Kansas finished that season 2-10 and without a conference win. Tulsa finished with a one-win season and fired their coach.
Enter 2003. Kansas blossomed under second year coach Mark Mangino and finished 6-7 with a trip to the Tangerine Bowl. Tulsa made the nation's biggest improvement under coach Steve Kragthorpe and rolled to a record and a ticket to the Humanitarian Bowl.
Now both teams are trying to improve on that performance and show that last season wasn't a fluke. It should make for a raucus season-opener at Memorial Stadium.
Offensive Advantage: Push
Last season, both teams succeeded because of heady play from two talented quarterbacks. Bad news for a Kansas team, that doesn't return Bill Whittemore. Tulsa does return their starting quarterback, James Kilian, who threw for 2,217 yards and 22 touchdowns while adding 605 rushing yards with seven more touchdowns last season. But before you go and label Kilian a traditional dual-threat quarterback, the reason he makes plays is with his head, not his feet.
"He probably runs a five-flat 40 with a stiff Oklahoma breeze at his back," Kragthorpe said. "He does have ‘oh crap' speed. He runs a lot faster with somebody chasing him.
While Kilian is the leading returning Tulsa rusher, the team does return running back Uril Parrish Jr., a quick player who should also see time at kick returner. Sophomore Brandon Diles averaged eight yards per carry last season as the third stringer. Kansas will also use a bit of tailback-by-committee. Getting the lion's share of the touches should be versatile junior Clark Green. John Randle, normally the second back in the rotation, may or may not play. Mangino has made a decision on that, but refuses to reveal it till game day.
Next in line would be Jon Cornish or true frosh Gary Green. Kilian's favorite targets are his tight ends Caleb Blankenship and Garret Mills. Both are mobile tight ends who can block. When throwing downfield, Kilian will look for speedy wideout. The offensive line has some questions, but they are physical and should create lanes for Parrish and Kilian.
Defensive Advantage: Kansas
Kansas's defensive line faces a tough task. They need to mount a pass rush to stop Kilian from firing all over the field. But come too far upfield or slide out of their lanes and Kilian may be able to use that ‘oh crap' speed to make a big play. Travis Watkins needs to generate push to close up the middle and eliminate running lanes.
The linebacking corps is quick and Gabe Toomey has the instincts to stay with Kilian and slow him down before he starts. The secondary is athletic, but must be more physical since Tulsa will line the tight ends up in the slot. Strong safety play by Rodney Harris and Tony Stubbs is a must.
Tulsa lines up in a 3-3-5 stack. The defense was an issue last year as it didn't play physically. This year again, the front is undersized. Linebacker Nick Bunting makes a ton of tackles and is great in pursuit. The defensive backs lack playmakers and are prone to give up the big play. This is a defense built on speed, speed and more speed, but lacks bulk.
Charles Gordon is a dangerous return man and could change the impact of the game in one touch. Kansas is the stronger and more athletic team, but Tulsa has an element of the unknown. They play a unique offense and defense that Kansas will not see for the rest of the year. Kansas needs this one to try and build momentum in the nonconference season because the schedule is brutal.