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How We Got At The Doorstep of Expectation

Good ol' Gameball.

Terry Allen spent five mostly-horrendous years as the head football coach at the University of Kansas, but his primary job title was most likely `Roy Williams' Best Bud'. His inane decisions, light offensive linemen and Mario Kinsey-loving tactic (which led to a lifetime 20-33 record) were pretty horrible, but that was almost good to Roy, who preferred the Kansas basketball program to be run the athletics office.

Still, Gameball was eventually fired, much to the dismay of Roy Williams. A bunch of politicking ensued, and all of this not-giving-Roy-Williams-exactly-what-he-wants no doubt had something to do with his decision to renege on his promise and head off to North Carolina. But that's basketball; a topic for another day. No, right now we are sticking to the seemingly irreparable damage thrust upon us by Terry Allen; the tremendous lack of talent, general fanbase anger and general sucktitude. And exactly how the big man (who, by the way, has supposedly lost in the neighborhood of 75 pounds so far this offseason) has delivered us from such a mess.

The story starts with some failure. And the failure starts in the 1990s, involving Bill Snyder. Throughout the 90s, Bill Snyder was a frequent user of JUCO transfers. They weren't depended to be the backbone of the program, but after the anti-Scary Smart had built up a solid foundation of high school, he used the JUCO system, particularly the Kansas JUCOs, to add the final, missing pieces to his puzzle. Michael Bishop, anyone? All of this time there was Mark Mangino, watching how anti-SS (Bill Snyder's new nickname here at RCT) had built up this program, using junior colleges as a heavy part of the equation.

So, upon entering the mess-of-a-program inherited from Gameball, Mark Mangino immediately went to the JUCOs to try and quickly put a passable product on the field. His first recruiting class, 2002, was jam-packed with JUCO transfers. And, these JUCOs, as should be expected, took a littlewhile to adjust to the Division 1 level. Bust. Crash-and-burning ensued, a 2-10 disaster that had a few, unintelligible people calling back for Roy's Boy. We were able to beat Southwest Missouri State and squeaked past Tulsa, but were completely and utterly incapable of even competing in the Big 12. The Baylor Bears only narrowly defeated us, 35-32, but the other 7 Big 12 games saw the Jayhawks lose by an average of almost 35 points. That is not a typo. If we were spotted 5 TDs at the beginning of each league game, we still only would have gone 3-3-1 in conference play. After being spotted 5 TDs. Not exactly the highest point of Kansas football. Yet, the season still contained an inkling of silver lining. We had discovered the glory of Bill Whittemore.

The following year, 2003, saw Kansas make a bowl. A year following a 2-10, unmitigated disaster, the Jayawks managed to win six games, including going 3-1 in non-conference play, on the way to the Tangerine Bowl. It was a glorious re-introduction for the fat man, forcing the fanbase to forget the previous season's failure and instead embrace the new regime in Lawrence. Despite the absolute shellacking our undermanned defense took at the hands of Philip Rivers, there was an aura of optimism surrounding the football team. The optimism was supposed to pour over into 2004, giving us a consecutive bowl appearance.

However, the loss of Whittemore proved too much. 2004 was an incredibly painful year, as a 5-7 record fell just short of the required .500 winning percentage required to qualify for postseason play. And following a year where we had traversed from a hopeless 2-10 to a hopeful 6-7, a December game was expected to occur yet again. We had chances, too. We demolished Texas Tech in the first half, only to blow it late in the game on a Red Raider 70 yard run. 31-30 loss. We almost beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, something we still haven't done for 40 years. 14-8 loss. We narrowly lost, on the road, to the Northwestern Wildcats before conference play even started. 20-17 loss. Another road trip, up to Ames, ended in a single-score heartbreak. 13-7 loss. Then, the infamous `Dollar Signs' game; a game where we had the eventual Rose Bowl-champion Texas Longhons beat before the refs (and Vince Young) took the game into their own hands. 27-23 loss. That is 5 of our 7 losses by a combined total of 20 points. And our 6th loss, at home to Colorado, was only by 9 points. Besides the blowout in Norman, a 41-10 shellacking, each and every game we could have easily won. Easily. However, the season contained an incredibly positive element. We beat Kansas State. John Randle, a general failure at Kansas after being hyped as `The Next Big Thing' on the Lawrence campus, had his career peak on a long, completely awesome run that defined the game. For the first time in what seemed like forever (really only 11 years), the Powercats were defeated by our Jayhawks. That made the lack of a postseason contest a lot easier to swallow, not even getting to the incredibly painful-and-close losses scattered throughout the schedule.

The next season, 2005, was the turning point in Mark Mangino's career. Another average, pre-2005 season seemed to be in store as the Nebraska Cornhuskers down to Lawerence. Kansas' record stood at 4-5, meaning they would have to win two of their last three games to make a bowl; the real goal for the season from the get-go. Two consecutive seasons of no postseason play would ruin almost all of the momentum gained from the miraculous 2003 bowl game. And a roadtrip down to Austin, a team that would end up going 14-0 and winning the National Championship by beating what most experts considered one of the best teams of all time, was included in this little three-game-set. So, this essentially made a win over the Huskers a must. A loss here damned the program to another year of woulda-coulda-shoulda, a frequent feeling in the tumultuous history of Kansas football. And then, boom. Jon Cornish up the middle. 72 yards. 36 years of losing to Nebraska was vanished, and all of a sudden Kansas football, yet again, had taken on a new face. A year after breaking the K-State streak, we then broke the Nebraska streak. Then, even after getting absolutely demolished by the Longhorns, one of the better (if not the best) teams of the past 10 years, we returned home in a must-win situation against the Cyclones of Iowa State. A win, and we make a bowl, regain a bunch of the momentum that had been lost since 2003 and Mark Mangino, hands-down, keeps the hearts of the fan-base. A loss puts Mangino, with a new AD, on the hot-seat, inspires calls of `same-old-Jayhawks' and makes the streak-busters mostly irrelevant. Thankfully, a Scott Webb game-winner sailed true through the uprights, giving the Jayawks a bowl-qualifying 6-6 record.We then, in our bowl game, outright-embarrassed the Houston Cougars and Kevin Kolb, winning 42-13.

After such an optimistic end to an otherwise bland-and-usual season, 2006 was viewed as an opportunity to take the next step forward. However, QB problems surrounded the team all year, from Kerry Meier's injuries to Adam Barmann's blandness, and led to numerous close-losses. We narrowly escaped the frickin' Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, lost to the Toledo Rockets in 2 OT in non-conference play. A close win against South Florida was overshadowed by a heart-breaking OT loss against the Huskers up in Lincoln and two consecutive second half collapses at home against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. A one-point loss to Baylor, in a game where we held a 35-13 second half lead, was the most frustrating of all, and was essentially the deciding factor and keeping us from being bowl eligible. At halftime of the Colorado game, with us losing 9-0 and the season on the line, Mangino turned to a final solution at QB. Todd Reesing. The rest, as they say, is history. He and Kerry Meier played much better throughout the rest of the season, which included a win against the Cyclones and a home win against the Wildcats. However, we were demolished in Columbia on the last weekend of the regular season, keeping our record at a mere 6-6. Despite being bowl eligible, we did not receive an invitation to attend a postseason contest, a serious setback to the otherwise positive elements of the past couple of seasons. Still, we were clearly a much better team in 06 than we had at any other time during Mangino's tenure; we just weren't able to finish.

As we all know, that changed this past season. And following last season's glorious stomp through our schedule and Orange Bowl victory, expectations are higher than at just about any other time in the history of Kansas football.

That is how we got here.