Kansas lost its 11th consecutive Big 12 game on Saturday, but the 28-16 loss at Iowa State was a noted improvement beyond 35-, 48- and 52-point beatings in the Jayhawks' first three conference games.
The big question in Lawrence is how long will it take to first end that streak and start taking steps back toward being a winning program, like in 2007 when the Jayhawks started conference play 7-0 and eventually won the Orange Bowl.
"Each coach, when you’re in a situation like this, you wish you had that magical number, but I know that we are making progress here, particularly in the last two ballgames," said Kansas coach Turner Gill. "I know sometimes the score doesn’t dictate that, but I think we’ve made some progress there."
It hasn't been easy for Kansas, which was riddled with injuries on the offensive line in the preseason, and is playing without one of its best defensive players, Huldon Tharp, who suffered a season-ending foot injury during fall camp. Kansas had to start third-string quarterback Quinn Mecham against Iowa State after injuries forced starter Jordan Webb and Kale Pick to the sideline.
The status of Webb and Pick for Saturday's game against Colorado is still in flux, and Gill said he didn't plan on announcing a starter until later in the week, when he had a better sense of each's health.
"We just gotta continue to get our guys to execute the things we need to do, and I think we will and I think we’ll continue to improve," Gill said. "That’s all you can ask yourself to do, is keep getting better as a football team and keep competing."
Complicating matters for Gill is an uneasy situation above his head in the athletic administrative office. Former athletic director Lew Perkins, who hired him in January, retired amid controversy in September, and plans to find his replacement are underway. Gill's focus remains on improving the Jayhawks' on-field product, and not on the possible prospect of impressing a new boss.
"Those are things that I have no control over. All I can do is go out here and teach and develop our players and do the best I can. That’s what I’m going to focus on. They hired me to do a job here and that’s what I’m ready to do. That’s what we’re going to do as a staff," Gill said. "We believe in what we’re trying to get accomplished and our style of coaching, our schemes and we’re still trying to mesh together our whole, what we have as a football team, trying to get the right players in the right place and again, I have confidence in the administration that whoever they end up hiring will give us a chance to build this winning program."