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Schedule paying dividends for KU

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 | 12:49 a.m. CDT; updated 5:15 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

When it comes to the art of constructing a soft early season schedule, Kansas football coach Mark Mangino learned from the master.

Former Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, while turning the formerly moribund Wildcats into a national power in the 1990s, routinely scheduled overmatched nonconference teams. The theory went that while posting easy wins, Snyder’s players would develop confidence that would pay dividends once Kansas State entered conference play.

Mangino, an assistant at Kansas State and Oklahoma before becoming the Jayhawks’ head coach in 2002, developed a schedule for this season that would make Snyder proud. Kansas opened with home games against Central Michigan, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International, outscoring that foursome 214-23.

Thus prepared, the Jayhawks visited Kansas State on Saturday and beat the then-24th-ranked Wildcats 30-24 a week after the Wildcats had won at Texas. The victory vaulted Kansas into The Associated Press poll (No. 20) for the first time since 1995.

“You have to reflect back a year ago,” Mangino said Monday during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “We were a 6-6 team (and) lost some tough games. There’s several factors involved. We’ve addressed each and every factor head on,”

“We felt like being 4-0 in nonconference play developed confidence for our players for Big 12 competition, plus it gave us a chance to really take a look at who we have. Do we have people in the right spots, and what adjustments do we need to make before we get to conference play?”

Baylor coach Guy Morriss, another coach trying to rebuild a program, said other factors are involved in Kansas’ climb, most significantly the reduction of mistakes made by the Jayhawks’ players.

He noted Mangino has recruited better players, and “they do a good job scheduling to help their program and help them come out of the hole, which is always good. They took advantage of that.”

Morriss said a soft nonconference schedule isn’t required while building a program, “but it sure does help. No question.”

Mangino said he doesn’t think his players will become complacent this Saturday when they host Baylor (3-3).

“The good news with our team is we’ve got some really tough, aggressive kids who really understand the value of hard work,” Mangino said. “Their eyes have been opened in some of the games that have taken place across the country since the season began. This group here has a tough mental edge to them, but we need to continue to do that.”

“I tell our kids, when people are telling you you aren’t any good, you don’t need to listen to that, and when they tell you you’re pretty good, you don’t need to listen to that, either.”

HEISMAN-WORTHY: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has hinted that two of his players, quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree, should receive consideration on Heisman Trophy watch lists, even as some critics claim their statistics are inflated due to the Red Raiders’ pass-heavy offensive system.

Harrell leads the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A) in total offense at 450.2 yards per game — 50 yards per game more than second-place Brian Brohm of Louisville — and also is tops nationally in passing yards (2,726) and touchdown passes (28).

Crabtree leads the nation in receptions per game (15.34), receiving yards per game (179), overall receiving yards (1,074), touchdowns (17) and scoring. He set the NCAA record for touchdown receptions by a freshman against Iowa State on Saturday. The previous record was 14.

“Obviously, there’s some people doing some pretty good things,” Leach said of Harrell and Crabtree, suggesting that if the media is “going to keep track of these things, and the rest, there doesn’t need to be a vacuum” on considering Texas Tech players for national awards.

He suggested that credit be given to “our players or our coaches, or everybody combined ... because everybody else is trying to do the same thing.”

BAYLOR BOOS: Baylor fans began booing as early as the first quarter during the Bears’ 43-23 loss to Colorado on Saturday, and the boos became louder as the players exited the field at halftime. Morriss called it a “sign of the times” in college football.

“Nobody likes to get booed,” Morriss said. “It’s just human nature. I don’t know. They were probably booing me more than the kids, I guess. I don’t know. But the kids hear it. Yeah, it affects them. They don’t like to hear it.”

There is a difference between booing directed at a “paid professional” and a college athlete, he said.

“Let’s don’t forget, these are nothing but big kids,” Morriss said.

FIRST DOWNS: Mack Brown said that during his 10 years as Texas’ coach, the Longhorns have failed to force at least one turnover in a game only 10 times, but two of those times have come in the last two weeks in losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma ... After a 42-17 loss at Texas Tech on Saturday, a computer glitch on Iowa State’s charter plane stranded the Cyclones in Lubbock for almost four hours before a new plane was brought in to fly them home. They arrived in Ames about 8 a.m. “It was one of those nights,” coach Gene Chizik quipped. Texas Tech “can make you have a long night.”

SWEED’S SEASON DONE: Texas senior wide receiver Limas Sweed, whose 20 career touchdown catches rank No. 2 in school history, will have wrist surgery that will end his season, the team announced late Monday.

Sweed will have surgery to repair ligament damage, trainer Kenny Boyd said. He first injured the wrist in the preseason but came back to play in the No. 23 Longhorns’ first six games. He had just two catches in a 28-21 loss to Oklahoma and was taken out late in the game.

“I’ve aggravated it a couple of times and again last week and have probably been in more pain than I let anybody know,” Sweed said.

Losing Sweed is a blow to a Longhorns team trying to end a four-game losing streak in the Big 12 that dates to last season.

Sweed tied a school record last season with 12 touchdown receptions. He started 39 consecutive game and had 19 receptions with three TDs this year.

At 6-foot-5, Sweed was often a mismatch for cornerbacks and a big target for Texas quarterbacks. He averaged 33.3 yards on his touchdown catches, none bigger than his late-game catch in the end zone at Ohio State in 2005, a key victory in Texas’ march to the national championship that season.

“He’s made a lot of great plays and had a record-setting career at Texas,” Brown said. “We appreciate everything he did to try to help the team this year, but since he is in such intense pain, he cannot continue to play.”

LEAGUE HONORS: Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, Oklahoma cornerback Reggie Smith and Colorado kicker Kevin Eberhart were named as the Big 12’s players of the week.

Smith had six tackles, two pass breakups and a fourth-quarter interception in the Sooners’ 28-21 win over Texas.

Eberhart tied a school record with five field goals in the Buffaloes’ win over Baylor, connecting from 41, 44, 54, 42 and 30 yards. The 54-yard kick was the longest of his career.


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