Jayhawks Hope To Finish In 2013

Read some of the national college football preview magazines and you'd be convinced that Kansas should just forfeit the season and accept being everybody's Homecoming opponent for all eternity.

Read some of the national college football preview magazines and you'd be convinced that Kansas should just forfeit the season and accept being everybody's Homecoming opponent for all eternity.

Last year's 1-11 season was the way it should always be when talking about football at the University of Kansas.

Well, those who form that opinion either have an ax to grind with the program, no very little about football, or are just too lazy to look deeper into Kansas' 2012 season, as they look ahead to the 2013 campaign, as camp opens today.

Yes, the Jayhawks were 1-11 and as Bill Parcells always said, you are what your record says you are, However, the 1-11 in 2012, compared to the records and days of the disastrous Turner Gill era are quite deceiving.

Dig deeper into Kansas' 2012 season and you see that a few things could have made everything look a 180 degrees better and the tune would change. Except all the so-called "experts" might be saying what they should be heading into this season.

First, let's get one thing out of the way. The Big 12 is a tough conference. This gets said nearly every year, especially since the 10 teams in the league are now playing a round robin each year.

But, at some point, it's just a great big excuse and head coach Charlie Weis would be the first person to point that out. Truth is, at that point you have to start beating teams. You can't use the schedule as an excuse.

Pundits would say Kansas has to be realistic and hope for a couple of easy wins, but if you look closer, last season debunks that myth.

In 2012, the Jayhawks won their first game and lost the rest, but starting with the second game of the year against, Rice, the season could have played out much differently.

KU had the game all but won, leading through, until a mistake gave the Owls, great field position and their kicker, one of the best in the nation, the exact opposite of what Kansas had last year, knocked home a game winning field goal to score Rice a 25-24 upset.

A week later, the Jayhawks played TCU tough, keeping the game a one-possession game until the Horned Frogs added a score late. KU lost 20-6 primarily because they had no offense of any kind. Stud running back James Sims was out the first three game of the season and the passing game was DOA for the entire season. Kansas was a one-dimensional team and without Sims, that dimension was solidified yet.

Yet, they could have been sitting at 3-0 or 2-1 at the worse heading into their fourth game at Northern Illinois, which saw the return of Sims to compliment the sensational Tony Pierson, who will have a breakout season in 2013.

Against NIU, Kansas held a lead in the fourth quarter, after their defense put one in on an interception and return for touchdown. They would eventually fall 30-23 and yet, they could have been no worse than 3-1.

Early in the season, the defense created some opportunities, forcing turnovers. Much credit should go to defensive coordinator Dave Campo, who made due with many of the same guys who were lit up the previous two seasons. This season, there are many new faces and upgrades at key positions that could bring about much different results.

All being said, Kansas wasn't going to beat Kansas State, but until Tony Pierson left the game with an injury in the second quarter, the Jayhawks had Bill Snyder Family Stadium silent, as Weis called perhaps his best game of the season if only for a half. Despite being out-manned across the board, Weis help orchestrate a clever gameplan that had the scored tied at 14-14 late in the first half. When Pierson left, it spiraled downward in a hurry.

Against, Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks trailed 20-0, before Weis pulled quarterback Dayne Crist and inserted run oriented Michael Cummings and with it went much of what the team had been working on. In essence, Weis was having to scrap the playbook and change approaches, mid game, mid season. In football, that is excruciatingly difficult to do. However, Weis was left with no choice and behind Sims, who was now in shape, KU closed to within 20-14 and forced an OK State punt. Many had the feeling that if Cummings and Sims got the ball back, they'd manufacture a drive and miraculously score an epic comeback victory. You know what happen from there.

KU rushed the punt, missed the ball and got the punter instead. Personal foul. Game over. They stood at a deceiving 1-5. They could have been no worse than 4-2, even 5-1.

The next week, they got housed at Oklahoma. There's no sugarcoating that one and aside from the finale at West Virginia, it was their worst performance of the year, which led into their Homecoming matchup with Texas.

Similar to the 2004 game that still haunts many fans, it was an early game on a cold day with a matchup, which on paper looked bad for Kansas.

Like in 2004, you know the story. Kansas fought their butt off for 60 minutes and had the game won. They took a 17-14 lead behind crafty play calling, despite being a one-dimensional running team with little expected or received from the passing game. Yet, they led 17-14 with 2:28 to play, after leading 14-7 at halftime.

Texas had benched starting quarterback David Ash, who had a very solid 2012, with backup Case McCoy and on the first play from scrimmage, McCoy all but sealed the game, when he hit Kansas cornerback Greg Brown in the numbers. Brown, who was shocked that McCoy had fired such a bad pass, dropped the ball and Texas was given new life. A few plays later, the Longhorns were faced with an almost impossible 4th and long with the game on the line. Sound familiar?

Sadly, like in 2004, Texas came through with the heroics and won 21-17. It was arguably Kansas' most heartbreaking loss of the season and if a play or two goes differently, they're sitting at perhaps 5-3 or even 6-2 heading into November.

In that month, there were greater ups and downs. A 41-14 loss at Baylor was followed by a 41-34 double overtime loss at Texas Tech.

In that game, KU looked to have had the Red Raiders beat, until a play here and a play there changed things.

After all the heartbreak and a season were they didn't catch one break whatsoever, the Jayhawks had nothing left. They closed the season with a surprising Senior Night blowout loss to Iowa State and one final beating at West Virginia to end the season.

But, if things went differently, the Jayhawks could have easily finished 2012 with a 6-6 and bowl eligibility and you could argue that they could have even finished 7-5.

If either of those scenarios play out, you're talking about possible coach of the year honors for Weis and credit and accolades for his staff, who would have taken a team that was given no chance and turning them into a gritty bowl team that played with a lot of heart and passion. Then, people are singing a much different tune heading into 2012.

The most astounding fact? Weis and his staff would have accomplished this with the absence of a consistent passing game of any kind. It basically would have been Sims, Pierson, the zone read and use of the "Jayhawk" formation. That's as remarkable as a 6-6 or 7-5 record in itself.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be and all it's done has fired this group up.

Moving on to this season, Kansas has quite a bit of upside and there seems to be the most optimism swirling about since Mark Mangino roamed the sidelines.

For starters, they return their two best offensive weapons in running backs James Sims and Tony Pierson. Pierson will be the most intriguing player, as Weis will use him in a variety of roles, similar to that of Tavon Austin, who excelled at West Virginia. Pierson may be listed as a running back, but he will get about 80% of the reps at wide receiver.

However, the spotlight will be on quarterback Jake Heaps, who after a year running the show team, will step in to try and add the one dimension that went missing a year ago. Because of transfer rules, Heaps had to sit on the sidelines and watch, but it could prove a positive, as he seems eager to make the Kansas offense potent.

Another advantage to Heaps' show team performance was the built chemistry with Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay. If Heaps and McCay can replicate what they showed last year, KU will move the ball with much more efficiency. On defense, Campo was a czar in 2012. He essentially built a defense with the same guys from the previous year and they competed at a high level. This year, there are many new reinforcements via junior college transfers.

The secondary was essentially remade. Cornerback Cassius Sendish is one of many new JUCO newcomers who could assist in remaking a defense that struggled late last season.

Linebackers Marcus Jenkins-Moore (when healthy), Andrew Bolton and defensive lineman Marquel Combs will add some nastiness to the unit.

The staff even addressed last year's special teams woes and the hope is that the kicking game won't be the liability that it was a year ago.

If healthy and if they catch more breaks than they did in 2012 (one would qualify as more…), you have to think that Jayhawks will compete and could challenge for bowl eligibility.


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