Shoulda, coulda, gotta!
Kansas shoulda defeated Kansas State in football last season, and coulda finished up 7-4. This year, the Jayhawks gotta beat the Wildcats or they'll be showing a shaky 3-2 record with a promising season poised to topple off the cliff worse than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch and Sundance survived; Kansas might wind up drowning if it lets KSU get away. Then KU must bag a victory at Iowa State to set the stage for that really big year.
Kansas State by beating New Mexico State this weekend can come here Oct. 10 with a six-game winning streak and unbridled enthusiasm. In K-State football, a six-pack is the equivalent of a Super Bowl triumph for some teams. Come to think of it, Kansas hasn't won six in a row since its eight-game run from the Missouri finale of 1967 and a 7-0 start for the 1968 Orange Bowl season.
But, Bill Snyder's Wildcats also have two ``must'' games staring them smack in the face improved NMS this weekend, then Kansas. A lot of wind would whoosh out of the K-State sails if it's ambushed by rebuilt New Mexico State and falls at KU.
Don't expect Oct. 10 to be anything less than a foot-in-the-face donnybrook like these Sunflower State opponents once provided their fans. There's a lot more than just bragging rights at stake.
PROGRESS? Kansas has made a lot under Glen Mason. The California game reiterated that. Cal is better than Kansas, but KU still could have won the game. I'll betcha Cal rates with the best of the Pac 10, except Washington, by season's end. Take away that ``fake punt'' failure and the field goal block and KU might have at least tied, perhaps even won.
As a Jayhawker, I'll be eternally grateful to Cal for trying to showcase Heisman Trophy candidate Russell White by running him 39 times instead of throwing the ball more often to that doggone 6-4, 210-pound Sean Dawkins. Cal might have had two or three more touchdowns if it had wanted to exploit Dawkins' size, speed and moves against a game but undersized KU secondary. That guy is something; wonder if he's a budding Art Monk.
KU never really stifled the big, strong, fast White on the ground, but at least he didn't hit any home runs against the Jayhawks. I shudder to think what might have happened if Dawkins was given five or six more pass-catching chances.
YOU CAN BE sure the remaining Kansas opponents took close note of KU's vulnerability to outstanding pass-receivers. Maybe nobody else has a Dawkins to satanize the secondary, but Colorado, for example, has outstanding catcher-runners like Michael Westbrook and Charlie Johnson, along with Kordell Stewart and Koy Detmer to fling the porkhide. The Kansas secondarians better put their helmets on extra-tight because they're going to be tested fiercely until they prove they can't be had.
The Jayhawk defenders are not as tall and experienced as you'd like them to be to meet such an onslaught. The good news is these kids are going to learn a lot each time they go through a storm, like Gerald McBurrows against Cal. There may be enough athletic ability for that to pay off. We'll find out fast if that's the case. Meanwhile, the defensive line and the linebackers must give extra effort to prevent major problems while the backs are finding their niche.
ANOTHER BIG THING Kansas will be working on between now and KSU and ISU is Chip Hilleary's passing. It's gotta be better than it was against Cal for the Jayhawks to fly at the 7-4 or 8-3 level this fall.
Chip's had his moments; he's a fine running threat. But his passing continues to lack the consistency necessary to beat the major opponents, starting with Kansas State.
A couple timely aerial dinks here and there by Hilleary against Cal could have made a whale of a difference. There have to be more big pass plays and Chip's gotta make 'em. Rest assured he's being diligently schooled in that direction, and I'm hoping he resumes throwing more to the tailbacks and fullbacks.
KU's running backs weren't anything to write home about against Cal, but they're good enough, with a little diversion from key Hilleary completions, to give K-State and Iowa State more than they can handle.
MENTIONED BEFORE that to really arrive, KU needs to knock off one of the league's Big Three this year. Don't know your preference, but if it can be only one, I want it to be Colorado. These doggone guys are getting luckier than Notre Dame used to be, and I'm a bit tired of coach Bill McCartney's holier-than-thou demeanor.
CU at Boulder, in the snow, was another of those games KU had last year and let get away, 30-24. Boy, how I'd relish a KU upset of the Buffs here on Nov. 14. I guess Glen Mason would, too.