During Kansas University senior Christian Matthews’ first three seasons in Lawrence, the 6-foot-1, 192-pound wide receiver enjoyed back-to-back big spring games and believed each time that the strong showing in the annual scrimmage was a sign of things to come.
Despite putting up big yardage totals and scoring touchdowns in each game, Matthews snagged just 12 total receptions and was kept out of the end zone during the two seasons that followed.
Each time, he thought the spring showing was going to be a springboard for a big season.
“Most definitely,” he said when fielding questions about this year’s game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. today at Memorial Stadium. “I’m a kid at that point, 19, 20 years old. So in your mind you’re thinking that, but you never know what’s going on because it is just spring ball.”
Asked why he was never able to translate the spring-game success to the regular season, Matthews admitted to being stumped. Asked why he was able to deliver during those scrimmages in the first place, he offered a slightly better answer.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess it’s just the luck of the Irish or something.”
Matthews is not Irish, but he is one of the Jayhawks’ top options at wide receiver. But it’s not numbers that KU coach Charlie Weis will be looking for from his players in blue or white today.
“Stats mean absolutely nothing to me,” Weis said, “but how the players carry themselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. That is what is important to me.”
For junior quarterback Jake Heaps, one of the Jayhawks who figure to have the most eyes watching them this afternoon, the most important thing has nothing to do with throwing the football or lighting up the scoreboard.
“For me, the biggest difference is that I want my team to show what we can do,” Heaps said. “And last year I was, individually, trying to showcase myself. I think that just comes with being a team leader and stuff like that. I’m very excited for (everyone) to see what we’re all about. It’s gonna be fun.”
Despite winning just four times in the past 32 games, the hopes once again are high for the Jayhawks, who this offseason added talent and depth, tweaked the offensive and defensive schemes and enter the final day of spring drills believing they’re headed in the right direction.
“I expect our improvement on both sides of the ball to be drastic,” Weis said. “I will be very disappointed if I don’t see that, even in the spring game.”