Often times, after big victories, coaches will give their players a set amount of time to celebrate before requiring them to refocus and move on to the next game.
Evidently, coaches can do the same thing after bad losses, too.
Saturday night, after a shocking 6-3 setback to North Dakota State in the season opener, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill talked about his timetable for moving on.
“At 3 o’clock (Sunday), we’ll evaluate this, but after 6 o’clock (Sunday night), then this has got to be behind us,” Gill said after the game. “We’ve gotta look at the tape and see what we need to get corrected, but after (that) they need to be moving on and getting ready to play against Georgia Tech.”
Going by that line of thinking, the Jayhawks had less than 24 hours to sulk and stew over a loss that surely will go down as one of the most embarrassing defeats in school history.
Is that enough time?
“Whenever we’re playing Georgia Tech the next week, I think it is,” red-shirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb said. “We’ve got a chance to show that this isn’t us.”
In some ways, the loss might have helped Gill and his coaching staff, though it may be hard to convince anyone of that just yet. For the past couple of years, thanks in large part to the incredible achievements of the 2007 team, the KU football program has carried with it a certain swagger. Because Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe led a potent offense and because KU’s defenses played a blue-collar style of ball, many in crimson and blue simply expected the Jayhawks to be successful and relevant on Saturdays.
History, however, has shown that there’s still a long way to go before KU reaches that point on a consistent basis. So, with Gill in town and with his focus fixed on turning KU into a perennial contender, an attention-grabbing loss might be just the thing he needed to get his players to buy into the hard work and dedication it’s going to take. Asked Monday, during the Big 12 coaches teleconference, if he thought the loss served as a wake-up call, Gill said it would.
“Well, I think so,” he said. “With the two things, the unfortunate loss and then you’ve got a very good football team coming in this week, those two things are going to get you focused and get you in tune fairly easily. We didn’t play very well, and we have an outstanding opponent, Georgia Tech, coming into town, and I think those two things right there get all of us more focused.”
Instead of spending the week building on a victory, the Jayhawks have been left to answer their critics and sort out a quarterback controversy — starter Kale Pick was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Webb — all while finding some way to get ready for the Yellow Jackets.
“We do have the potential, but potential’s nothing. That just means you can do something,” junior wideout Daymond Patterson said. “It’s not taking shots (in the passing game) or we need to run the ball or do this more. We need to hold on to the ball, we need to catch the ball, we need to make blocks and we need to execute. And that’s all it comes down to.”
Running back help on the way?
Kansas University running backs Angus Quigley and Deshaun Sands ran for 34 yards on 17 carries in Saturday’s 6-3 loss to North Dakota State. That output was considerably less than coach Turner Gill was looking for from the KU running game, and it might have inspired a change. Though Gill admitted he wasn’t comfortable with the idea of playing true freshmen Brandon Bourbon or James Sims at running back in Saturday’s game because it was so close, he said either player could be used this week against Georgia Tech.
“I’d for sure say we’re going to play one of them,” Gill said. “We’ll definitely do that.”
The same was true for sophomore linebacker Toben Opurum, who was moved from running back this preseason and is still trying to get settled in at his new position.
“Toben’s coming along,” Gill said. “But, again, the closeness of the score did prevent him from at least getting some reps.”
Safety ‘OK’ in debut
The Jayhawks played three true freshmen during Saturday’s loss: safety Keeston Terry, kicker Ron Doherty and defensive end Keba Agostinho. Agostinho rotated in on the defensive line, Doherty handled kickoffs, and Terry, who entered the game midway through the second quarter and finished with four tackles (two solo), played significant minutes in the secondary.
“I thought he showed up. That’s a good sign,” Gill said of the freshman from Blue Springs, Mo., who was moved from wide receiver to safety in August. “(He came) in and (showed) that he is physical and that he can move. I would say he played OK. I won’t say he played great or not bad, I would say he played OK. He did what he had to do, one or two misalignments, but other than that I think he did OK for his first game.”