It’s hard to believe that events could turn so quickly for Kansas.
The Jayhawks started with a 5-0 record, soaring to No. 16 in the Associated Press poll at one point of the season.
That all changed during a seven-game losing streak. It was a collapse that cost coach Mark Mangino his job. He “resigned” from his position five days after the end of the season.
It represented a stunning turnaround for the Jayhawks, who appeared to be poised to make a run at their first Big 12 North title-game appearance.
But defensive woes killed the Jayhawks down the stretch, particularly in conference play. The Kansas defense allowed an average of 13.5 points per game in a weak nonconference schedule and 35.9 points per game in conference play.
Todd Reesing's struggles in conference games also played a part. The senior quarterback was touted for the Heisman earlier in the season by Mangino for his production and leadership. He started his career with an 11-game winning streak, but finished with a seven-game losing streak.
A strong finish in a loss to Missouri enabled him to lead the Big 12 with 3,616 passing yards. But Reesing’s senior season will be remembered for his struggles when he threw more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (five) during the first six games of the losing streak.
As the losses mounted, reports about Mangino’s alleged bullying and verbal confrontations with his players and staff surfaced. It contributed to an untenable working and recruiting situation for Mangino and his staff with athletic director Lew Perkins.
Under internal investigation for his conduct as he directed the program, it was only a matter of time before Mangino left.
His departure came barely two seasons after he was honored as the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year winner.
Offensive MVP WR Dezmon Briscoe
Despite sitting out the first game of the season in a suspension, Briscoe emerged as the Jayhawks’ prime deep threat. Briscoe produced 84 receptions for a team-leading 1,337 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He had seven games of at least 100 yards receiving, before capping the season with a 14-catch, 242-yard effort against Missouri.
Defensive MVP S Darrell Stuckey
On a unit that struggled most of the season, Stuckey was the steadying influence. He was the team’s unquestioned leader and led the defense with 93 tackles, including a game-high 15 stops against Missouri in the season’s final game.
Turning point Oct. 31 at Texas Tech
The Jayhawks were 5-2 for the season and took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter against the Red Raiders. But as the Red Raiders charged back to take a lead, Mangino removed Reesing from the lineup after he had been sacked six times in the game. It wasn't much support for the quarterback who had earlier led his program to the BCS. Reesing’s benching was a tipping point that started the cascade of Kansas’ seven-game losing streak.
So much depends on who Perkins hires as the new coach. It’s tough to determine who will end up getting the job, although Turner Gill of Buffalo appears to be a popular choice. Whoever arrives will have to rebuild without Reesing, Kerry Meier and Briscoe, who has already declared for the NFL draft. The Jayhawks do have all of their offensive line starters returning, along with six defensive starters and backup quarterback Kale Pick. They will also benefit from an easier cross-division schedule, trading South Division foes Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech for Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.