More long faces than can be seen at a horse auction colored Memorial Stadium depressed at halftime of last season’s Kansas University football opener, an unimpressive 31-14 victory against South Dakota.
At the half, Kansas held a shaky 14-7 lead, and the game felt so much like the previous year’s season-opening, 31-17 victory against South Dakota State. The name of the immobile, inaccurate, over-hyped, under-performing quarterback changed, but the slow, sad song remained the same.
For the fourth year in a row, the humble beginning to a KU football season proved an accurate indication of things to come.
The general feeling that nothing short of Kansas winning its second game, at Duke, will rekindle the interest of a fan base tuning out has some merit to it, but a season-opening blowout reminiscent of the late Mark Mangino years certainly wouldn’t hurt building momentum toward the Duke game.
Kansas needs to dominate Southeast Missouri State from the opening series and never let up until it scores its first victory by 27 or more points since Mangino’s last team opened the 2009 season winning games by margins of 46, 27 and 28 points.
The greatest illustration of how quickly and completely the Kansas football program has declined comes in comparing Mangino’s record in blowouts — defined here as games decided by margins of 27 points or greater — in his final four seasons to the record of his successors, Turner Gill for two years and Charlie Weis for two. Mangino went 14-4 in blowouts in his final four seasons. Todd Reesing started at quarterback in three of those, a huge factor. KU is 0-21 in blowouts since Mangino and Reesing departed. Gill went 0-11, Weis 0-10.
Saturday represents this season’s best chance for Kansas landing on the right side of a lopsided score.
It need not approach the 77-0 score SEMO put on the board last week in welcoming Missouri Baptist to college football, but something along the lines of 42-7 might make the average football fan consider the possibility that it’s not the same old story.
Tom Matukewicz, in his first year as SEMO head coach after serving as defensive coordinator at Toledo, inherits a team that went 3-9 last season. The Redhawks tied for seventh in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference with a 2-6 record.
Time for a blowout during which Kansas looks fast and organized and plays with the raw nastiness of a football team eager to take out four years of frustration on an overmatched opponent.