Austin’s Todd Reesing, who quarterbacked Kansas to the 2008 Orange Bowl as a sophomore, went back to Lawrence last year to watch his Jayhawks play Texas. Head coach Charlie Weis asked the former Jayhawks star to chat with the team before the game, because Reesing had lived through the glory years, not these recently painful ones.
Reesing gave them an old adage from his former coach Mark Mangino.
“Just keep chopping wood,” Reesing told the team. “Keep working hard.”
The Jayhawks responded well, both to Reesing’s words and coaches’ game plans. Up until 12 seconds to go in the game, it appeared Kansas would upset Texas.
Then Case McCoy, who had come off the bench to relieve David Ash, threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end D.J. Grant, securing the 21-17 come-from-behind victory.
“Unfortunately for teams on kind of a cusp, they can compete with the teams, but they don’t have the ability to put a team away,” said Reesing, who works in investor relations for Dimensional Fund Advisors in Austin. He’ll be on the Jayhawks’ sideline Saturday.
The Jayhawks have lost 25 straight Big 12 games. If they don’t flip the losing script this month, they’ll break the record for futility that Baylor set from 1999 to 2002 when the Bears lost 29 straight Big 12 games.
Loss No. 25, which came a week ago in Lawrence, Kan., was a 59-14 drubbing by the Bears, who have morphed from a doormat a decade ago to a top-10 team.
Kansas’ slide started in 2009, when Reesing — the former Lake Travis star — was in his final season, playing part of the year with a painful groin injury. He ended his career with more than 11,000 yards passing and 90 touchdowns, but with no bowl appearance his final year.
Mangino, who has resurfaced this year as the tight ends coach at Youngstown State, was forced to resign after the Jayhawks ended 2009 with a seven-game skid after starting the year 5-0.
The week before Kansas opened Big 12 play this season, Weis introduced the streak at a press conference, noting that it had been 1,063 days since the Jayhawks last won a league game.
He said this week he no longer mentions it.
It’s now been 1,090 days since Kansas’ last league win, a 52-45 victory over Colorado that required 35 unanswered Jayhawks points in the final 11 minutes. It was the greatest comeback in school history and most thought then that Turner Gill, who had replaced Mangino, had his team steered on the correct trajectory.
Instead, the win only hastened the exit of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, who was terminated three days later.
Gill suffered a similar fate after the 2011 season. He got close to snapping the streak weeks before he got his walking papers. Kansas was up 24-3 at home over Baylor heading into the fourth quarter. But Robert Griffin III, a month away from winning his Heisman, led the Bears to 21 fourth-quarter points to take the game into overtime.
So far, the closest Weis has come to snapping the streak was last year against the Longhorns. His team also fell in double overtime to Texas Tech in 2012.
Weis wants his team to realize how near they were to being good enough to beat Texas as opposed to living down to the role of a 28-point underdog.
“The players should feel like they have a chance at winning. That’s the most important thing,” Weis said. “Look, they just came off a butt kicking this past week, so you’re getting ready to go on the road to Texas, who’s got momentum going on their side.
“But just like I’m sure that Mack is showing them the game from last year saying ‘Don’t overlook these guys,’ we’re also showing the game from last year: ‘It’s the same guys, fellas.’ … That’s who you’re going against. There they are, the same guys.”
Kansas led Oklahoma by 13 points two weeks ago, only to lose by 15. That’s as good has it’s been. Last week’s loss was the 11th time in the past four years the Jayhawks have allowed 50 points or more.
Texas coach Mack Brown, who is good friends with Weis, was in a similar spot earlier in his career when his first two teams at North Carolina struggled to an overall 2-20 record. He said you have to emphasize what the team has done well, rather than dwell on the woes.
“When you continue to improve,” Brown said, “you eventually break through.”
That’s what Weis is hoping for. He plans on using junior transfer Jake Heaps — who played against Texas in 2011 as BYU’s starter — and freshman Montel Cozart at quarterback in an effort to recharge his sagging offense, which ranks 117th nationally in total yards.
They’ll finish the year with games against Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State. Lose them all, and the streak goes to 30.
“Let’s see how it plays out at the end of the year,” Weis said. “If we’re sitting here 2-10 at the end of the year, then it’s going to be tough for me to sit here and answer if there’s a lot of progress. I’d have a tough time saying it. But, that’s not where we intend on being.”
TEXAS VS. KANSAS
2:30 p.m. Saturday, LHN, 1300, 98.1
The Jayhawks haven’t won a Big 12 game since Nov. 6, 2010. A look at those last 25 losses:
2013;Texas Tech, 54-16
2012;W. Virginia, 59-10
2012;Iowa State, 51-23*
2012;Texas Tech, 41-34 (OT)
2012;Oklahoma St., 20-14*
2012;Kansas St., 56-16
2011;Texas A&M, 61-7
2011;Iowa State, 13-10
2011;Kansas St., 59-21*
2011;Oklahoma St., 70-28
2011;Texas Tech, 45-34*
2010;Oklahoma St., 48-14*