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Monday Rewind: Northern Illinois

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Toben Opurum, (35) Anthony McDonald (51) and Ben Heeney (31) bring down Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) in the first half of KU's game against the Northern Illinois on Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.

Toben Opurum, (35) Anthony McDonald (51) and Ben Heeney (31) bring down Huskies quarterback Jordan Lynch (6) in the first half of KU's game against the Northern Illinois on Saturday at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill. by Mike Yoder

Well, this certainly was unexpected.

Even the most pessimistic fans of Kansas University football thought the squad would win a few games this season.

I’m talking about the guys who expect bad things to happen more often than good, the guys who don’t really believe that anyone — not Mangino, not Weis, heck, not John Brown — could get the KU football program on the right track for very long. You know the type. And, yeah, even they thought the upgrade at quarterback, the new coach, and the new attitude would mean a new and improved look for the Jayhawks this season.

And it still could. But with a few of their best chances at victory now behind them, it’s going to take some serious work by the Jayhawks from here on out to turn this season into anything other than a bummer.

That certainly was the most popular way for fans to describe KU’s meltdown at Northern Illinois last weekend, which dropped the Jayhawks to 1-3 and, worse, marked the second fourth-quarter collapse of the young season.

So now what? Simple. It’s time to see what Charlie Weis is made of.

We know his reputation. We know about the Super Bowl rings and the wise-guy New Jersey attitude. We know about his work with Tom Brady, Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Cassel. We know he’s an honest man with great work ethic who calls it like he sees it, expects hard work at all times and doesn’t like excuses.

It all makes for a pretty salty resume and one that seems befitting of a coach who would be capable of leading Kansas back to respectability, and perhaps beyond.

But now we need to see if Weis can grind.

It certainly looks like tough sledding the rest of the way, with nothing but talented Big 12 squads dotting KU’s schedule from here on out. And with so many members of this year’s team being so used to losing, one has to wonder what, if anything, it’s going to take to get them to snap out of the funk and find a way to win again.

The easy answer is leadership. It would be nice if some of that came from the guys on the field. I’m guessing it can and will. But it’s mandatory that it comes from Weis and, if my experiences with him thus far have taught me anything, I believe he's ready to dig in.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Weis surely will think harder and work longer in the coming weeks to try to figure this thing out. He’s already famous for arriving at the office before 5 a.m. and is known to burn the midnight oil so long that he keeps a mattress and blankets in his office.

Expect him to begin to do more.

History says Weis is both able and willing to do the dirty work. As has been well-documented, Weis is no stranger to turnarounds. He’s been a part of a few of them, and, each time, things started slowly and finished strong.

There’s one in particular that Weis likes to talk about — New England 1993.

Patriots coach Bill Parcells and Weis, his offensive assistant, inherited a team that had finished the 1992 season 2-14. Things were bleak and, at the time, not many fans expected that anybody — not Parcells, not Weis, heck, not Paul Revere — could get things turned around very quickly. For a while, it looked as if they were right.

New England started off the ’93 season 1-11, with the only victory coming on a deflected pass that Weis said the Patriots had no business coming up with. But they won four straight to end the season and, to hear Weis tell it, those four wins were as important as any for the franchise that quickly became used to winning.

“Although we wound up 5-11, we went into that locker room after beating the Dolphins on the last game of the year and you would think we won the Super Bowl,” Weis said.

The next year, New England made the playoffs. Not long after that they went on to the Super Bowl and became the closest thing to a modern-day dynasty that the NFL has seen.

While this year’s KU squad appears to be a long way from reaching that point, it’s worth putting a little faith in Weis on this one. After all, he’s the one who’s seen it.

“There’s a lot of parallels that I see so far (between the 2012 Jayhawks and 1993 Patriots),” he said. “But it’s still too early to tell.”

The first four weeks of the once promising 2012 season were largely disappointing for KU fans. But, as the Jayhawks head into their bye week, it's important to remember what so many, including myself, said so often throughout the offseason — this year's team should not be judged on its win-loss record. This team should be judged by the eye test.

The Jayhawks do look better in a lot of ways. So that's promising. And it makes sense, too. Getting them to compete all-out from start to finish was Weis’ top priority.

Now it’s time for the Jayhawks to figure out the next step.

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