Angus Quigley said he has been thinking about the quote all week. Linebacker coach Bill Miller has given his group phrases to remember in the past, but this one sticks out. When Quigley walked into the linebacker meeting room this past week, scribbled on the board was a sentence that pretty much describes the Kansas 2009 season.
"Nothing is sadder than what could've been."
So what could've been? During the spring, players walked around campus with "Win the North," t-shirts. The game this week against Nebraska was supposed to be the main event of KU's conference season, possibly determining who would play for the Big 12 title. This year was supposed to be the feather in the cap of Todd Reesing's career. Instead, all Kansas has are those words on the meeting room board.
"We felt like this was one of our most talented teams overall," Quigley said. "This is the most speed we have had on defense. Our offense was potent."
Quigley goes on. He has been on bad teams before. His senior year in high school, his team went 0-10. He said this year is different. Back then, he always knew he had a ticket to play college football. Better things were always in store. Now? He is still undecided if he will try and get a medical redshirt and have a sixth year of eligibility after the season. He is still trying to work his way up the depth chart at linebacker. For all he knows, this Saturday's game could be his last at Memorial Stadium.
"When you are at the end of your career, the next year isn't promised," Quigley said. "It hurts more."
To stop the bleeding of three straight losses, last Tuesday night the team held a players only meeting at the football facility. Kerry Meier and Darrell Stuckey talked about sticking together as a family. Jake Sharp talked about work ethic. What might've affected the players the most though was Todd Reesing, who led off the meeting by apologizing for his poor play.
"It shows a lot about his character," Quigley said. "When you see Todd saying stuff like that, then we have to rally around him. We are as good as Todd is at quarterback."
"It's not any good when you mess up and don't have any friends."
The players said the week leading up to the Kansas State game they had their best week of practice of the season. The focus was there, but the results on gameday were not.
The meeting or the good practices didn't produce a win against Kansas State. Reesing still struggled. The team still beat themselves with stupid mistakes and turnovers. After the game, one of the images that stuck out most to Quigley was of Kerry Meier crying in front of his locker by himself. In a way, watching Meier get emotional after the game gave Quigley hope that there was plenty of fight left in the team.
"When you see guys like Kerry Meier, guys that will give anything to the program, crying after the game because he is hurt that we lost, that drives me," Quigley said. "I can't let them down and that is why I practice."
So what's next for Kansas? In the Mangino era they have had rough midseason stretches before where they were forgotten and left for dead by those outside the program only to have a strong finish. It's likely they will have to beat both Nebraska and Missouri to be guaranteed a spot in a bowl. Quigley says don't count them out yet.
"You have people outside the program doubting us, and saying ,'well at least it's basketball season.'" Quigley said. "Those types of things hurt."
"We have to put all that aside and play as a family."