Speculation continues about how many of its four remaining games the Kansas University football team will win. The immediate emphasis should be on bagging that first ONE. End the current slump, now three losses deep, then there might be a reason to discuss a 7-5 or better record and a decent bowl game.
For now, the wheels seem to be coming off the wagon.
These Jayhawks stand a good chance to be beaten Saturday by Kansas Staters who three weeks ago didn’t seem to have much hope of a win. The Wildcats have found a dangerous quarterback in Grant Gregory, who got untracked enough to give the vaunted Oklahoma defense heavy grief. KSU features a consistent running back in Daniel Thomas, can call on a solid pass receiver in Jeron Mastrud and has improved its defense to the point it can bedevil inconsistent Kansas. Then, Bill Snyder has the savvy to outcoach Mark Mangino, a former assistant, for a crucial occasion like this.
There’s a mighty stiff challenge for a floundering KU team showing frazzles around the edges, partly because of a foolish situation involving quarterback Todd Reesing and coach Mangino.
Reesing was lifted in favor of Kale Pick in the final stages of the loss at Texas Tech last week. Todd indicated he’d had groin-injury trouble since the Colorado game. If that’s so, give the kid a break and let it be known so he doesn’t have to speak up as if he’s looking for an alibi for uncharacteristic fumbles and interceptions. To hell with this no-injury-report nonsense.
If Todd was yanked strictly because of poor play, the coach should say so. If he was, indeed, playing hurt, the coach should elaborate. If Mangino benched Reesing to keep him from getting hurt in a losing cause, explain it. Peeved by his attitude? Address the issue with some semblance of caring.
Mangino didn’t do himself any favors by maintaining his Great Stone Face and apparently not even discussing the situation with a puzzled Reesing. As much good as Todd has done Mangino and Co. and KU, he deserves better than it appears Mangino gave him. Player support seems solid.
Mangino’s accomplishments aren’t yet monumental enough that he can employ that Bear Bryant “chairman of the board” approach and arrogantly decline to deal directly with young men he says he admires. They deserve better. After all, it’s the athletes, bottom-line, who create a climate to award a coach a long-term contract at some $3 million a year. There’s been too much secrecy too often about the KU operation. When it engulfs dedicated kids the caliber of Reesing, there’s a need for a stiff injection of humanity and compassion.
Snyder made the closed-door philosophy work at K-State his first 17 years, but such a policy creates only ill will here when a star player with Reesing’s credentials gets rag-dolled by cloak-and-dagger treatment.
KU and KSU coaches and players try to sell us that Saturday’s matchup is not a season-breaker for either team, but it is. Needless distractions can be damaging. Except that players have a way of thumbing their noses at coaches and winning in spite of them.
Don’t think that Reesing and Co. aren’t capable of that, not only for the K-State game but for the next three, too. If the coaches want to ride along, all well and good. Could be fun.