In Sooners, Jayhawks see opportunity

In Sooners, Jayhawks see opportunity

When the top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners roll into Lawrence, Kan. Saturday night, to everyone not wearing a Crimson and Blue uniform they represent an insurmountable foe. But the Kansas Jayhawks look at them and see not just a formidable opponent - but a chance to set things right.

In football, players are expected to have short memories.

It's a principle that applies at both the macro and micro levels. From the cornerback who gets burned to the team who suffers a resounding defeat, both have to forget about it and move on to the next play, the next series, the next opponent.

Steven Johnson has trouble with that. When he wakes up the Sunday after a loss, the sick feeling, the hurt, stays with him.

And with the Kansas Jayhawks in the midst of a three game losing skid, it's a feeling with which he's become all too familiar.

"They're all still in my mind, and they just kind of blend together," the senior linebacker said. "It's kind of like a big bubble that's just stuck in your stomach and it can't be popped."

It's been a rough three weeks for the Jayhawks, who haven't just been beaten, they've been beaten in record-setting fashion.

First, a 66-24 loss to Georgia Tech in which the Yellow Jackets rushed for an eye-popping 604 yards en route to 768 yards of total offense. Following a bye week, the Jayhawks then took on Texas Tech and though the defense showed signs of life, it still allowed the Red Raiders 530 total yards of total offense in a 45-34 Homecoming defeat.

Then came last weekend in Stillwater, Okla., and the high-powered offense of Oklahoma State. The Cowboys entered intermission up 56-7 and looked as if they could have easily broken the century mark had Head Coach Mike Gundy kept his foot on the gas.

Through it all, however, Kansas head coach Turner Gill has never stopped speaking of his team's resiliency. Though they must be hurting on the inside, every Sunday they show up to the Anderson Family Football Complex eager and ready to work; each week a chance at a fresh start.

The top-ranked Oklahoma Sooners roll into Lawrence, Kan. on Saturday night, to everyone outside Kansas program an insurmountable foe.

But the Jayhawks themselves look at things a little bit differently.

"It's a huge opportunity," said senior quarterback Jordan Webb. "Whenever you have a chance to have a top-ranked opponent at home, it's just a big chance for us to come out on top. Hopefully we can just play a good game and see where it takes us."

"If we can prove all the critics wrong and go out there and get a win, it can really catapult us and turn everything around," added Johnson. "And just get our momentum back - get our confidence back."

But from where does that resiliency come? Is it something the players find together, within themselves, or an attribute derived from the coaching staff and their B.E.L.I.E.V.E motto - a part of which encourages the players to "believe in each other and the things not yet seen"?

As it turns out, a little of both. As coaches, Gill acknowledged they can only do so much. They can provide guidance, but they can't become shadows glued to the hip of the team.

"They've got to monitor each other, too, because we're not around them 24 hours a day," he said. "That's not feasible to have happen."

So yeah, the losses hurt. How could they not? But as they've done all season, the Jayhawks will continue to bounce back.

Because what's the alternative? To just...give up?

No, Johnson said. They won't do that. Instead, they keep believing in the coaches and each other, and in the ability of a single win to turn around an entire season.

"The only thing we can do is just keep working," the senior linebacker said. "Because if we stop then everything is just going to go downhill. So there's hope. Keep on working, keep trying and hopefully this thing will pay off."

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