Last week, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill learned a lot about the way his team responds to a tough loss.
This week, Gill has turned an even more critical eye to watching how his team moves forward from its emotional, 28-25 victory against No. 15 Georgia Tech.
So far, the verdict has been favorable.
“When you lose, you do have that sour feeling in your stomach and, when you win, we felt good for a little bit, but it’s still not the same,” junior linebacker Steven Johnson said. “I still woke up this morning like, ‘Oh, man, we have to win this week.’ If we lose, it would just be terrible, and I don’t want that feeling again.”
Johnson’s not alone.
Though most of his teammates still were smiling Tuesday about their surprising victory against the Yellow Jackets, many pointed out that the grins were a sign of confidence and excitement about what’s ahead, not a product of celebrating their victory for too long.
“Me personally, as soon as we had the win, Sunday it was out of my mind,” safety Lubbock Smith said. “I was watching film on Southern Miss, and I wasn’t worried about Georgia Tech anymore because that was the past.”
Gill said Tuesday he thought his team was more relaxed both in practice and on gameday last week. That resulted in taking the field with a loose team that played with passion and a nothing-to-lose attitude against Tech. Gill said he hoped his guys held on to that notion this week as long as they were able to turn it up a notch when the ball was kicked off at 7 p.m. Friday at Southern Miss.
“We have to play with tenacity,” Gill said. “Our guys have to play with the same type of execution, passion and confidence that we played with last week.”
This week’s contest may provide KU’s biggest test to date. For starters, it’s on the road, where many of KU’s starters have yet to play a meaningful snap. In addition, the Jayhawks won’t have the benefit of having the embarrassment and anger from the season opener fresh in their memories. However, despite now having a marquee victory under their belts, many Jayhawks insist that they have not forgotten about what took place during the opening week.
“We’ve had to stay humble, but it’s not hard to stay humble after that Week 1 loss,” quarterback Jordan Webb said. “We’ve been on both sides, the really high and the really low, and we don’t want to be on that roller coaster ride because that’s just a rough way to begin a year.”
Added junior wide receiver Daymond Patterson: “We’re not trying to listen to everybody tellin’ us, ‘You all are good now.’ Just like in the first week when everybody told us how bad we were. We’re going about it with the same approach. Go in there to watch film, prepare, work on technique and go out there ready to play. Because when you’re not, you see you can lose to anybody, and, when you are, you can beat anybody.”
Gill said his coaching staff changed its approach slightly after the season-opening loss to North Dakota State in an attempt to bring more energy and urgency to the team. Clearly, the change worked and, from the sound of things, it doesn’t appear that they’ll be going back to the old way any time soon.
“Monday’s practice was a bit rough,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty sure they’re trying to make sure we don’t get complacent.”