While KU coach Turner Gill is on the hot seat and it’s getting more
difficult each week to believe, the players and coaches are sticking
together in hopes of turning the season around.
KU’s next chance to stem the tide comes Saturday against Texas in
Austin at 6 p.m. (CT) at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“They’re all upbeat and they’re ready to go out there and perform. Gill
said. “They’re ready to play. That’s what you want is for our guys to
continue to go out there and practice hard and continue to visualize
what they can do. Now it’s a matter of taking it from the practice
field and putting it out on the game field on a more consistent basis.”
The Jayhawks (2-5, 0-4 Big 12) will be battling a hungry and rested
Longhorn team (4-2, 1-2), which is coming off a bye week after losing
two straight to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. UT fell to the Cowboys two
weeks ago in Austin, 38-26.
“We are two football teams looking for a win,” Gill said. “Texas has
lost its last two and we are looking to right the ship as well.”
Coach Mack Brown’s Longhorns are a solid defensive team and rank No. 2
in the Big 12 and No. 30 nationally in total defense, allowing 338.2
yards per game while giving up 25.3 points per contest. Offensively,
though, UT, has struggled. The Longhorns rank No. 9 in the Big 12 in
scoring offense at 30.0 points per game and No. 8 in scoring offense at
385.3 yards per contest.
Texas features a two-headed quarterback attack with David Ash and Case McCoy. Ash is more of a running quarterback than McCoy, although he
leads UT in passing with 49 of 76 completions for 459 yards and three
touchdowns. McCoy, the younger brother of former Texas star QB Colt,
has completed 35 of 53 passes for 451 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman Malcolm Brown leads the rushing attack with 516 yards, while
senior Fozzy Whittaker has gained 220 yards.
Defensively, the Longhorns are led by sophomore cornerback Carrington
Byndum and senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho. Byndum leads the Big 12
with nine pass breakups, while Acho paces Texas with 47 tackles,
including six for loss.
Gill knows it will be a huge test playing on the road against a quality
team. KU has yet to win a road game under Gill during his tenure and
the Jayhawks have dropped eight straight games to Texas.
Gill said KU must be prepared for “blitzes from all over the place” and
“a lot of different stunts” from Texas’ defense. And on offense, UT
will show “multiple shifts and a lot of motion.”
“They will run just about every play that you’ll see in the playbook,”
Gill said. “They have a lot of different people. They get the
quarterback to run; they have a couple different running backs that
they use. It’s going to be a great challenge to make sure that we stay
on track to get accomplished what we need to.”
While KU is mired in a five-game losing streak, Gill continues to
stress the positives. He said the offense and special teams are
improved from last season, and while the defense has struggled mightily
this season, Gill sees “some things going in the right direction.”
The second-year KU coach has tried simulating a halftime in practice to
help his team overcome its third-quarter struggles, while also
stressing the importance of the first two plays of each half heading
into Saturday night’s showdown.
“In this game, it’s going to be really key,” Gill said. “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; 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
KU, which has 38 players from the Lone Star State, would love nothing
more than to upset the Longhorns and begin to turn the season around
with just five games remaining.
“I think it is an opportunity for us to right a lot of the wrongs that
have occurred this season,” junior defensive end Toben Opurum said. “It
gives us a chance to face a ranked opponent (Texas is No. 24 in BCS
rankings) on the road and it’s an opportunity for us to get another win
so we can get our confidence back. (UT) is a young team, but they
definitely have talent.”
While Gill doesn’t used the term “sawing wood” like former KU coach
Mark Mangino did when discussing rebuilding the KU program, Gill also
believes the Jayhawks just need to keep plugging away to “right the
ship” after five straight defeats.
“We have to work our way through it; it’s just like anything else in
life,” Gill said. “You just keep working, you keep communicating, you
keep talking football and keep teaching and developing. It takes time.
We want it to happen faster, just like everybody else. We’re all
frustrated to a certain extent, but we’re going to work. We’re going to
find a way to get this thing right and that’s what we’re here to do.”