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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Emotional meeting: KU coach Turner Gill faces Tom Osborne, Nebraska for first time

Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, right, talks with coach Tom Osborne in this file photo from 1981. KU’s Gill, who is still close with Osborne, will coach against his alma mater for the first time Saturday.

Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, right, talks with coach Tom Osborne in this file photo from 1981. KU’s Gill, who is still close with Osborne, will coach against his alma mater for the first time Saturday.

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Sometime Monday afternoon, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne reached out to Kansas University football coach Turner Gill by telephone.

photo

Omaha World-Herald Photo

Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, left, talks with coach Tom Osborne in this file photo from 1981. KU’s Gill, who is still close with Osborne, will coach against his alma mater for the first time Saturday.

Osborne’s attempt to chat up his former quarterback was not uncommon. Throughout the years the two have built a bond that seems to be just one step below family and certainly is as strong as any that exists between a former player and his coach.

On top of coming down from the emotional high of last week’s comeback victory against Colorado and digging in to face No. 9 Nebraska at 6 p.m. Saturday, Gill had his plate full Monday and was unable to answer Osborne’s call.

Too bad, too. Because this week there’s no guarantee that another one is coming. Even as close as they are — Osborne, the former Nebraska coach, and Gill, the former NU star — the two will face off as adversaries for the first time this weekend, when Gill leads the Jayhawks onto the field he once called home.

“I’m always glad to see Turner,” said Osborne, now Nebraska’s athletic director, in anticipation of the meeting. “It will be a little different, but competition is competition. You can have competition without animosity. Sometimes you have the best boxing matches with your brother. You try to beat them, but when it’s over, it’s over.”

Asked whether he’d be rooting for Gill in any way Saturday, Osborne stayed true to the Cornhuskers.

“I wish him well,” he said. “I hope I get to say hello to him. We will always be good friends no matter what happens, but, naturally, we would like to see Nebraska play very well on Saturday because that’s the school I represent. So that will be an interesting circumstance, and I am certainly glad that we won’t be playing him after this, at least for a long time, because it is a little bit of an awkward situation.”

Awkward’s one word for it. Emotional is another. Though Gill was somewhat vague when discussing his first matchup with his alma mater as an opposing coach, a few folks close to him were happy to speculate what must be going through his mind.

“I’m sure he’s going to have some emotions going into this game,” KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. “We’ll never see ’em, but I’m sure there’ll be maybe an extra jump in his step going into the game. I’m sure it’s gonna hit him when he walks on the field in front of those fans. It’s been awhile since he’s done that, and I know it’s gonna probably send a wave of emotion to him.”

KU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said the sentimental aspect of returning to a place where Gill led the Cornhuskers to three consecutive Big Eight titles and finished with a 28-2 record in three seasons as a starter, including a 20-0 mark in conference play, was warranted.

“He’s beloved because of the type of person Turner is,” Torbush said. “But you’ve gotta realize they won a few ballgames while he was playing quarterback there, too. Like all of them.”

Though Gill has had a rough start at Kansas — the Jayhawks are 3-6 overall and 1-4 in Big 12 play, where they have been outscored 232-92 — Osborne has been openly vocal with his support. Though he’s hoping that his Huskers will be the next team to hand KU a loss, Osborne’s support has not wavered this week.

“I think Turner is very sound philosophically and knows what he wants to do, and he knows who he is,” Osborne said. “And I have great admiration for him as a person. I think a lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is to come in with a group of players that don’t know you, and you don’t know them and a coaching staff that is diverse and is not well acquainted, and you (have) to get that all put together. I see them making progress. I think they are, right now, a team that can give almost anyone a decent ball game. Certainly their last quarter last week is going to give them confidence, everybody knows that. I think he’s doing fine.”

Mecham ready to roll

With the keys to the KU offense firmly in his possession, junior quarterback Quinn Mecham appears to be carrying himself in the exact same manner he has during the past couple of weeks.

Thrust into action against Texas A&M because of injuries to first- and second-string QBs Jordan Webb and Kale Pick, Mecham has taken charge of the KU offense and led the team new heights.

After competing for the starting spot throughout each of the last two weeks, Mecham learned early this week he would be the guy.

Asked after Wednesday’s practice if he was intimidated by the thought of making his third career start at Nebraska’s fabled Memorial Stadium, Mecham offered a glimpse into what has made him so successful.

“Not really,” he said. “I’m just trying to prepare and go in with the gameplan and play our game. You can’t go in and psych yourself out because then you’re done from the start.”

The main thing that seems to have changed for Mecham has been the KU coaching staff’s willingness to open up more of the playbook to the junior-college transfer.

Gill said Tuesday that Mecham had picked up more and more in the past few weeks, and the junior QB said the expanded options have helped him feel more comfortable.

“I would say (so), more just because I’ve had more time in the system and more reps,” Mecham said.

Comfortable with his new role, Mecham now is hoping to transfer the 35 unanswered points KU scored in the fourth quarter to beat Colorado into this week’s showdown with No. 9 Nebraska.

“I think it’s energy that we can use to go out and start fast for once,” he said.

Harris prepping KU defense

Already 1-for-1 as a scout-team quarterback this season, KU senior Rod Harris has been asked to repeat the feat this week.

Back in September, Harris did such a masterful job of impersonating Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt that the Jayhawks were able to stifle the Yellow Jackets’ run game enough to pick up the victory.

For his efforts, Harris was named the offensive “compete team” player of the week.

This week, Harris, 6-foot-0, 211 pounds, has been asked to simulate the skills of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, 6-1, 205. Though Harris doesn’t have quite the same speed that Martinez possesses, the Bryan, Texas, native has done an admirable job.

“I could be a read-option quarterback,” Harris said Wednesday. “I have an arm that’s not quite an arm. But I think I could definitely do some wildcat. I can’t throw, though. Don’t let ’em tell you I can throw.”

No problem. Although Martinez has had his moments through the air, most of the Nebraska QB’s damage has been done on the ground. Simulating the exact speed and specifics of an opposing offense never is easy, but Harris said he was impressed with what he saw from the KU defense this week.

“It’s going good,” he said. “Actually, today Jake Laptad put a hit on me that I could feel a little bit. I’m gonna have to get some ice on this shoulder. (Tuesday) was a little different just because it’s a new scheme we were running, and they had to learn how to react to it. But, (Wednesday), it’s like they just picked up on it. I don’t think I broke past the line of scrimmage too many times. So they did good. It’s a good gameplan by the coaches.”

Injury update

Gill said Wednesday night that safety Lubbock Smith would miss Saturday’s game at Nebraska.

On Tuesday, Gill called Smith “doubtful” for Saturday’s game.

Wednesday, Gill downgraded the sophomore from Dallas to “out” after practice.

Senior Olaitan Oguntodu, who started the first six games of the season at strong safety, will start in Smith’s place. Oguntodu will be backed up by red-shirt freshman Prinz Kande.

Spotted in Norman

Jake Trotter, of The Oklahoman, reported that former KU football coach Mark Mangino attended Oklahoma University’s practice Wednesday.

Mangino spent three years (1999-2001) on OU coach Bob Stoops’ staff in Norman, Okla., before coming to Kansas, and the two have remained good friends.

Comments

classic3283 3 years, 5 months ago

Turner Gill will be one of only five former Nebraska players to coach against the Cornhuskers. Check the link below for a complete list of all the games in which the Cornhuskers faced a head coach that was a former player.

http://sportsdelve.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-former-players/

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UncleCharlie 3 years, 5 months ago

Conferences? Big 10 Academic$? You have to admit any school would be willing to make more money. College athletics are big business now but, the academic support system within the BIG 10/11/12 is a nice benefit. KU, I will always miss the ol' Big 8. Did we ever really need the Texass teams? Texas was the reason the SWC collapsed, well SMU's troubles with the NCAA probably didn't help. Yet, again another conference is floundering as Texas is raking in the majority of the money instead of an even split. Don't you think that with an even split of conference and bowl money, that all schools would've been better?

Mangino(hot dog neck) did some good things for you at KU. If he would have controlled his temper better.....who knows? Maybe he was fired to lower the faculty Health insurance premiums??

I still always root on the Big 8 schools except when they play my beloved Huskers. Well that is unless they are wearing black/gold. LOL

If T-Mart is healthy it will be a long cold game for you but, if he's not we've got a game on our hands. KU if you guys want another reciever we'll gladly let you have Niles Paul. LOL Don't quote me on this but, I think he has comitted 20 of our 31 fumbles and 10 of the take ways that came from those. I think he is even up for national recognition as the Butterfinger player of the year.

I wish KU the best of luck and hope they kick butt the rest of the year, (starting sunday that is)

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Kirk 3 years, 5 months ago

Dr. Tom's comments about Gill ("he's very sound philosophically and knows what he wants to do", etc.) aren't exactly an ringing endorsement of Gill's football intelligence.

Then again, maybe intelligence (creativity, inventiveness) isn't really all that important for a head coach. It doesn't seem to help the president of the united states all that much, hasn't helped any of them for a while now.

And finally, no amount of smarts is going to make ANY coach at KU win games on a regular basis.

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Jared Grillot 3 years, 5 months ago

WOW! KU football is sucking worse than usual this year, but suddenly our message boards are filled with Cornhusker posts? I am actually baffled. I can't even comprehend the sudden interest. I will never say NU fans are the worst, mostly because I've been to too many Mizzery games, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't understand why the Husker fans suddenly appeared on our message boards, some of which are totally undermining the comments from the others about how nice NU fans are.

100 - It was funny, and obviously some folks are very sensitive and lack a sense of humor. Because, of course, we all know that the Huskers are of course moving to the Big 10 because of academic$.

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stuck88 3 years, 5 months ago

Gill needs to show a highlight film of the 07 game against Nebraska. That will remind the players that beating NU can be done. The defense needs to play fast and loose, NU is vulnerable to turning the ball over. KU needs to capitalize on any short field opportunities that comes its way (and im not talking about field goals). Its a long shot that KU can win, but if it can put together long drives eating up clock, take advantage of turnovers, and get a few lucky breaks they have a chance to win. After last weeks 4th quarter comeback anything is possible!

Rock Chalk Jawhawk

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BIGREDTIME 3 years, 5 months ago

Only on a KU message board would Osbourne be called a scum bag and Ku fans calling a win. Nebraska is superior in every position lol

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jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 5 months ago

Osborne is a poor example to look up to. They wanted Osborne out of the state for years. He couldn't even get elected in his own party for governor. The scum bag has run a unhanded program up here for sometime.

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jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 5 months ago

The big 12 will be better off when NU is gone, like so many have said. No cry badies anymore.

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Tony Bandle 3 years, 5 months ago

Albeit 42 years ago, I was at the last game Kansas beat Nebraska at Lincoln in 1968 and, although totally shocked and stunned, the Big Red fans, couldn't have been better sports, congratulated us and recognized we won fair and square.

Lots can change in 40 years, but I would guess there still is a measure of sportsmanship in Lincoln.......unlike Columbia!!

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kirkhinrichflow 3 years, 5 months ago

don't get down too early, make it a game boys. RELENTLESS

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ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 5 months ago

Was the color photograph not invented in the early 80's?

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westernkshawk 3 years, 5 months ago

That comment about the Nebraska fans being "the best in the world" just doesn't mesh with what I have experienced sitting in front of Nebraska fans in Lawrence. They are by far the worst to come to Memorial Stadium; totally egocentric and lacking in good sportmanship in every way. I will be much more excited about leaving the Nebraska fans in our history than than their team! They always have a good team and are respected for that. Their fans are NOT good fans and are despised for THAT!!

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Tony Bandle 3 years, 5 months ago

It would be great if the emotional meeting took place at the fifty yard line after KU pulled the upset of the season!!!!

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troutsee 3 years, 5 months ago

I detest Nebraska and always have. In past years they have paraded into our stadium, arms locked together, 8 or 9 abreast, yelling go big red and then thumping us over and over to the tune of 60 something to 7. That history, repeated over and over, brings out the hate in the most tolerant of us. Why wouldn't they have great fans. It's a lot easier to be a great fan when you have a history of blowing out your opponents. They seem to especially revel in slaughtering KU. Personally, I'm glad to see them go to the Big Ten. I hope our players come out fired up and play a physical game. Afterwards, I will say "good riddance to the Huskers and their fans. I hope they get thumped over and over in the Big 10.

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Phoggin_Loud 3 years, 5 months ago

From the ESPN Big XII Blog:

The Huskers added five more fumbles on Saturday against Iowa State, losing two. They now have a staggering 31 fumbles on the year, though they've lost just 11 of those. No team in the Big 12 has more than 22. Texas A&M has lost the same number of fumbles, with 11. Those 31 fumbles are three more than the next-most in the country, 2-7 Vanderbilt's 28.

Strip the ball & recover it!! It worked for Iowa State last year in Lincoln!!

Go get 'em, 'Hawks!!

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Huskernaz 3 years, 5 months ago

100, First of all your not from Nebraska and what your doing to try and psyche up your team is understandable but its sadly pathetic. Your the worst type of fake that ever took in air. Not only are you afraid to identify yourself, you pretend to be a hateful opponent, misrepresenting something you know nothing about. In short, your a piece of chit, plain and simple. May you die choking on your own bile. Now that said I'm a fan of Turner Gill, we love this man in Nebraska. I'm a little taken back by Osborn's akwardness. I'm sure as adults we can move beyond where our alignments are and just pull for our teams. Personally I hope we just have a good game, no injuries, bad calls or tempers lost. Good Luck Saturday Kansas!!

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hawksince51 3 years, 5 months ago

This game will apparently be the last one in the 3rd longest uninterrupted series in college football. I bid NU a fond farewell and wish them all the best in the Big 10/12. My fondest memories are that we never lost to them during my 5 years at KU in spite of their overwhelming win/loss ratio overall. While it would be fantastic to do to NU what we did to CU in our last game, I will be happy if we just make a showing. I'm not yet sure if I will "pay to view." rock chalk

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area51 3 years, 5 months ago

Maybe Mr. Osborne will take gill back? I'm sure that they could use someone to was the players jocks.

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UncleCharlie 3 years, 5 months ago

Wow, I mean WOW!

100-Shut Up! As a Husker fan I am amazed at your diatribe of stupidity. Fans like you give the rest bad names. If you are a KU fan trying to stir the pot, quit acting like a MU fan.

As far as the blow hards on the radio, they suck. Sorry, KU I'll appologize for out unemployed, ignorant, lifeless fans who have nothing better to do. If they'd get of their butts and get jobs they wouldn't have all of the energy and time to waste on Sports talkshow hosts(most of who have never played the game). I find it interesting to note that the majority of the smack talkers are in the age range of 18-25. The rest of us just shake our heads at them and secretly wish it would be legal to choke the life out of them for being poor fans.

KU fans we'll take our football and secretly root for you basketball. You have a great coach in Turner Gill, give him time and support. Thanks for the Memories.

Oh yeah, before I forget for the KU fans that fall into the same class as out Sports talk idiots. We also have Volleyball. LOL

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bilty 3 years, 5 months ago

I have always admired KU basketball for being able to put together a team in a small town on the plains, a bit like NU football in Lincoln except we have to convince kids to play outside.

Good programs in both states, I will miss seeing my alma mater play KU.

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bilty 3 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, I'm sure all of the NU players will be ineligible. Look at a map, it isn't much different, especially via air travel. Anyway the fans dont' play the game, so why all the smack talking by fans, y'all just sit your overstuffed butts on the couch and WATCH.
NU has the most academic all americans of any team in the country btw.

Are there any KU fans that think their program wouldn't benefit from moving to a more tradition rich, and financially sound conference like the Big 10? Didn't think so, at NU we are about the benefit to the University of Nebraska as a whole, not just sports.

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phi4life940 3 years, 5 months ago

I guess when all you have in life is football you talk mad smack. I hope Nebraska has fun traveling so far for each conference game next year. Your players will all fail because they'll miss so much class. Should be funny to see all their players academically ineligible.

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Benjamin Piehler 3 years, 5 months ago

ugh this isnt a rivalry. we lose in football, and we wipe the court with them every year in hoops. except, Im sure they care more about football and we care more about basketball. everyones a winner, which is why its not really a rivalry.

that being said, the worst fans in the country are NU football and UK basketball, so a W would be nice...

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Kevin Kelly 3 years, 5 months ago

Well I can't speak for the NU players but the NU fans have been talking unmittigated s#it on the radio up here all week. Aparently the argument up here worth having is trying to determine if KU is worse than Western Kentucky who they played in game one or South Dakota State who they played in game 3.

You know you can do this. I know you can do this. Lets do this.

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Terran Woolley 3 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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100 3 years, 5 months ago

"KU football players: We will not apologize for what we've been saying about your mommas all week at practice in Lincoln. Every single one of us "believe" & have laughed until we couldnt laugh no more all week that your mommas need to go back to a proper momma school (and hey, some of your mommas need to get the heck out of our dorm rooms, some of our key players surely not getting any sleep this week). And we wont apologize to you for all the mean, heartless, sleazy things we have indeed said about your mommas. All. Week. Long. The only way we'll apologize, is if by some miracle, you ladies beat us at our house in front of our screaming fans. Which is impossible. Well, improbable at best. And only then, even if a miracle occurs & the refs give you the game or are paid off to give you the game, we would certainly not apologize for what we said about your mommas face to face. Never. However, on the impossible chance this happens, we would be man enough to have one of our Coaches apologize on this here website, Sunday morning. But like we said, it's not happenin. Your momma Jayhawk football team!!!! What? You didnt hear us? We said your momma!!! Lookin forward to stomping you ladies & each & every one of your mommas this Saturday!"

----- the Nebraska Football Team

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NebraskaJayhawk 3 years, 5 months ago

Jayhawks-

Roll up your sleeves and eat some corn on Saturday!

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