Hawks High Hopes

The Kansas Jayhawks were feeling pretty good about themselves early last season. After all, they just recorded their best season ever in 2007 and were off to a 3-1 start before entering Big 12 play at Iowa State on Oct. 4, 2008.

Then KU got hammered by the Cyclones the first half and was down 20-0 at halftime before rallying in the second half and pulling off a 35-33 victory, matching the third biggest comeback in school history.

KU went three-and-out on its first three possessions in the first half and only posted five first downs and 93 yards by halftime.

For Kansas, those first 30 minutes were a wake-up call and a recent history lesson heading into Saturday's showdown with Iowa State at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is at 11:30 a.m. (CT) on Versus between the 15th ranked, 4-0 Jayhawks and 3-2 Cyclones.

"We have presented last year's game against Iowa State as ‘this is what happens when you show up and are not ready to play and not mentally sharp,'" KU coach Mark Mangino said.

"I think our kids prepare well every week, but they took some things for granted," Mangino added about that game. "That is what happens in college football when you take things for granted, you put yourself in a big hole. We played two totally different halves, but if you don't show up ready to play, or you take your opponent for granted, you will get stunned. We were fortunate that our kids showed a lot of poise to come back in the second half."

Indeed, the Jayhawks regrouped after halftime and charged back. Kansas scored touchdowns on five of six drives, including two TDs by running back Jake Sharp. KU outscored ISU 21-0 in the third quarter. Sharp had 186 all-purpose yards for the game, while Kerry Meier caught seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Todd Reesing also had a big day completing 18 of 26 passes for 319 yards, including 10 of 12 for 260 yards and three TDs in that pivotal second half.

"Everybody did a good job of staying calm and poised," Mangino said about the mood at halftime. "When you're down 20 points at the half, it doesn't do any good to kick the water bucket, so the coaches were not going to do that kind of stuff. We talked about trying to get the kids in the right frame of mind by staying positive. Technically on offense and defense, we asked ourselves ‘what can we do against them on offense and what do we need to do to stop them on defense?'

"I gathered them [the team] up and said ‘listen, we deserve to be where we are right now, but we can change it. This is a good test of our courage and we will find out what kind of football team we are in this second half.' ... It was a terrible first half, but it was a good teaching moment for us at halftime, preparing for that second half."

The Jayhawks learned a golden truth that game.

"It was definitely a learning lesson," Meier said. "We can't find ourselves digging that deep of a hole, especially in Big 12 play. Teams are going to be ready to come out and play four quarters and that's what we are going to have to do."

Senior nickelback Justin Thornton agrees.

"If an opponent gets up 20-0 on you at halftime," Thornton said, "you've definitely got to realize that you've got to be focused going into every game, otherwise someone will sneak up on you and beat you."

Expect KU to be focused entering this Saturday rematch and lead from the start. The Jayhawks seems to have ISU's number. KU has won the last four meetings and five of the last six. The Cyclones haven't beat Kansas in Lawrence since 2001.

However, if the unlikely scenario happens and the Jayhawks find themselves in a similar first-half hole as last year, Thornton has confidence KU will show composure again and battle back.

"It all comes with the leadership," Thornton said. "We've got guys who have been in that situation before. All the guys who were in that situation last year, if something like that were to happen again we'd know how to handle ourselves. Experience helps and goes a long way in situations like that."

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