Kansas University's football players took to the practice field on Tuesday and immediately noticed that this wasn't quite the same KU team that went 11-1 during the regular season.
Not yet, anyway.
"It was definitely a little rusty," safety Justin Thornton said. "We had to shake it off the first practice. It took us about halfway through before we finally got things clicking and got into it."
Good thing, because the Jayhawks will stay pretty intense from now until the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 in Miami. Rust is something they don't want to have to deal with for long.
KU's players will take Dec. 25 and 26 off for the Christmas holiday before flying to Miami on Dec. 27. Otherwise, it will be hard work from now until Jan. 3.
While Kansas has had "developmental" days - practices where younger players get the majority of the work - scattered in for two weeks after getting the Orange Bowl invitation on Dec. 2, this week marks the first full-court press toward Virginia Tech preparation.
But first, there was a slow process of getting back to the top of their game.
"We're more focused on just kind of polishing up on fundamental plays, our techniques, getting our reads - just doing the basic things," Mangino said Wednesday. "We have worked on Tech the last two days, but the rest of the week will be more focused on Virginia Tech than, say, the first two days here were."
Here's the good news: KU's players have nothing else in the way this time of year. Final exams wrapped up last week, and the Jayhawks now are tasting what life is like as full-time football players.
"When the only thing you've got to worry about is sleeping, eating and playing football, it's kind of like two-a-days again," quarterback Todd Reesing said. "It's all we have to worry about. It's a lot easier to stay focused on playing football when we don't have to worry about finals or anything else."
The game still is about two weeks away. But as each day passes, KU's players are starting to feel the Orange Bowl loom closer and closer.
It's getting a lot of the players more and more jazzed.
"We're starting to see more guys in the film room watching more film and everything," Thornton said. "We're starting to buckle down as we get closer to game time."
Resby recovering: Thornton was asked about fellow safety Patrick Resby, who was injured for the last three games of the regular season.
"He's getting back into it," Thornton said. "He was injured for a little bit, but he's healing up and getting back into the swing of things. He's getting his game back and getting his feet underneath him."
Memories: An interesting storyline is that KU last played in the Orange Bowl in 1969 against Penn State in the famous "12th-man game." The Nittany Lions won, 15-14, after getting a second chance on a two-point conversion after KU had 12 men on the field.
Mangino, of course, was in his childhood years in Pennsylvania at the time.
"I was in junior high school," he said. "The '60s were still in full swing, I had hair, and it was longer. But like a lot of kids around the country, we spent all of our time on ballfields and basketball courts."
Mangino said he was told of the 12th-man game almost as soon as he was hired at KU.
"My only thought was, 'Well, I hope we have an opportunity to go to the Orange Bowl again," Mangino said. "I'll count to 11 every snap."