Saturday, November 3, 2007

Talk of the town

Off to 8-0 start, Jayhawks relish attention


KU favored in Huskers game

The undefeated Kansas Jayhawks take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers tomorrow. If the oddsmakers are correct, KU will win by three touchdowns.

Gameday for the goalposts

Kansas versus Nebraska: only two other schools have played more in NCAA football history. 6News reporter Crispin Lopez finds out whether a Jayhawk victory tomorrow will stir up a celebration similar to the one that happened in 2005.

Five years ago, Kansas University football was the campus-wide joke. It was criticized, laughed about and trashed. Perhaps worse than any of those, it was largely ignored on Mount Oread.

With KU's men's basketball team between Final Four runs, a column in The University Daily Kansan in the fall of 2002 summed up the perception of football on campus.

It encouraged fans NOT to go to the last game of the season against Oklahoma State, instead giving alternatives for a Saturday in Lawrence.

Back to the present, and the No. 8 Jayhawks are 8-0, the toast of the town and making a run at history continuing today with an 11:30 a.m. game against Nebraska at sold-out Memorial Stadium.

Media requests are rolling in, and players are noticing a little more love on campus. Running back Brandon McAnderson - no slouch himself - said that quarterback Todd Reesing is "probably like one of the Beatles now."

Exaggerating? Maybe. But the buzz KU's football team is generating this season is a welcome perk, especially on a campus where finger-pointing and whispering usually is abundant only when a basketball player walks by.

"It's been a great atmosphere," junior Mike Rivera said. "When you win, things are good."

Star status

Reesing disputes the rock-star claim passed his way by McAnderson, and he has a great point to back it up.

At just 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Reesing would look much more in place at a fraternity house than under center at Memorial Stadium.

"It's not like we're big icons or anything," Reesing counters. "We're just regular students. A lot of people wouldn't know we played football if we didn't wear our football sweatshirts now and then."

Reesing obviously isn't talking about guys like 6-6, 315-pound left tackle Anthony Collins, who looks like nothing if not a future NFL offensive lineman. But for others, Reesing's point is valid.

Nationally, the Jayhawks remain individual no-names outside of Reesing and cornerback Aqib Talib. But the media are trying to do their part to change that.

KU's sports-information office, for example, compiles a list of outside interview requests each week to give to coach Mark Mangino for approval. In the past, it typically has been no more than five queries.

"That sheet is now almost two pages," Mangino said. "There's a lot of attention, and we're handling it well. We're being smart. We're trying to do the right things.

"I want our players and our team, any publicity that's due to them, I'd like them to get it."

Rivera, KU's starting outside linebacker, said he's saving all the clips to read and appreciate at the end of the season. Others, like center Ryan Cantrell, are brushing them off altogether.

"I don't care about what the guys on ESPN are telling us about what we are and what we're not," Cantrell said. "We know what we are and what we're not."

Besides, Cantrell doesn't tune into ESPN a lot anyway. He can't.

"We don't really have cable or anything in our house right now," he said with a smile. "I've been watching a lot of movies."

Staying grounded

The Jayhawks have succeeded, in part, because of their ability to compartmentalize each week of the season.

Was this team, with no past to brag about and no stable of five-star recruits, supposed to roll to an 8-0 start? Probably not.

But did Kansas have a chance in every game? Apparently. And eating each slice of pizza and moving on to the next is a lot easier than envisioning the whole pie in your stomach.

"The past is the past, and whatever the next day brings you, that's what you got to take," Cantrell said. "The only things I'm thinking about right now is that I have a presentation in (economics) class, and I have Nebraska this week."

The Jayhawks are at a level they haven't been at under this coaching staff and with these players. Yet the weekly approach is working, because they haven't failed yet.

"We're not going to get an overinflated ego," Reesing said. "We're not going to change the way we handle our business because that's what got us here.

"The hard work, the mentality we take in practice, the preparation for the game is how we got to where we're at now. We're not going to change that because we had a little success."

Still on top

But the outsiders certainly will sing a different tune as the success mounts.

KU's basketball team had its first exhibition game this week to a fraction of the normal hype. Make no mistake: While it is November, it's still football season on campus.

Mangino, for one, doesn't get out much. During season, he's either tucked away in his second-story office preparing for the next opponent, or at home with his family getting a rare breather.

But he has a good guess about what's being talked about on campus. And it's a little different from year's past.

"I have a sneaking suspicion that our students are pretty fired up," Mangino said. "They always have been supportive of the football program. They show up when things aren't good. I suspect right now they're really happy, and we want them to be."


Kevin Long 14 years, 8 months ago

It's nice to have to talk being about football. I was really tired of our football program being a laughing stock. They have come a very long way and aren't done yet.

sevenyearhawk 14 years, 8 months ago

I know everyone is tired of hearing this, but ...

this is an era for Kansas football I've only dared dream about: while living in Florida and attending the Tangerine Bowl; the Greyhound bus ride to Lubbock and the pandemonium that was the return trip; or the long flight back from Dallas following the Baylor debacle ...

I was at Kansas Sampler yesterday and actually saw a couple items with a Jayhawk and a FOOTBALL on them ...

When they start making football calendars, like they do for the basketball team - then, and only then will I realize this isn't some crazy, wonderful fantasy ... but the New Reality!


troutsee 14 years, 8 months ago

Football is king. It is the ultimate team sport. Individuals don't win games in football....the team wins games. There is more strategy in football than in any other sport. What a chess game. Having a solid football program is essential for the vitality of large universities.


Kirk 14 years, 8 months ago

This is an amazing time to be a KU fan. Really something.

I remember go-for-2. And all those millions of beat downs.


kujayhawk47 14 years, 8 months ago

Dont forget that Ryan Greene, a staff member for the LJ World, was the one who wrote that article referenced above saying everyone should stay away from Memorial Stadium five years ago. As a KU athlete at that time, I remember feeling terrible for the football seniors that someone would disrespect them like that. So, next time Ryan Greene wants to jump on the bandwagon and try to act like a KU supporter- remember he was the one encouraging everyone to NOT support the Jayhawks five years ago when we struggled to win.

14 years, 8 months ago

Wow. I wasn't aware of that article. I remember being a student at KU in 1987, and there was talk of getting rid of football all together. Wichita State had done just that the year prior, and sadly, even without a program, some publications had them ranked higher than us.

rgreene 14 years, 8 months ago

KUjayhawk47, thanks for calling me out.

I guess my only defense was that I was 20 years old and in my early days as a columnist at a college newspaper. It's no excuse, but as a student at the time, I probably let emotions get the better of me in that one.

ks_univ_nut 14 years, 8 months ago

More players and coaches need this attitude --

"I don't care about what the guys on ESPN are telling us about what we are and what we're not," Cantrell said. "We know what we are and what we're not."

Maybe the games would be about the sport again instead of a business for the mass media to make money off of.

We are in a different era now, everything is centered around the almighty dollar.


Michael Auchard 14 years, 8 months ago

Props to you, Ryan, for having some accountability. I think that one article, written years ago, should not dictate a career. Especially since you pretty much eat, sleep, breathe KU at your current job.

Dirk Medema 14 years, 8 months ago

KU Nut - You missed the other great part of Cantrell's comment, " All I care about is my econ class/exam/presentation and NU on Saturday."

Ryan - Thanks for chiming in with a comment and a bit of humility. It is one of the things that I really appreciate about these comments. That you guys aren't isolated from everything, and even fess up to making corrections when they are pointed out. It definitely beats the rants in other places where people hide behind the keyboard.

Teapot9 14 years, 8 months ago

Ryan, I am saddened to be honest. That sounds like something Romary would do.

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