LAWRENCE — The book on Turner Gill is that no matter what happens on the field, he doesn't change. Gill got where he is by being consistent, and he proved that on Saturday night in the moments after the worst defeat of his coaching career.
The Jayhawks had just lost 6-3 to North Dakota State. They didn't score a touchdown against a team from a lower division. And no KU player would have known it by listening to Gill.
"I was very surprised when I walked in the locker room after the game, and Coach Gill didn't even show any phase of being angry or anything," KU linebacker Steven Johnson said. "He just stayed positive."
As Johnson recalls it, Gill reminded his players that learning from adversity was a part of their mission statement. They had to learn from it and capitalize against No. 15 Georgia Tech. They had 11 more opportunities to win, and they could go 11-1 because, hey, you never know. Anything can happen.
It's pep talks like that, layered with the power of positive thinking, that had the Jayhawks talking in the offseason like they would run through walls for Gill and his assistants. So it was shocking to everyone that Kansas put together a performance so uninspiring that some of the fans left in Memorial Stadium felt the need to boo their displeasure.
While defensive players said Tuesday that their unit was ready to go emotionally on Saturday — and their performance in giving up just a couple field goals backed it up — KU running back Angus Quigley said he was dissatisfied with the effort shown by the offense.
"It was night and day," Quigley said. "I feel like our defense played their butts off. They were out there with a passion. They looked hungry and they played really hard. You could tell, upon watching the film, as an offense, I don't feel like we played very energetic. It looked like we were just out there at times, going through the motions. I don't know why that is, but it has to be corrected this week."
On many college practice fields, such a reality would result in a hell week leading into the next game. Coaches would unleash a different kind of intensity, driving it into players' heads that last week wasn't good enough. Quigley does not expect those kind of theatrics from Gill and his staff, but he says it should be on the players anyway.
"There has to be a sense of urgency," said Quigley, who carried 7 times for 15 yards against the Bison. "You can't coach effort. That has to come from the players. It has to be self-motivated. This week we've got to push each other."
Gill opened up his weekly press gathering on Tuesday by highlighting the positive things he took from Saturday. When asked later about effort, he said he was satisfied.
"It was all about execution," Gill said. "I think they played with great effort, but there were times when they were hesitant. What causes that, that's part of our process, trying to understand each individual player, what makes them go and also what limits them. It's a process. It's a journey."
Early in the season, the defense appears to be further along. KU cornerback Chris Harris said he had never seen the offense play so poorly.
"I knew on my side of the ball, we were ready to go," Harris said. "I knew everybody knew their job. As a team, we gotta all have it. I don't know what was going on with the offense."
Quigley, a sixth-year senior and captain, was able to identify a problem.
"The biggest thing we need to do is be more committed to what we are doing," Quigley said," and play with great passion. That's the biggest thing watching this game. It just wasn't there."
No quarterback decision — Gill said that he had not yet decided on a starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Georgia Tech. Gill did not rule out the possibility that Kale Pick and Jordan Webb would both play as they did against North Dakota State.
"The benefit of it is you've got competition," Gill said. "The negative is you don't have an opportunity for chemistry, continuity, as far as your offensive players. I'm not gonna sit here and say I'm for playing back and forth with quarterbacks. We'll find out as time goes along."
Running back update — Gill said once again that he has no plans to move sophomore Toben Opurum back to running back from linebacker. Instead, Gill said he will give freshman running back James Sims a chance.
"I think he has a good physical aspect in his game," Gill said. "He has good feet, also has good hands. We're gonna get an opportunity to see what he can do as far as running the football."
Injuries — Gill said that defensive end Tyrone Sellers has a leg injury and will be out three to four weeks and that running back Deshaun Sands is questionable for Saturday with a leg injury.