With his team having been outscored 149-24 in the third quarter of 12 Big 12 games, Kansas University coach Turner Gill constantly is searching for ways to spark his team.
Tuesday, at his weekly news conference, Gill outlined a new strategy that he said he would employ this week during practice.
“We’re gonna switch up different things,” he said. “We’re gonna do a couple of things in the second half of our practices to try to simulate a halftime as much as we can. We’ll take a little time off and then come back out and go against each other, No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense.”
The idea is to create an environment in which the Jayhawks are used to revving the intensity back up after the 15-minute break between halves. In all but one of KU’s games this season, the Jayhawks were leading, tied or in the game at halftime.
The Jayhawks have been ahead at the half twice (McNeese State and Texas Tech), tied once (21-all vs. Northern Illinois), trailed by 10 points or fewer twice (Georgia Tech, 7, and Oklahoma, 10) and, last week, fell behind by 17 to Kansas State. Oklahoma State led Kansas 56-7 at the half during its 70-28 victory in Stillwater, Okla.
With the start of the second half continuing to draw emphasis, Gill made sure to point out that starting fast in each half was crucial.
“The first two possessions of each half, you want to try to get some points on the board on the offensive side of the ball,” Gill said. “Obviously on defense you want to prevent them from getting any points. That’s the area we have really talked about and emphasized as a staff and will continue to do with our football team.”
Webb draws praise
With his pass-efficiency numbers placing him second in the Big 12 and 16th in the country, quarterback Jordan Webb is having the kind of season his coaches hoped to see.
Tuesday, offensive coordinator Chuck Long took that a step further in giving rave reviews to his second-year starter.
“I felt, last week, as much as in any game since I’ve been here, Jordan is starting to become a more polished passer instead of a thrower,” Long said.
It wasn’t just the completions, which went to 10 receivers — with just one dropped pass — that had Long buzzing.
“Jordan threw the ball away three times,” Long said. “First time he’s really done that. Nothing was there, and he threw it away. He dumped it down. And I felt like he’s starting to polish.”
Webb, who has thrown for 1,408 yards and 12 touchdowns in seven games, completed 21 of 28 passes to up his season completion percentage to 67.1 percent. Last season, in seven starts as a red-shirt freshman, Webb finished with 1,195 yards and seven TDs, as well as a completion percentage of 56.5 percent.
Hook ’em Hawks?
Gill kicked off Tuesday’s news conference by drawing a comparison between his team and this week’s opponent.
“Looking ahead to Texas, we are two football teams looking for a win,” he said. “Texas has lost its last two, and we are looking to right the ship as well.”
While the Longhorns come into Saturday having dropped two in a row, they remain 4-2 overall and 1-2 in league play. Kansas, meanwhile, has dropped five in a row and sits 2-5 and 0-4.
UT’s two losses came to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State by a combined score of 93-43. KU’s losses to the same two schools came by the score of 117-45.
The Longhorns lead the all-time series against Kansas, 8-2, and have won eight straight since falling to KU, 19-18, in 1938 and, 12-0, in 1901.
UT has been ranked in the Top 10 in the country during the last five meetings between the two. The Longhorns’ average margin of victory over the Jayhawks is 29 points, with a 59-0 victory in 2001 representing the largest margin and Mark Mangino’s famous “BCS/Dollar Signs” game of 2004 being the smallest. Texas topped KU, 27-23, that year and won on a late drive that was set up by an offensive pass interference call on KU’s Charles Gordon that negated a Kansas first down in the final three minutes and inspired Mangino’s rant.