During the Kansas University football team’s bye week last week, players were treated to a luxury not normally enjoyed during the course of a college football season: a pair of off-days.
The appreciated break provided players — many of whom have been playing with injuries — a chance to regroup physically in the days leading up to Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. game against rival Missouri at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.
“It goes a long way,” sophomore receiver Dezmon Briscoe said of the two-day break. “With some of the players we’ve got banged up on the team, you can go see the trainer, you can go sit in ice tubs and just sit back and relax and just get off your feet.”
The Jayhawks made it through the 2007 season without a major setback personnel-wise, but the team hasn’t been as fortunate this year. In addition to the recent injuries to offensive standouts Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp, Kansas also has played significant stretches without receiver Dexton Fields and multiple linemen, while others have competed despite obvious pain.
Last week’s time off went a long way in allowing the wounded to heal, according to players, although, as senior linebacker Joe Mortensen pointed out, many spent their down time preparing for the Tigers in other ways.
“We watched so much film this week that it’s just like you can see a formation and call out a play,” he said. “It really helped out the defense, I know that.”
It’s back to work from here on out, however, and Tuesday, players seemed refreshed while speaking to the media about the upcoming Border War.
“You get to rest your body, and you also get to prepare for (Missouri) mentally,” senior linebacker James Holt said. “You get to watch more film, so that helps out a lot.”
Fambrough talk delayed: One of the Kansas football team’s most intriguing traditions was put on hold Wednesday, when former Jayhawks coach Don Fambrough alerted the KU coaching staff that he would be unable to give his annual speech to the team due to illness.
Fambrough, who coached the Jayhawks for two stints during the 1970s and 80s, traditionally gives the football team a passionate pep talk during the week of the Missouri game, and Mangino said he expects the 86-year-old coach to recover in time to stop by practice before the team leaves for Kansas City.
“The kids just enjoy listening to him, because they understand the passion he has for KU football and for the border rivalry,” Mangino said. “So I think they respect him from that aspect, they really do.”
Mangino learned of rivalry importance early on: Despite working as an assistant in the Big 12 conference for six years prior to arriving in Lawrence, Mangino admits he didn’t understand the magnitude of the MU-KU rivalry until his first year on the job.
“When I first got hired, when university officials would take me around to meet people, I kept getting this same phrase: ‘We don’t care what you do as long as you beat Missouri,’” Mangino said. “... People would tell me all the time, ‘If you go 1-10 and beat Missouri, we’ll be happy.’ I think they’re lying, but there’s a real passion for the border rival.”
So far, Mangino’s batting .500. After going 3-1 against Missouri in his first four years, Mangino’s Jayhawks have dropped their last two to the Tigers, putting the official series record at 54-53-9 in favor of Missouri.