Forget the specifics of last Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech.
By now, everybody knows the Jayhawks blew a 20-0 lead and gave up more than 500 yards of offense yet again. Flush it.
While I probably could sit here and analyze exactly what went wrong, where it broke down and why KU did not sustain its hot start, would it really matter? The Jayhawks still lost. They still have to regroup and get ready for Oklahoma State this weekend. And, provided they survive that, they have to start peeking into a future that features very few winnable games, if any.
Having said that, I want to share with you something that stood out to me during the postgame interviews last Saturday. Yeah, these guys were pissed. Senior linebacker Steven Johnson walked into the room looking like he wanted to put a hole in the wall. The rest of the guys spoke with disappointed tones and quiet voices. I’m telling you, this stuff hurts these guys.
But last year, all of that hurt and pain that piled on these guys week after week wound up burying them. When guys dropped their heads, they could not pick them back up again. When things got tough and the Jayhawks went looking for leaders, guys with true leadership qualities were hard to find.
That’s not the case this year. And that’s why, no matter how bad things get, these guys will keep fighting.
“All our goals are still attainable,” Johnson said. “We just have to keep on going.”
While that might sound like an empty statement, Johnson means it. And, remember, this team’s goal sheet was not limited to words like “get better.” It included phrases like “bowl game” and “Big 12 championship” and still does.
“I still feel like we have a chance to have a successful year,” sophomore QB Jordan Webb said. “When you look at it, we’ve got a lot of ballgames to play and a real young team and we’re only gonna get better throughout the year.”
While such a statement could be treated with a roll of the eyes, there’s plenty of reason for it to be taken serious. By all accounts, this is a better Kansas team than the one Gill and company fielded in 2010. The Jayhawks are more explosive and consistent on offense and, although it may not always show up on the scoreboard, they’re also improved on defense. They’re also going to continue to get better.
Remember last year when KU opened Big 12 play with a three-game stretch in which they were outscored 159-24? We all thought that was the beginning of an embarrassing run through conference play. But, somehow, the Jayhawks got better. They competed at Iowa State, played a great game defensively at Nebraska, ripped off a record-setting comeback to beat Colorado and even hung in their for a half with offensive juggernaut Oklahoma State. Not many of those feats are worth writing home about, but they did represent progress — progress that came after a stretch that said no hope was on the horizon.
And that kind of progress — and beyond — can be made again this season. If for no other reason than because these guys have an even better mindset and an even tighter locker room this season.
Does that mean they’ll win another game or two? It doesn’t. But it won’t be for lack of trying. No matter what the outcome has been the week before, this team has shown up on Sundays following gameday with the mentality of getting to work and getting better.
Expect it to remain that way the rest of the season, win or lose.