This is Mike Plank from Rock Chalk Talk and I’m sitting down with Todd Reesing, the starting quarterback from your University of Kansas Jayhawks and member of the 2007 Orange Bowl champions. Todd, we’re here to reminisce about that 2007 season, but first, tell us how you’ve been and what you’ve been up to recently.
Well Mike, thanks for having me on. Things are going great! I live down here in Austin, TX, which is home for me, where my family is. Still working for a company called Dimensional Fund Advisors, which was actually started by another KU alumni, David Booth, which a lot of Kansas fans will probably recognize that name. And things are going great, couldn’t be happier down here in Austin. Business is going well; personal life is going great too. Trying to spend some spare time traveling and being with friends, so, no complaints from me.
That’s awesome! Let’s go ahead and jump in our time machine and let’s go way back to August 2007. Start with fall camp. You’re a sophomore. You’re in a position battle with Kerry Meier for the starting quarterback job. Prior to camp, what sorts of goals and expectations did you have for the 2007 season?
Prior to the season starting, I think we knew we had a lot of talent on the team. I mean, coming off of spring ball, with the number of guys that we had back with a lot of playing experience and a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, I think we knew we had the pieces there to put together a really good team. Now if it actually comes together once the season gets started always remains to be seen.
So, our expectations for the team? At that point in time, Kerry and I were still locked in a head-to-head battle for the starting quarterback job, so that probably consumed more of my thoughts than the actual team as a whole. Being a competitive guy, I wanted to win that position and get a chance to start for the Jayhawks.
About two weeks before the season opener, Coach Mangino announces that you’re gonna be the starting quarterback against Central Michigan. You’re the unknown guy, yeah you got a few snaps in 2006, but you haven’t really played a lot for Kansas yet. And so a lot of people see this, you know, this short guy from Texas coming in and taking that quarterback job from Kerry Meier, and, Wow he must have been really good in camp!
What was the preparation like as you were coming into Central Michigan? It’s a team that a lot of “experts” had picked Kansas to lose, and you guys just come out and romp a very good Central Michigan team. Just talk about the preparation leading up to the game and that first game.
Once you’ve gone through all that spring ball, then you have all the summer workouts where you’re still on campus, and you finally get to camp and then you get a couple of weeks in the dorms, and going through two-a-days in the heat, I think come that last week where you’re getting ready for the first game, everyone is just ready to play. I think you’re really anxious to finally get out there and play someone besides your own defense, and get in front of the fans and really kick off the fall.
So I think there’s a lot of anticipation and excitement surrounding any first game, probably in any sport, and especially with all the time that goes into the prep of getting ready for football season. And I think we knew at that point in time that we had something special as a team, and I think we were ready to get out and show fans that this wasn’t gonna be your typical Kansas team.
And to your point, it was a good Central Michigan team that had had a lot of success in previous seasons. And I think they still had a pretty good season in 2007 as well. So to do what we did that first game really set the tone, the foundation, for that whole season. To come out and really put an offense out on the field that looked a whole lot different than anything we had had the previous two years really got us going in the right direction.
Well, you guys were definitely going in the right direction, and you kept it going the next several games, just overwhelming schools like Southeast Louisiana, Toledo, and Florida International. But then October rolls around, and we’re coming up to K-State in Manhattan, a place where KU hadn’t won since 1989. Talk about that K-State game, some memories you have there, what it was like there, the atmosphere, and the mindset of the team before and after the game.
Yeah, going into that first Big 12 game, we had steamrolled everybody the first four weeks. We’re putting up some pretty astronomical numbers on offense in terms of yards and points, and we’re probably up there in the top-5 in the nation (statistically) going into Week 5 there. But we had that K-State game circled on the calendar for a number of reasons. We hadn’t won there in 18 years. And prior to Coach Mangino, we had not won a lot of road games, especially in the Big 12. So we knew that it was gonna be a big first test. I think a lot of people kept saying that, “Well Kansas will lose once they play more competition, or once they play on the road.”
And it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for that Kansas State game. I came out and threw an interception the first half of that game trying to hit Aqib Talib on a long one, and ended up having three interceptions in the game as a whole. But the defense came up with some big plays and some big turnovers at the end of the game. And we had a long drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Dexton (Fields) that really solidified that game. I think it showed that we could win games in the fourth quarter, win games that were close, and in a really hostile Kansas State environment, I think that was really a huge stepping point for us and really got us in the right direction for Big 12 play.
So after taking care of Baylor at home, you have two tough road trips coming up, you’ve got to go to Colorado and to Texas A&M. Both of those games would turn out to be low scoring games. For example, at Colorado, you had a good completion percentage but only 153 yards passing. Everyone we have talked to so far has mentioned your 53-yard run in that game. Talk about that play and then the game in general. What did Colorado do that stifled your offense?
You’ve got to give them credit, they came out with a gameplan that was different than we had seen so far. From an offensive standpoint, they did a lot of things that threw us off at first, and we just had a hard time getting into a rhythm. With the coverages, with the way they were disguising things, we just never got into a rhythm both running the ball or in the passing game. So that was a tough game offensively.
But I think that game showed our defense and the strengths that they had. A tough game, a low score, we had to rely on them to keep Colorado from scoring points, and we did just enough on offense to score and win that game. It was really a grind it out tough road win. They always say it’s tough to win on the road. Colorado isn’t an easy place to play, it’s a smaller stadium, but it gets real loud and it can be a tough environment. So that was a huge win for us.
I do remember the run those guys were talking about. It was actually a passing play that broke down. I had to create, I pump faked to the D-end, and broke through, and remember getting up after that and feeling a bit winded, that does happen to you out there in Colorado. But that was a huge win for us, and another big road win for the season.
Then the very next week, you’ve got another tough game on the road at Texas A&M. Brandon McAnderson had a huge day against the Aggies, but they beat you up pretty good if I remember correctly. They sacked you four times and just generally harassed you all night long. Just talk about that game.
It was a ground-and-pound win, just your typical style of football where you rely on the defense and the running game to win that one. We had come out the first five games throwing for tons of yards and a lot of touchdown passes and just lighting people up offensively. Then we come out and have a couple of tough road wins where it really had nothing to do with the passing game. I mean, we had a few plays here and there, but it really came down to the defense and the running game to keep us in those games and get us victories.
At that point is when you began to see that it didn’t matter what kind of game it was. We had the talent around the entire team to win any number of ways, including in close games in the fourth quarter. And that’s one sign of a really good team, is when you can win in a number of ways. The other team shuts down what could be a strength in your passing game, but you can still find a way to make plays in the running game to control the clock and win with defense as well.
That was another huge win, certainly a big one for me, coming from Texas and growing up kind of a Longhorns fan. So I already wasn’t too fond of them as well. And I remember a jab that they took at me during recruiting when their coaches told me that I was on their “B” list of quarterbacks. I remember during practice all that week Coach Mangino kept pulling me aside and telling me, “They told you you were B-list.” So, that was a nice big win to get, back in my home state, too.
That’s amazing, I love it! So the calendar is turning to November now, and Nebraska is coming to town. What a great day that was for Kansas fans everywhere, and definitely for you guys. You tie the school record for TD passes in a game with 6, put up 350+ yards, man, it just looked easy. Did you guys try to put 100 on them, and if you didn’t, why not?
Well I certainly wanted to try to put 100 on them! For as many years as Nebraska beat up on Kansas, often pretty lopsided victories, so the least we could do was give them a real good thrashing one year at the hands of Kansas.
We really got on a roll there. I’ve said this before, it didn’t matter what play we called, they all seemed to work, whether it was a passing play or running play. We’re just getting first down after first down, and big play after big play. I think we scored on 11 consecutive drives on offense. So you’re at that point where you’re getting up to 70 points early in the fourth quarter, in the back of your mind you’re saying well why can’t we score 80 or 90 if we don’t let our foot off the gas? I was certainly advocating it to our coaches! And I think they probably felt the same way, knowing the history of the Nebraska-Kansas rivalry as well. I shouldn’t say rivalry – the Nebraska-Kansas series.
Yeah, there ya go, that’s a better word for it, isn’t it?
Next up is Oklahoma State in Stillwater, and once again the offense is rolling. Another 300-yard passing day and 3 more TD passes for you, and Brandon McAnderson looks unstoppable. And now, finally, people across the country are taking notice of the Kansas Jayhawks football. What’s it like around the team, what’s going through your mind at this point?
For the first six games, I think we had crawled up into the top-20 or so, but after going to Colorado and A&M and then beating Nebraska like we did, once you’re 9-0 or 10-0 people have to pay attention to you. I felt like, at that time, if you look at all the announcers and the pundits, and everyone out there, they continued to pick us to lose every week, just because, hey, Kansas has to lose at some point just based on history.
So we’re undefeated, and putting up the numbers and stats and won tough road games, people still weren’t quite believing that we were any good because we hadn’t played as good of teams as other teams in the country. So at that point in the season, within the locker room, amongst the coaching staff, we felt we had a lot to prove still. It kept us motivated and kept us focused. And every week we continued to prepare ourselves and continue to show everyone that we were one of the best teams in the country that year.
The Oklahoma State game was another great example. They had a great team that year, they had a young guy named Dez Bryant who was a true freshman who had an unbelievable game. They had a talented offense all around and a good defense. And it was a shootout, and we were just able to make a few more plays than they were and find a way to pull that game out towards the end. Which, that set us up to come back home for the final home game, which was a great way to wrap up the last game at Memorial Stadium.
Yeah, and go ahead and tell us about senior day. Iowa State is in town. What did it mean for you to not only win every home game that year, but be 10-0 at that point and give those seniors something they can forever brag about?
Oh, that was huge for those seniors. A big reason for that is, those are the guys that really paved the way for the success we had that year. It really started with the work they put in four and five years prior when Coach Mangino was trying to build the program up and turn it around from how it had been in years prior. It started with work in the weight room, in the offseason, work in the film room, and building up a culture of Kansas football that was the reverse of the way it had been historically.
For those guys, being leaders of the team, to be able to have the kind of success as seniors, it really is a testament even to the guys who came before them, the guys that had graduated two or three years prior, who had been part of the whole reversal of the culture, it’s just a testament to what everyone did. It was great to be able to have such an amazing senior day, and have thousands of people up on the hill, just a sold out house, it was probably the best environment for a game at Memorial Stadium that I have ever seen.
Ok. So! 11-0. It’s the first year of the Border War being relocated to Arrowhead Stadium. I just want you to talk about all of the pregame stuff: Missouri week, the preparation, the coaches, Don Fambrough, the hype, College Gameday, I believe both teams had trouble just getting into the stadium, just talk about everything prior to kickoff.
It was certainly quite the setup for the Border War showdown at the Chiefs stadium. Missouri is 10-1. You’ve got two of the hottest and most prolific offenses going into that game. We’re the highest ranked that we had been versus Missouri in the rivalry’s history. It’s College Gameday. The winner is going to take the Big 12 North. We didn’t know at the time, but West Virginia would end up losing, so the winner was actually gonna claim the #1 ranking in the next week’s standings and then also play for a Big 12 title. So there was a nice amount on the line for this game.
And we knew it was gonna be a tough one. They had a great ball team that year but so did we. And we knew that it was just gonna come down to who could make a few more plays in those big moments. It was Thanksgiving week, so it was a unique week where we weren’t in for classes and had a break for Thanksgiving. It didn’t throw us off too much, but it was a little different type of preparation; there was a little more intensity in everything that we did gearing up for it.
Coach Fambrough, he would come in and talk to the team before the game, and listening to that guy getting fired up telling stories about the KU-MU rivalry. The way he is, it would really get us fired up, especially the young guys, myself included, we never really learned about the history of the rivalry, and some of the stories from the early years, having Coach Fambrough come in and enlighten you on that really got you excited for the game.
Once we actually got to the game, there were so many people tailgating before the game, and it was so crowded, that we’re actually running 30 minutes behind schedule because we couldn’t get through the parking lot to where our bus needed to drop us off. That’s not exactly the way you want to get to the stadium for the biggest game of the season, one of the biggest games in the history of the program. But we end up getting there, we’re a little bit rushed going through our pregame, which, it threw you off a little bit, but it wasn’t a huge deal.
And once we got out there, the environment was just unbelievable to have. Half split down the middle, half red and blue, half black and gold. The place was frigidly cold.
Yes, it was!
It was, yeah! It was a true, late fall, Midwestern type of football game, which, you know, I’m not a huge fan of cold. It was certainly a new experience for me, there weren’t a lot of freezing cold games down in Austin, TX, growing up. But it was still an awesome environment to be a part of, and really that you dream about growing up, in terms of playing in that big-time college football game.
Let’s skip to halftime. The ball just isn’t bouncing your way. There’s been a couple of missed field goals. There was an interception in the end zone as Kansas was driving for a touchdown. You guys are down 14-0 when it very easily could have been a 14-13 game. What’s the locker room like?
We were not very happy with the way we played the first half. That was, in terms of offensive execution, probably one of our worst halves of the entire season, if not the worst half. It’s never how you draw it up for a big game, to come out and not be able to execute like you have all season. Some of those miscues we had really set us back. The pass that got picked off in the end zone, if that’s another foot or two farther then it may be a touchdown. But William Moore, their safety, who was a heckuva ballplayer, he made a great play on the ball, and it was a little bit underthrown, but that hurt us.
Having the two missed field goals that were certainly within range, you never want to give up a chance to get points on the board. And then I think we had a dropped pass on third down in the red zone that maybe if we catch that, maybe it could have led to a touchdown.
So there were a lot of miscues for us, but I think we knew we weren’t out of it. We knew that we could score at any point in time on offense and that we could score fast, and that if our defense could get a few stops we could be back in this game in no time.
We came out and we refocused and said let’s just go out there and find our groove and start getting first downs, and we know the big plays will come. And sure enough, they did. We got into a bit of a back and forth there between us and Missouri. We were scoring, they were scoring, and in the back of our mind offensively, we knew we needed to get enough stops on defense to give ourselves a chance to get back into the game. Because once we started rolling on offense, we were able to score quite a few times there in under two or three minutes, and unfortunately toward the end of the game, we just, the way I put it, we ran out of time.
I think if we had another 10 minutes to play, another 6 to 8 minutes, that maybe we would’ve come back and won that thing. But unfortunately, you only get 60 minutes, and at the end of the game, we just didn’t make enough plays to get back in the game quick enough.
Well let me put it to you this way: You guys got the ball back with 12 seconds left down by six. If there would have been two minutes left – I don’t even know that you needed six – if there would have been just two minutes left, is there any doubt in your mind that you can go down and score and win the ballgame?
The way we were playing at that point on offense, I think we would have had all the confidence in the world that we could have done it. Even if it was 98 or 99 yards, I think if we had two minutes we would have felt pretty good about our chances. I certainly would have. Our offense with those guys, with the momentum we had going, but unfortunately we didn’t get those two minutes or three minutes, we only had 12 seconds. And obviously it didn’t end very pretty with the safety in the end zone.
Yeah, no doubt, no doubt. In your opinion, does Kansas win that game if it’s played in Lawrence as originally scheduled?
That’s tough to say. There’s so much more that goes into it. There’s certainly an advantage of getting to play that game at home, obviously you’re gonna have the crowd on your side. Which, crowd noise affects you a little bit, but I don’t think it’s a huge game changer after playing a whole season. I think the conditions would have been similar, but we would have had turf versus grass, so you never know how that might affect things as well.
But that’s an interesting question, I’ve never thought about that before. But I’m not sure it would have changed the game dramatically or if it would have been the difference maker by any means.
On to more fun things! The Orange Bowl! Virginia Tech had a legit defense, with several future NFL players on it. Was there pressure to justify the overall season record by winning that Orange Bowl?
I think most of us felt it was. We knew that we had to go out there and justify how good we were, the fact that we deserved to be in a BCS game. But I think because Missouri didn’t get invited to a game, there were still plenty of people said that we weren’t as good as our record showed, that we knew that if we went in and really put it to Virginia Tech and won that game, it would really solidify our season. And to end 12-1, to get 12 wins would be a huge accomplishment. So we definitely had that chip on our shoulder. And we were hungry to get back out there and make up for that tough loss to Missouri.
We approached the preparation for that game really seriously. Guys weren’t goofing around down there in Miami, which, there’s plenty of distractions that could have allowed you to do that if you lost your focus on the game. But we made it a business trip, and guys got prepared and got ready.
Because, we had a tough Virginia Tech team. The talent they had on defense – they had six or seven guys that went on to have a lot of playing time in the NFL. And they beat me up that game. They had a big, strong, physical defense. It was not an easy game to get through in terms of some of the hits they had on all our guys. We were certainly quite undersized compared to them.
I think college is such a total team win. When you look around, we had some success on offense, just not as much as maybe we were used to throughout the season, just given how good their defense was. But then you look at the way our defense played, getting the turnovers, Aqib with the pick-6, coming up with big play after big play, having the special teams, the fake field goal that we pulled on them, we gave them a taste of their own medicine with the big special teams plays. So you put it all together, man, it was just the epitome of having a great gameplan, having great preparation, and getting that full, total team win.
So just to start wrapping up, in general, what’s the first thing that comes to mind, maybe one play or specific memory that you think of when people ask you about 2007?
There’s gotta be a number of them! It’s tough to pick just one. Winning the Orange Bowl, when the final clock showed 0:00, having that feeling and celebrating with the team on field with all the guys afterwards, finishing the season on a high note after a tough loss in the regular season was a great way to end it. One of my favorite plays from earlier in the year was actually… um… was it that season? That might have been the wrong season, actually, now that I think about it!
It might be the next year, the play I was thinking about. But certainly the Nebraska game was a huge highlight, just knowing the history of that series and how much Kansas fans just really wanted to really stick it to Nebraska after all the years of tough losses. To go out there and be able to score the most points on their defense that’s ever been scored, and do it the way we did it, was awesome for KU fans and that was something to be proud of.
And then just the environment at homes games, getting fans excited about KU football again, to sell out the stadium game after game during that season, it was such a great place, a great environment to be a part of, and to see KU football come back into the limelight, everything was just so special that year.
Did Coach Mangino – you’re on the field after on the Orange Bowl, you’re celebrating – do you have any stories about that postgame celebration? Did he have anything specific he said to you that you remember, or anything like that?
Nothing comes to mind… I think at that point in time, everyone was just so elated, so excited to get that win. All the hard work that went into it, to finally get that nice cherry on top of such a great season really just brought it together. I think if we had been allowed to bring champagne in the locker room like they do in professional sports, it would have been one heckuva final locker room to be in, but unfortunately that’s not how it works in college!
Todd, you’ve been awesome! I really appreciate your time!
Yeah! This has been great, thanks for having me on! It’s fun to reminisce and certainly gets me excited for football season. I can’t wait to see Coach Beaty and the rest of the guys get out there and get this thing going!
We’re definitely hopeful for that as well, and you know, maybe we can have you on again here in the near future and we can talk about some more, current, Kansas football action!
Yeah, that would be great, I’d love to do that!
We’ll see what we can work out. Thanks again, Todd, I appreciate it!
You bet, take care!