2008 KU-Texas football
Snow fell on the 2008 Kansas University football team Saturday for the first time. The curtain fell on their chances of having a truly memorable season long before that. Exactly when did that happen? Can't remember.
The snowflakes barely were visible, small and short-lived, like the hopes of duplicating a magical 12-1 season that ended in an Orange Bowl victory against Virginia Tech.
That team had playmakers and had enough experienced talent on the lines to keep winning. The confidence snowballed. Everybody got swept up in the euphoria, believing the football program finally had arrived, giving Kansas serious status in two sports. Even the coach known for choosing his public words carefully grew bold. After the Orange Bowl, Mark Mangino made a statement that proved he's a far better football coach than he is a football forecaster.
"I've made myself pretty clear from the outset that we not only have a good football team this year, we're going to be even better next year," Mangino said.
Texas defeated Kansas, 35-7, Saturday in Memorial Stadium, and the students who left at halftime bound for the library - or was it The Wheel, or was it the basketball season? - will just have to take our word for that.
This time it was the injury-slowed offense that took the abuse on the sort of windy, frigid day that supposedly brings out the worst in the Longhorns. So much for that theory. The defense made Texas work for its points. Such is the plight of an average-to-the-bone football team. When the defense comes through, the offense falters. When the offense hums, the defense offers no resistance.
How many times have we heard baseball managers of mediocre teams lament than when they hit they can't pitch and when they pitch they can't hit? Translation: The team doesn't have enough healthy talent to be particularly good at anything on a consistent basis.
For all the talk of fortunate scheduling playing a big part in last year's magic, the truth is the disparity between this season's schedule and last season's, although great, isn't as great as the disparity between the teams.
This 6-5 team is neither as fast nor as deep, doesn't have as many clutch playmakers, hasn't had nearly the same fortune on the injury front and is not as experienced as the one off which four players were chosen in the NFL Draft, none named James McClinton or Brandon McAnderson. Does anyone really believe that this team would have gone into Boulder, Stillwater, College Station and the Orange Bowl to beat the teams that KU beat a year ago?
"They're saying last year was a fluke, but OSU, they're ranked high, and that's pretty much the same team they had last year," said linebacker James Holt, one of four players Mangino made available for postgame interviews. "Yeah, we had the tougher schedule of the South, but I think we played OU and Texas very well defensively. It just didn't turn out like we wanted. People can say what they want about last year. Last year's over. We're not even worried about that."
The key to Mangino (0-9 against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas) getting that elusive first victory against the terrific South trio: better recruiting.