to get back into the #2 BCS slot. But I have this feeling that K.U. is going to make it much closer than UT would like. All K.U. fans are secretly dreading watching this game, but I think the Hawks will make us proud tonight.

troutsee 10 years, 3 months ago

I think we will play them closer than the 27.5 Vegas spread. We'll see. This TU team is definitely beatable. However, if we turn the ball over, better reinforce the dam. Also, I continue to worry about Rojas getting a punt blocked.

Steve Brown 10 years, 3 months ago

Goliath takes a fall. Texas 27 KANSAS 30

KU 10 years, 3 months ago

Fellas, I wish I could share your optimism. I watched UT drub us last year 35-7. UT is even better than last year--particularly on defense--and we have fallen off in virtually every way, including smart disciplined play, since last year.

This game has 52-10 written all over it. Nevertheless, I will watch every down and cheer on the Jayhawks! If we play well, we can build a little momentum going into the MU week.

jgh 10 years, 3 months ago

I disagree strongly about UT being better this season. The defense is a little better, but the offense much weaker.

They've benefited from a relatively weak schedule and a high turnover differential. Not a traditionally dominant team.

That said, it will still take an effort better than anything recently to keep it close. If we can win the turnover battle, we can stay within arm's reach.

Dennis Mahorney 10 years, 3 months ago

We play well, for stretches, but completely lose our confidence when things start to unravel. This team needs some early succes against Texas, and ride the bull till the horn sounds....GO KU !

KU 10 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't go so far as to say UT's offense is "much worse" than last year. They score within 1 ppg of last year. They average within about 45 ypg offensively as last year. Their special teams are better than last year, which really plays into a huge KU weakness. I wouldn't be surprised to see a kick or punt return for a TD today. If not, we'll probably get a kick blocked while we are concentrating on not kicking it to Shipley.

KU's biggest drop-off has been the one between the ears and in the heart. They play very undisciplined, as evidenced by penalties and big plays given up. That's not the way Mangino teams have won in the past. They give up or give out in the 4th quarter, a la 2006 when they couldn't finish games. We've been in most of the last 5 games in the 4th quarter, but we can't finish strong.

Tribehawk 10 years, 3 months ago

I really want Reesing to go out with a bang against his hometown team. I think the entire team will be playing loose today because of the lowered expectations, and possibly also because most players can see the writing on the wall and know that this will be Mangino's penultimate--if not final--game as coach. I think Reesing goes out there and flings the ball all over the field like Flutie. There will be no run game today, except the occasional draw or zone read to keep the D honest every ten plays or so. Reesing will have 5 TDs, or 5 INTs, or both today. It should be an interesting game. Rock Chalk.

jhokfan 10 years, 3 months ago

I wish they would change the conference scheduling. We got Vince Young and Colt McCoy in their final two seasons. My biggest disappointment about 2007 is that we did not play Texas.

Dan Harris 10 years, 3 months ago

Texas58-KU17 but we still have next week to look forward to.

Bill Shaw 10 years, 3 months ago

Is there a revenge motive?

Which is the team really more interested in, winning or getting Mangino let go?

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