A new beginning
Since Saturday's loss to Texas, Kansas head coach Turner Gill has been driving home a singular message to his coaches and players:
November is a chance at a fresh start.
"We're looking forward to the month of November," he said Tuesday, during his weekly press conference. "It is about how you finish. As we all look at the things you do in a season, it's about 'How did you finish the season?' And so that's what we're talking to our players and our coaches about."
Gill acknowledged things haven't gone the way he'd hoped and planned for in 2011, but said his resolve to see things improve is as strong as ever.
"I am determined to really change what we have so far done this football season," he said. "I'm doing everything in my power, everything in my will, to continue to work hard with our coaching staff and our players to finish this season in a positive way."
On Iowa State
Fresh off a surprising 41-7 drubbing of Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, the Iowa State Cyclones represent a dangerous foe for the Jayhawks, thanks in large part to their ability to run the football to great effect.
"One thing that stands out is they're averaging 5.5 yards yards per carry," Gill said. "The new quarterback they have coming in, Jared Barnett, he can run the football. They've done some good things."
"Defensively, they're solid," he added. "They haven't been very much of a blitz team, but they do mix up a few things there, and they've been very solid on the defensive side of the ball."
Two games in to the 2011 season, it was hard to picture the Jayhawks on a six-game slide, and Gill said to describe the current status of things as disappointing would be accurate.
"It's not the way you'd like to have it be at this point in time, but we have an opportunity to improve," he explained. "We've got four games to get that done, and show that we can finish up strong and get things moving in the right direction."
Looking at each unit individually - offense, defense and special teams - Gill said there had been glimmers of improvement, but they were too fleeting to provide truly sound footing upon which to build.
The same concept applies to the level of passion and enthusiasm with which he expects his players to play - the cure for which is, obviously, more success on the field.
Success breeds passion and excitement, he said.
"It's been there, it just has not been on a consistent basis," Gill noted. "I think some of that is you've gotta go out and make some plays to get some of those emotions going. When you make some plays, you can see people get excited about some things. So you've gotta have some things to force that."
Webb still strong
Despite the offense's difficulties of late, Gill continued to express pleasure with the play of sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb.
For the season, Webb is completing 65.1-percent of his passes, has thrown for 1,456 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
"I think he's really in tune in what we're trying to do," Gill said. "I like the way he's done his footwork; he's really thrown the ball really accurately, and that's what I've been very pleased about. Sometimes I know he gets those interceptions here and there, but overall I think he is really improved from what we are asking him to do compared to last year."
Looking for that one game...
Much as the Cyclones did Saturday versus Texas Tech, a team can take big strides toward reversing its fortunes in just four quarters of - perhaps unexpectedly - great play.
That's why the month of November is so important, Gill said. Because if a team can build momentum they can find a way to finish strong.
"In most cases if you finish strong in the month of November then you're going to be showing not only yourself, but the people and the fans and program, that you are moving forward," he said. "So it is how you finish. You've gotta play well in all games, don't get me wrong, but if you finish strong there's a lot to be said (for it)."