FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Getting into a bowl game was still a
novelty for Kansas and Houston two years ago, when both ended long
This time, neither will be satisfied by just getting there.
"We've had a very businesslike approach. The team's very
focused," fourth-year Kansas coach Mark Mangino said Thursday.
"We want our seniors to go out in style. They've grown with this
program. We interlocked our arms and started the march up the hill
The Jayhawks and Houston, both 6-5, play in the Fort Worth Bowl
on Friday night. Neither played in a bowl game after losing seasons
Kansas ended Mangino's second season with a 56-26 loss to North
Carolina State in the 2003 Tangerine Bowl. That was the first bowl
trip for the Jayhawks in eight years, and just the ninth in team
"We weren't a very mature team," Mangino said. "We got
excited to go to a bowl, and forgot to go and try to win the
Things are different this year.
With a roster of seniors who were freshmen when Mangino started,
the Jayhawks won three of their last four games this season. They
got eligible for a bowl by beating Iowa State 24-21 in overtime in
the last game, which also kept the Cyclones from winning the Big 12
Houston's bowl in 2003 came at the end of coach Art Briles'
first season, when the Cougars lost 54-48 in triple overtime to
Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. That was the Cougars' first bowl in
seven seasons and 15th overall.
"The last time we felt like an enemy," Briles said. "It is a
much different feeling this time. It's a great opportunity for us,
just like Kansas."
With 3,000-yard passer Kevin Kolb, a junior who has started all
35 games since getting to Houston, and 1,000-yard rusher Ryan
Gilbert, the Cougars have the top-rated offense in Conference USA
(457 total yards per game).
"I wouldn't like to play against them," Cougars defensive end
Kade Lane said.
It's the same multi-formation offense that was so successful for
Briles when he won four Texas high school state championships as
the coach at Stephenville, about 80 miles from Fort Worth. That is
also where Kolb played, though he had verbally committed to
Oklahoma State before Briles was hired by Houston.
"They have a very capable quarterback whose been running their
system since high school, and knows it like the back of his hand,"
said Jayhawks linebacker Nick Reid, named defensive player of the
year by Big 12 coaches. "They've just got a lot of formations, a
lot of different plays. We just have to stay focused."
And do what they've been doing all season.
Fort Worth Bowl Preview
Sixty percent of SportsNation is selecting Kansas to defeat Houston in the Fort Worth Bowl, despite the fact the game is being played in the Cougars' home state. While Houston has the more potent offense, the Jayhawks have the better defense -- and defense wins bowl games (or is that just championships?). Kevin Kolb will provide thrills on offense for Houston, while Kansas' Charles Gordon is Mr. Excitement on both sides of the ball.
The Jayhawks have allowed only 309 yards per game, third in the
Big 12 and 19th nationally. For the first time in team history,
they've given up less than 100 rushing yards per game -- 88.1 (third
Kolb already has 8,941 yards and 55 touchdowns passing in his
career, and with a solid senior season could shatter nearly every
passing record at the school where Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware
and former NFL first-round draft pick David Klinger also threw
Kansas won the only two previous games against Houston, in 1994
and 1995 before the formation of the Big 12. The Cougars are 0-4
against Big 12 teams, three lopsided losses to Texas (which beat
Kansas 66-14 last month) and a 50-point loss to Oklahoma in 2004.
Bowl organizers expect a crowd of more than 32,000 for the game
played in the 46,000-seat stadium on the TCU campus. The first two
Fort Worth Bowls drew sparse crowds with temperatures in the teens,
but the forecast Friday calls for a high of 70 degrees.