I feel like some of the latest "Inside KU Football" posts have been a little depressing (hey let's examine why we had so many punts blocked last year!), so today I am doing something a little different. I think it is time we lighten the mood and take a look back at some of the best KU football moments over the past decade.
My list gets a bit skewed for sentimental reasons here and there, and the order could certainly be switched up some. So kick back, relax, stop thinking about last year and the upcoming season and join me in a magical trip down memory lane. The top ten games and why they mattered. And here...... we........... go.........
Kansas 24, Virginia Tech 21 - 2008 Orange Bowl
The game: I didn't know what to think about this one going in. My heart told me Kansas had a legitimate chance to win; my head told me we would get exposed a bit as we had against Mizzou. Then the game started, our defense looked sharp, and Talib suddenly picks off a pass and takes it to the house. KU races out to a 17-0 lead. I am in shock. Then, right on cue, Mrs. Grad utters the fateful "yay we are going to win." Uh oh...
KU's lead shrinks. I feel like I might crap my pants. Did I mention it was rainy and crappy outside? But Kansas holds on... capping the greatest season in school history off with a BCS victory. Orange Bowl champions. Wow.
Why it mattered: It proved to all the doubters that KU belonged in the game. It was the Orange Bowl! Kansas stood toe to toe with a perennial power and won. We will likely never go 12-1 again in football while you are alive, and possibly for a long time after that.
Kansas 40, Missouri 37 - 2008 Big 12 Game
The game: It was the Reesing-led offense firing on all cylinders. Kansas absolutely shredded the Tiger defense all day in crappy weather. Darrell Stuckey made huge plays on the defensive end to slow down an equally dangerous Missouri offense. Kansas would build a 26-10 lead, only to watch Missouri come back to take a late lead.
Suddenly, KU faced a 4th and 7 and it looked like the magic was out. Then, Reesing hit Kerry Meier for a 26 yard touchdown pass in what I consider today the greatest single play in KU football history (I absolutely lost it when that play happened). Kansas held on in the waning seconds and won, thanks to Phillip Strozier's block on a last second 54 yard FG attempt by Jeff Wolfert.
Why it mattered: Beating Missouri is always nice, but this one was special. KU had a bit of a letdown after the Orange Bowl run, but this win really capped off a nice year. It was the last time we played Chase "Booger" Daniel. Plus we got one of Mangino's best quotes: "Our injury list, a roll of toilet paper wouldn't be enough," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "We've got guys that played today that could barely walk a week ago. It's the guttiest performance I've ever been associated with as a coach. Our kids heard all week long we didn't have a chance. Never tell KU they don't have a chance."
Kansas 31, Kansas State 28 - 2004 Big 12 Game
The game: There was a certain electricity in the air this night that was hard to describe. It was my freshman year and the first KU football game I was really excited for. The Jayhawks were coming off two close, heart-breaking losses to Northwestern and Texas Tech, and we needed something, anything, to get us believing (Turner Gill nodding). The crowd was wild. The game itself was very back and forth, until Jason Swanson (making his first appearance as a Jayhawk) entered the game and sparked Kansas to a victory. The win was sealed by a ridiculous run by John Randle (yes, that John Randle).
KU ran out the clock, we all rushed the field, and I wound up at IHOP later in the night enjoying their "all you can eat popcorn shrimp" special. Not sure how I got there.
Why it mattered: Kansas hadn't beaten KState since I was playing with Ninja Turtles. Wildcat fans were used to strolling over to Lawrence to watch a beating, and seeing their reactions was pretty priceless. Just a special night. Speaking of beating teams we hadn't beaten in a while...
Kansas 40, Nebraska 15 - 2005 Big 12 Game
The game: After struggling (and that is putting it lightly) on offense all season, Jason Swanson hit Mark Simmons on a 40 yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter (huh?). Kansas then blocked a Nebraska punt and returned it for a score (ok what is going on here). Nebraska fought back, and cut the lead to 17-15 midway through the third quarter. Just when we thought "great, here we go again" Jon Cornish exploded for a 72 yard touchdown run, KU picked up another score and a safety, and the game was over. Then, just to cap it off, Kevin Kane rumbled 40 yards for a score on an interception return and Rivet hasn't been the same since.
Why it mattered: KU hadn't beaten the corn in 36 years. 36 years! Kansas moved to 5-4 on the season (Jayhawks had beaten Mizzou the week before) and got in position to make a bowl game. All they had to do was beat Iowa State to seal a bowl bid.
Kansas 24, Iowa State 21 OT - 2005 Big 12 Game
The game: A win would have put the Cyclones in the Big 12 title game. Iowa State had an opportunity to win the Big 12 North the year before, but dropped its finale. Wouldn't happen again right?
Iowa State opened a 14-3 lead, and to make matters worse, Kansas lost starting QB Jason Swanson to injury. Looked like the season was over, until Brian Luke, yes BRIAN LUKE, stepped in and lead an epic comeback charge. Luke scored on a QB sneak, and then led a quick late drive to tie the game up. Unbelievable. Iowa State's kicker missed in OT (they had some weird terrible rotation of kickers that season. None of them could make a kick). Scottie "Spiderman" Webb didn't miss for KU. Win.
Why it mattered: The win moved KU to 6-5 on the season and landed the Jayhawks in the Fort Worth Bowl. After a poor start to league play, KU ended up winning three of its last four games to make a bowl. Worth noting: Iowa State went 7-4 that season. Three of its losses came in overtime. Ouch.
Kansas 42, Minnesota 21 - 2008 Insight Bowl
The game: This one was fun to watch. New Year's Eve, I had just finished school...mmm. Todd Reesing hit Dezmon Briscoe for a touchdown on the first play of the game, and Kansas cruised. Briscoe ended up with 14 catches for 201 yards. Kerry Meier also had a monster game. Kansas actually trailed 14-7 in this one, before the offense caught fire and KU built a 35-14 lead.
Why it mattered: Despite facing the seventh hardest schedule in Division I football, KU ended the 2008 season with eight wins. This game was the last great Mangino-coached effort; Reesing slinging touchdowns to Briscoe and Meier, an awesome trick play, scrappy defense. If only we knew this would really be the end of it all.
Kansas 30, Kansas State 24 - 2007 Big 12 Game
The game: K-State was fresh off a victory over Texas and ranked. But I had a wild feeling about this one. KU was destroying teams in the non-con, and it was time to find out if we were for real. My wild feeling turned into nausea when Jordy Nelson scored on a 68 yard TD early in the game, but KU fought back. Reesing actually threw three picks in this one, and it was a sloppy game from both offenses. In the end, KU was a little bit better, and won in Manhattan for the first time in 18 years.
Why it mattered: Interestingly, this was the worst game Todd Reesing played all season, and possibly in his career. However, KU proved that it had a lot of talent and the big non-con wins were no fluke. This really gave us a lot of confidence, and it was a sign that big things were ahead.
Kansas 35, Missouri 14 - 2003 Big 12 Game
The game: The first big win for Mark Mangino. Kansas was a pretty heavy underdog against a ranked Missouri team that featured the "dangerous" Brad Smith. Smith was bottled up in this one, and never really had a decent game against the Jayhawks. Bill "the Thrill" Whittemore scored on a few QB sneaks and Clark Green had a solid game. Kansas actually trailed 14-13 at one point, thanks to a missed extra point, but eventually wore down the Tigers on the ground to pick up an impressive win. All five of KU's touchdowns came on the ground... weird.
Why it mattered: Showed that KU was turning things around under Mangino. Plus it is Missouri. The first goalpost game for KU (we would tear them down four more times in the next two seasons).
Kansas 20, Colorado 15 - 2006 Big 12 Game
The game: It looked like the season was literally over early on in this game. KU's offense couldn't do a thing. We were going to lose to a Colorado team that was absolutely horrible. So many close losses, and now a loss to the worst team in the league. Then people in the crowd started getting excited. I asked someone what was going on, and they replied "I think they are going to play that Reese's kid"
Well, that "Reese's kid" stepped in and sparked the KU offense to a 20-9 lead. Naturally he fumbled with KU about to tack on another score, and the Buffs ran it back 95 for a touchdown, but KU held on.
Why it mattered: I still believe to this day that Mangino might not have been back had KU lost that game. There were some grumblings going around in regards to his coaching and that he had done all he could do at KU. The season looked over, and Reesing saved us with some unbelievable throws and runs. Naturally we nearly blew it, but it was a huge run and turned the season around for us.
Kansas 39, Kansas State 20
The game: I know you could add a lot of other games here, such as the Fort Worth Bowl win over Houston or another win during the Orange Bowl run, but this one has a lot of that sentimental stuff for me. My buddies and I camped out before the game so we could be in the front row, and we painted "Go Jayhawks" on our chests. Naturally we got on TV a million times and there was a picture of us in the paper. Fun game, once again KSU was riding high after a win over Texas, and it felt good to smack them around some.
Why it mattered: Established early on that Ronnie Prince was KU's beeyotch, got KU to 6-5 overall on the season. The three game winning streak in 2006 (CU, ISU, KSU) was huge for a team that would go 12-1 the next year.
So what do you think? Did I miss a game (or two)? What is your favorite? Tell me by leaving one of those comment things.