LAWRENCE — Down and out, Stephon Robinson nevertheless fought ’til the final whistle.
If the emerging junior wide receiver’s Kansas football teammates can replicate the mindset Robinson had late in last Saturday’s blowout defeat in their final two contests, the Jayhawks may have more than just momentum entering head coach Les Miles’ second year with the program.
Robinson hauled in six receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown in his team’s 31-13 defeat at Oklahoma State, putting KU (3-7, 1-6 Big 12) on the board for the first time with a 14-yard scoring grab with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter. While the Jayhawks have stumbled toward the season’s finish line, the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has not — KU has gone 1-4 over its last five games, but Robinson has accounted for 514 receiving yards and seven touchdowns across that stretch.
With his team in a 31-point hole against the Cowboys, it may have been understandable if Robinson went at half-speed the rest of the way. So why didn’t he?
“My brothers. The university,” Robinson explained. “Like I’ve said, just pride. I wanted to keep fighting and not give up despite the circumstances of us being down by however many points. Just keep fighting. I’m in the game, I came ready to play football, so I’m going to do that as long as I can.”
Robinson’s next opportunity will come at 11 a.m. Saturday against Iowa State (6-4, 4-3) at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. KU then concludes its season with a Nov. 30 home tilt against No. 13 Baylor.
Despite the team’s stated goal of a bowl game virtually out of the question, the Jayhawks should have no shortage of motivation down the stretch, Robinson indicated.
“Just having pride playing the sport we love,” he said. “No matter the circumstances you should always want to go out there and give your full effort and try to win. I mean, I’d just say the pride in our university and the pride in the name on the back of your jersey, going out there to play your heart out.”
Keeping the team together and focused has been an “all-around effort,” Robinson said, but he added Miles deserves particular credit for instilling confidence that the remaining road still carries meaning.
Miles, who finished 4-7 in his first season at Oklahoma State, won the last two games of that 2001 campaign, including a 16-13 upset of then-No. 4 Oklahoma in the season finale. Since that foundation was laid, the once-downtrodden Cowboys have finished off every season but one with a bowl game appearance.
“It's the want to have this team continue to develop, improve and play well and enjoy victory,” said Miles, explaining where this KU team’s motivation will come from the rest of the way. “I think you'll find that this team will play extremely hard. They enjoyed the wins that they did accomplish and ... they're not done with the season. That would be my guess.”
One doesn’t need to look to Stillwater for motivation from a historical context.
“It is tough, it stinks, but if you look at it, there hasn’t been a football team here that’s won four or five games in 10 years I think,” said senior quarterback Carter Stanley. “That’s at this point what our goal is, just to make our mark on this place, the senior class at least, to make our mark and finish it better than what we found it I guess.”
Sophomore linebacker Jay Dineen has also come on strong of late, notching 2½ tackles-for-loss against OSU. A Lawrence native and lifelong Jayhawk fan, Dineen indicated the team’s recent rough patch hasn’t noticeably affected morale around the facility.
“I mean, losing (last Saturday), losing to K-State, everyone thinks your chin should be lower. You wouldn’t tell around here,” Dineen said. “Everyone’s still up. Everyone’s coming out to practice every day trying to get better. Like I said, we’ve still got two more to send the seniors out with two wins. ...
“I’ve been a (KU) fan since I was born, and I’ve seen this team go to the Orange Bowl, go everywhere, Insight Bowl. And then I’ve seen the last 10 years be more of a struggle. To be that team to get over the hump and not all the way over yet, it would still be huge.”