Turner Gill's tenure at Kansas, 5 wins and just 1 conference win in 2 years, is obviously one of much frustration. The losses were often of the blowout variety: allowing 59 points to Kansas State each time. It looked like Gill's second year was going to be different, with the team soundly defeating a good FCS team in McNeese State and then grabbing a narrow victory over Northern Illinois, the eventual MAC champions, the next week. But it was the last win Kansas would see that year, as they ended 2011 with a 10 game losing streak.
However, mixed in with the 70-28 loss at Oklahoma State and the 61-7 loss at A&M were a trio of games Kansas could have, and with a better staff probably would have won: October 1 vs. Texas Tech, November 5 at Iowa State and November 12 vs Baylor.
Kansas took an early 20-0 lead over the Red Raiders, but saw Tech score 24 straight points with the help of two Jordan Webb interceptions. As happened so often over the course of the Gill tenure, Kansas was unprepared coming out of the half and Texas Tech went on a 21-0 run, effectively ending the game.
While Iowa State wasn't a juggernaut, they were a great glimpse at what Kansas probably could have been last year thanks to what Paul Rhoads did with that team (and I would argue Kansas probably had even a little more talent). Kansas missed two field goals and fumbled deep into Cyclone territory. And, perhaps most unforgivably, with just over 2:30 left Kansas opted to punt the ball back to the Cyclones despite trailing by 3 rather than going for it on 4th down. Another game where a competent staff not only drilling solid fundamentals week by week but having a grasp of football strategy would have made a tremendous difference.
Last but not least, Kansas was dominating Baylor, leading 24-3 after three quarters. Baylor ripped off 21 fourth quarter points to tie it, only being able to do so thanks to a field goal as time expired in the first half after a face mask penalty by Kansas. I hope you are getting as tired of reading about execution and preparation problems as I am of writing about them, but nonetheless it was that, even moreso than a lack of talent, that contributed to the 10 game losing streak.
With a bit of luck last year, Kansas could have gone 3-6 in conference rather than 0-9. It also would have made them 5-7 on the year, a far cry from the 2-10 season they endured. The overall execution problems and deficiencies in the coaching staff still would be present, meaning it is a great thing that Kansas didn't win any of those three games. Like it or not, this is a results business rather than a process business, and a 5-7 season would have meant that Turner Gill would be leading the team out of the tunnel against South Dakota State rather than Charlie Weis. One need not be a football expert to notice the lack of preparation and the lack of sound football strategy that the coaching staff had last year, but that win/loss record combined with Turner Gill's unfathomable contract would have meant that it would be he who was the head coach this year, regardless of whether or not it was warranted.
To his credit, Charlie Weis is saying all of the right things: he's been pushing all the right buttons, getting ready to smack people in the mouth, and he has stiff punishment ready for fans who leave at halftime. Already he has brought in help on the offensive and defensive lines, helping shore up Kansas's two shallowest positions, and in Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps he's brought in the top pocket passer from each of their respective high school classes. And, while not directly related to football, the team GPA jump from 2.46 to 3.0 last spring, also known as the highest GPA in program history, shows Weis's insistence on a no shortcuts, no nonsense approach and a belief that if the team does the little things correctly and if the process is sound, the results will follow.
Kansas very well could go 2-10 again this year. But if they are up 20-0 early at home against Texas Tech I won't be waiting to see how they blow it, and if they face a big fourth down down by 3 on the road I'll expect them to make the right call and go for it. It's all thanks to the little things, but sometimes the little things make all the difference.