Recent KU Success Over KSU Fun, Frustrating

There were supposed to be some competitive games in there somewhere, right?

I’m probably the only one who remembers this, but I clearly recall third-year KU head football coach Mark Mangino standing up at football media day 2004 and saying that he was excited for the upcoming season because he finally had guys who looked like Big 12 football players.

He talked about how the work in the weight room and the off-season conditioning was going to start paying. “We’ve finally got some guys with Big 12 bodies,” he said.

That got me all charged up as a fan. After all, I’d seen what his predecessor had considered a Big 12 caliber-body, and 255-pound defensive tackles weren’t going to get it done against a Kansas State offensive line that, at the time, would’ve been the fifth largest in the NFL. You heard right: not the NCAA – the National Football League.

Lack of success against Kansas State was, in fact, one of many, many, many reasons Mangino’s predecessor was shown the door. When Mangino walked onto Mount Oread, KU hadn’t beaten Kansas State in nine years. That first year, Mangino had to endure a 64-0 beatdown at the hands of his old mentor, KSU coach Bill Snyder, that could have been 100-0 had Snyder wanted it to be. It wasn’t until Mangino’s third year as head coach that KU finally beat the Wildcats, 31-28, in Lawrence.

Since then, we’ve seen Kansas players get bigger and stronger, and we’ve seen the program make tremendous progress. KU is 4-2 against Kansas State since Mangino took the helm, including Saturday’s 52-21 rout that also made it three in a row against their cross-state rival.

Don’t get me wrong, now. I won’t say that Saturday wasn’t fun, or that last year’s Kansas win at Bill Snyder Family Stadium (where the Jayhawks hadn’t won since Bobby McFerrin was telling us to be happy) wasn’t fun. It was, but I’m also feeling a little frustrated.

For the better part of 15 years, I watched Bill Snyder and his purple football machine steamroll the Jayhawks in Manhattan. I saw them do it in Lawrence. If they’d have played in Aferica, KSU would’ve won there, too. I looked forward after each of those ugly losses to the day that KU would somehow manage to find enough horses to compete year in and year out against the markedly bigger, faster, stronger Wildcats.

Fast forward to last Saturday. Everyone expected a competitive game between two teams with potent offenses and suspect defenses. Not so much. For three quarters of football, the Jayhawks defense looked like the ’85 Chicago Bears.

I confess, I hadn’t seen Kansas State play this season, and if I did, I blocked it out of my mind.  That said, I had no idea that they had fallen this far.

From what I can see, KSU has one lineman – Ian Campbell – who looks like a Big 12 football player. Every one of Ron Prince’s linemen on both sides of the ball are 6-6 or 6-7, which is great, but they all weight 260 and have skinny arms, little butts and long, lean legs. That’s great if you’re a power forward; it’s lousy if you’re ramming heads 40-some odd times with someone who outweighs you by 35 or 40 pounds who can bench press.

Kansas State’s skill players, with the exception of QB Josh Freeman and RB LeMark Brown are little. I mean, really little. Not undersized -- little. I’m talking teeny.

Side note: if LeMark Brown had someone blocking for him, he’d be really good. He is an athletic freak.

KSU coach Ron Prince says he wants long, lean athletic linemen with speed and quickness. Well, Ron – can I call you “Ron?” – I saw Texas Tech up close and personal, and the Red Raiders are stocking up on kids who are 6-7, 340 or 350, who can run a 5.0 40. You can bet Texas and Oklahoma are, too, and the rest of the conference won’t be far behind.

Remember, Ron, when you tried to sneak your QB into the end zone on 1st-and-goal from the one in the first quarter, only to watch him finger roll the ball into the end zone, ala George Gervin, from two yards out? One reason he was two yards out was because Mangino sent Darius Parish (6-7, 341) and Jamaal Green (6-4, 310) into the trenches. No sooner was the ball snapped than KSU’s offensive line found themselves abruptly shoved two yards backwards.

Sorry. I know I sound like a KSU fan, as frustrated as I am. But I got real tired of KU going 11 years without even being close to having the horses to play in a big rivalry game like this. Now that they have a few, Kansas State doesn’t have any. Some steps in rebuilding this rivalry were skipped. The tide wasn’t supposed to turn this fast. There were supposed to be a bunch of good games in the middle.

Saturday’s game showed us that not only has KU’s football program passed Kansas State’s, but in fact, Ron Prince has turned the bus around and is headed the opposite direction.


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