Kansas University’s football team, which has lost six games in a row and been outscored by an average of 55-21 in those losses, has found a way to flip the focus in its favor: by turning the page on the calendar.
“I just wanted to talk about what I am telling our team and our coaches as we finish this season,” KU coach Turner Gill said in his opening remarks at Tuesday’s news conference. “First of all, I am just telling them that it is a new month. We are looking forward to the month of November because it is about how you finish. We need to finish this in a positive way.”
KU will carry a 2-6 overall record, 0-5 in the Big 12, into Saturday’s game at Iowa State.
Although Gill has proven to be an open and honest man no matter the circumstance, he turned to some frequently used cliches to get his team going this week.
“Basically, he wants us to forget about all the games we’ve played up until this point and just start over from scratch,” senior cornerback Isiah Barfield said. “The season starts 0-0, and we want to look at it that way, rather than we’re coming in on a losing streak. We want to come in with the same passion that we had at the very beginning of the season and win the month of November.”
Considering how things have gone lately, that sounds like a pretty good game plan. Although it has long since been forgotten, Kansas opened the season 2-0 and racked up 981 yards of total offense — 554 on the ground — and 87 points during the season’s first two weeks.
Despite recent struggles, offensive coordinator Chuck Long said the Jayhawks did not plan to make drastic changes and would continue to emphasize the running game.
“We don’t want them to change their attitude,” Long said. “Right now, we like where we’re at, offensively, as far as attitude. But we’re implementing a new game plan, and we expect a good week of practice.”
Attitude may not be changing, but expectations are. Sunday, the day after KU’s 43-0 loss at Texas, defensive coordinator Vic Shealy informed KU’s players that they should expect to see a new coaching style during the next four weeks.
“The coaching staff isn’t going to change who they are just because we’re losing,” said Barfield, translating the message. “But coach Shealy said he’s going to coach as hard as he can because we really need to win this month. If the younger players can’t take that, then I don’t know what to tell them.”
Added Shealy: “When I said that to our football team, it wasn’t geared just to the corners. It was kind of geared to our defense. As coaches, we have to stomp the gas pedal down.”
While the task of forgetting about the past sounds simple enough, the players, who have felt the pain of every blowout loss and every failed opportunity, said it would take some work.
“It’s not easy,” junior linebacker Tunde Bakare said. “But it’s not as difficult as people make it. Basically, when things don’t go your way, you gotta start over again and just make sure you do it right the second time. And I think we can do that in November. I think it’s just not accepting anything but perfect. If you do things wrong, it’s not going to be like, ‘Oh well.’ You don’t get a second try in games. I think this week’s gonna be like, ‘You either do it right or you don’t play.’”
Winning the opening coin toss has been pretty common for KU this season. Until Saturday, starting the game on defense had not. Prior to the game at Texas, KU had won the toss in five of its seven games and elected to receive each time. Saturday, the Jayhawks again won the toss but this time chose to defer. Asked why Tuesday, Gill hammered home the theme of the week.
“That was mainly for change,” he said. “I think we were talking about the third quarter and just trying to do something a little bit different. We wanted to see if that would make a difference in how we would come out from the opposite side of it, having our offense have the ball versus our defense. A small victory, if you want to call it that, because there were some pluses that come out of it compared to what he had been doing in the third quarter.”
CB to de-commit?
The fallout from a disappointing season and uncertain future already might have made its way to Kansas.
Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) cornerback Daniel Gray, 6-foot, 170 pounds, who committed to KU in May, told Rivals.com Monday that he was on the verge of de-committing.
“I’m not really solid (with Kansas),” Gray said. “I’ll put it out (Wednesday) whether I’m still committed or not. I’m going to take a trip to Nebraska on Nov. 25. That’s going to be the first official visit I take.”
Others may follow. Gray told the website he had offers from Florida International, Mississippi and Texas Tech. North Carolina and Tennessee also have shown interest.
Gray is one of eight commitments that KU has landed from the Class of 2012.
Sunday night, Gill was asked if he thought KU’s six-game losing streak had hurt recruiting. While his answer may have been true at the time, it now seems clear that things are changing.
“I haven’t had anything in a negative way or anything of that nature at all,” Gill said Sunday. “Everybody’s still interested, the people we’ve been on, and we’ll see how it all shakes out. Everybody understands in recruiting and life and football and sports, you have ups and downs.”