Tag Archives: pepper rodgers

1968 Kansas Jayhawks: Orange Bowl Bound

The Kansas Jayhawks are one of the nation’s best basketball powerhouses. Year after year, they sign some of the nation’s best high school basketball players and they are a regular contender to make it at least to the Final Four.

Football, on the other hand, is a completely different matter.

In modern times, they’ve only had a few good teams and I plan on blogging about all of them.

They were really good in 1995 when they were coached by Glen Mason they posted a 10-2 record with a bowl victory over UCLA. Their two losses were to rival Kansas State and top ranked

Nebraska, who ran away with the national championship.

Another really good team was the 2007 version of the Jayhawks. Mark Mangino coached Kansas to an impressive 12-1 record and they were unbeaten until the last game of the regular season when they were beaten by 3rd ranked Missouri. They were invited to the Orange Bowl where they beat 5th ranked Virginia Tech.

They finished the season ranked 7th and this was by far the best Kansas Jayhawk football team of all time.

The 1968 Kansas Jawhawks were pretty good, too.

Coming off of some 2 win seasons, Kansas fired coach Jack Mitchell and hired UCLA assistant Pepper Rodgers. Upon arrival at Kansas, Rodgers inherited quarterback Bobby Douglass and running back Junior Riggins the older brother of legendary John Riggins. His first team at Kansas won 5 games and lost 5. 5-5 was not a bad opening season record with the recent history in Lawrence, Kansas.

But, better days were coming.

The 1968 Kansas Jayhawks football team was not messing around. They came out blowing and going and beat Illinois in their opening game, 47-7.

Kansas followed that convincing win with a beating of 13th ranked Indiana, 38-20. This wasn’t the typical Indiana team coming off of their 1967 season which was their one and only Rose Bowl team. A 68-7 win over New Mexico was no surprise in the following week, but their 23-13 win over 9th ranked Nebraska may have been. People were starting to believe in Kansas and the Big 8 was a tough conference in those years.

The Jayhawks ran through their conference foes Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Colorado in impressive fashion. But, the now 3rd ranked Jayhawks ran into the unranked Oklahoma Sooners and lost, 23-27. It was their first loss of the season and they were still ranked 7th afterward.

The Jayhawks beat Kansas State and then they had another test awaiting with the 13th ranked Missouri Tigers. Always a test on the road, the Tigers proved to be a tough game for Kansas before they prevailed 21-19.

The 7th ranked Jayhawks won the tough Big 8 Conference and earned a berth to the Orange Bowl.

That was a big deal and their opponent was to be the unbeaten Penn State Nittany Lions coached by a young Joe Paterno.

The Orange Bowl proved to be a tough defensive battle with the Kansas Jayhawks holding a 14-7 lead with time running out on the Penn State Nittany Lions. But, a late pass from Penn State quarterback Chuck Burkhart to Bob Campbell to the Kansas 3 yard line changed everything. Kansas had been holding them in check for most of the game even with talented Nittany Lion running back Charlie Pittman and All American tight end Ted Kwalick.

From the 3 yard lion, quarterback Burkhart ran it in. Paterno, to his credit, decided to go for 2 instead of settle for a tie. Burkhart’s pass into the end zone fell incomplete and all of the Jayhawks celebrated. But, the Jayhawks had 12 men on the field so the Lions got another shot and Campbell ran it into the end zone giving them a win in something of a wild finish.

The 1968 Kansas Jayhawks finished one of their great seasons with a 9-2 record.

The Jayhawks had some talent that season. Left handed quarterback Bobby Douglass was a 6-4, 225 future 2nd round draft pick by the Chicago Bears where he became known as one of the toughest

running quarterbacks of all time. His passing was erratic, but he was a hard nosed runner, for sure.

Future super star John Riggins was a sophomore in 1968 and he ran for 866 yards. He’ll be the subject of another post, while his brother Junior ran the ball for 340 yards.

Tight end John Mosier was drafted by the Denver Broncos, so their offense was not devoid of talent. On the other side of the football, the Jayhawks had defensive lineman John Zook who was picked by the Los Angeles Rams and had a decent NFL career.

Head coach Pepper Rodgers was at Kansas only 2 more seasons and even with the Hall of Fame running back John Riggins he could only manage 1-9 and 5-6 finishes which makes the 1968 team all that much more special. Rodgers left for UCLA where he coached Mark Harmon: UCLA

The Kansas Jayhawks returned to mediocrity in football. Meanwhile, basketball marches on.