Please, No Repeat

Rewind to exactly one year ago on Sept. 15. Mark Mangino's Jayhawks were seemingly on their way to their third straight victory. With Kansas leading at Toledo, 23-17, into the fourth quarter, KU fans were already looking ahead to the following week against South Florida and dreaming of a 4-0 start.

But Toledo marched back and scored twice, taking a 31-23 lead. While KU wound up tying the game with less than four minutes remaining to force overtime, Toledo held on and won, 37-31, in double overtime.

It was jubilation for the Toledo football program and Mid-American Conference, but heartbreak to the Jayhawk Nation. KU was doomed by five turnovers, including four interceptions by quarterback Kerry Meier. While it was just one game, Kansas perhaps never recovered. The Jayhawks beat South Florida the next week, but then lost four straight games.

All summer, the KU players had time to think about that game and what went wrong. And all summer, they became determined to not let fourth quarter leads like that slip away again.

It’s now one year later and guess who’s coming to Memorial Stadium tonight? KU fans need not worry about their Jayhawks coming to play versus Toledo. The crimson and blue faithful will be out in full force, and so will the ‘Hawks. Kansas (2-0) is riding high after two blowout victories over Central Michigan (52-7) and Southeastern Louisiana (62-0), and there’s no letdown in sight.

Not with Toledo in town.

“It has definitely been in the back of our minds,” said sophomore running back Jake Sharp about last year’s loss to the Rockets. “There is no mistaking that.”

Junior linebacker Joe Mortenson can’t wait for the 6 p.m. kickoff.

“Every game is emotional,” Mortenson said. “We go out there and play like we are playing the best team in the nation. That’s how we try to approach it. We always try to find something to be mad about. They are coming to our house and we do not want anyone to beat us in our house.”

Kansas coach Mark Mangino is obviously concerned about Toledo, despite the team’s 0-2 start.

“Toledo is much like the team they had last year,” Mangino said. “Offensively, they are averaging about 400 yards per game and they are passing for close to 270 (yards per game). They are moving the ball on offense, there’s no question. They have been using two quarterbacks (Aaron Opelt and Clint Cochran) and they’ve had success with each one. ...On defense, they have some new kids, but they have a lot of kids that were the same as last year, too. They are big and physical up front on the defensive line.”

The Jayhawks come into the matchup after making history in their first two games, becoming the first team in school annals to score at least 50 points in back-to-back contests. KU’s 62-0 victory over Southeastern Louisiana last week also ranks as the largest margin since its 72-0 win over UAB in 1994. Moreover, KU held consecutive opponents to 10 points or less for the first time since 1975.

Mangino likes what he sees, but he knows there is great room for improvement in all phases of the game.

“I feel like we are getting better assignment-wise, execution-wise and on special teams,” he said. “We are making a lot of improvement in areas of offense. We just feel like we have to be better fundamentally there with the little things of finishing blocks, making good reads and finding holes in the zone.”

“On defense, we’re doing a great job of stopping the run,” Mangino added. “We didn’t get tested a lot this past week, but we will (against Toledo). We just want to get some turnovers on the defensive side of the ball.”

Yes, Kansas has been great defending the run thus far. Southeastern Louisiana rushed for a net-minus-31 yards, which ranks as the second fewest rushing yards all time by a KU foe. On the flip side, KU has forced just one turnover in two games (fumble recovery).

Come Saturday night, expect some takeaways and inspired play from these Jayhawks. After all, KU knows what happened last season when it started 2-0. The ‘Hawks made just too many mistakes and got beat by Toledo in game three.

And they certainly don’t want that to happen again. Certainly not after the bitter feelings of last year’s heartbreaking defeat one year ago on Sept. 15.

“We know that they beat us straight-up and we were really upset about it,” Sharp said. “We are going to prepare like we have prepared for all our opponents. We are going to have a great game plan.

Phog.net Top Stories