It’s been 353 days since the Kansas University football team last won a game, and you can bet there was some dancing after that one.
The date of KU’s last football victory was Sept. 10, 2011, the game was at home against Northern Illinois, and the Jayhawks topped the Huskies, 45-42, with a touchdown pass from then-QB Jordan Webb to D.J. Beshears on KU’s final offensive play of the night.
Some of the dancing took place out on the field, as the Jayhawks went wild on the sidelines following the dramatic victory that moved the team to 2-0. Players stood on benches and gestured to the crowd to get loud. Others huddled together, laughing, smiling, fidgeting and doing whatever else came from the natural high of victory.
No one knew at the time that the Jayhawks would go nearly an entire year without experiencing that feeling again, and, even though no one knows for sure when the rush of winning will return, the new-look Jayhawks finally will get another shot at capturing it at 6:06 p.m. Saturday night at Memorial Stadium when they play host to South Dakota State in the 2012 season opener.
By now, after an intense and no-nonsense fall camp led by new coach Charlie Weis, the Jayhawks seem to be as prepared as they can be for the game. The playbook is familiar, philosophies are understood and responses to just about every imaginable situation second nature.
In fact, so scripted is the way the opener should go that Weis even outlined what the postgame would look like when describing the ideal Saturday at his news conference earlier this week.
“Your ideal (day) is that you win the game and you play solid on all three facets,” Weis began. “There always will be plenty of constructive criticisms to lay out with the players after the game, but (you play solid) enough to where the players were excited, the fans were excited, the students were excited; everyone hung around for the entire game. You go out (onto the field) afterwards and shake their hands, you go sing the alma mater; you come into the locker room where we’ve got this little dance thing that we do in the locker room after we’ve won a game.”
Remember, this is a coach who, during spring ball, had his players practice rushing the field after hitting a game-winning field goal and made them do it a second time when the first try was not up to his standards. No detail goes untouched, no situation gets ignored.
As for the “dance” that Weis talked about in that ideal scenario, that, too, is right up his alley.
“The little dance thing is what Clint Bowen (1992-93) and Rod Jones (1992-95) have taught the team from their experiences,” said Weis of his assistant coaches who both played — and “danced” — at KU. “(It’s) totally unfamiliar to me. I stand in the background and just have a bunch of chuckles because it’s quite humorous. It was taught to them. This is what they did. So that’s what we’re doing. I’m big on traditions.”
Bowen downplayed the whole idea when asked about it after Wednesday’s practiced, choosing instead to keep the details inside the locker room. The smile that stuck on his face while he respectfully declined to describe the experience illustrated clearly that it’s important to him, though.
“We’re gonna have some fun when we win again,” Bowen said. “Wins are a great thing, and, in the Big 12, when you get one you have to celebrate it. We’re gonna be back in action.”
For the players themselves, the extra attention paid to what happens after a win has helped bring them back to better days. After winning back-to-back bowl games in 2007 and 2008 and opening the 2009 season 5-0, the Jayhawks have won just five times in the past 31 games. But the upperclassmen on this year’s team remember those winning ways and they’re looking forward to getting more victories and the celebrations that come with them.
“It’s not really a dance, it’s like a Rock-Chalk kind of chant that we do after games,” junior linebacker Huldon Tharp said. “My freshman year we did it, so it’s not a brand-new thing, but it is new to a lot of guys.”
Tharp, who first learned the celebration that Bowen and Jones recently brought back from former KU greats Darrell Stuckey, Kerry Meier and Todd Reesing, did not remember exactly how it came up during camp.
“It was just kind of random,” he said. “We were sitting in meetings and Coach Weis called Coach Bowen and Coach Rod Jones up and they started talking about how we do it and the seniors got up and participated. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I’m glad we’re doing it again.”
So is senior safety Bradley McDougald, who said he hoped the blast from the past would help him savor every moment of his final season as a Jayhawk.
“It’s just another way for the team to come closer together after a win, to celebrate together as a team,” McDougald said.
The only question left to answer now is: When will they be able to unleash it again?