LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -Skeptical hardly describes how Mark Mangino would have felt if somebody had told him his Kansas Jayhawks would start this season 9-0 and plant themselves squarely in the hunt for a national championship.
``I'd ask them what they're drinking.'' the Kansas coach said with a big grin. ``And see if I could get some of it.''
As he entered his sixth season in charge of a program that hasn't even shared a conference title since 1968, the speculation was that Mangino's job could be on the line, not that the Jayhawks would get off to their best start since 1908. He was 10 games under .500 in five seasons and the athletic director who hired him had been fired after basketball coach Roy Williams quit to go to North Carolina.
Now he's being mentioned as a candidate to be national coach of the year. His team, ranked No. 5 this week and led by a brainy little sophomore quarterback with quick hands and quick feet, is making history and setting records.
It could be on the brink of its grandest season ever.
``I thought we had a chance to have a really good football team,'' Mangino said. ``Those kids have stepped up and developed and here we are.''
Nevertheless, as victory No. 9 unfolded Saturday with a record-smashing 76-39 trouncing of hapless Nebraska, even some players felt like rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
``I looked up at the scoreboard and it was hard to believe,'' said linebacker Mike Rivera.
Now the Jayhawks (9-0, 5-0 Big 12) have three games left in what may be turning into a magical regular season. They're at Oklahoma State this week, then home against Iowa State the following week. Then they'll collide with No. 7 Missouri (8-1, 4-1) in Kansas City's sold-out Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 24 in what could be the biggest game in a series that got started in the 19th century.
Neither Missouri nor Kansas has ever won a Big 12 North crown. If both keep winning these next two weeks, that won't even be the most important thing at stake.
It's a turnaround of unimaginable proportions to anyone who's watched Jayhawks futility year after year, decade after decade.
``I'm sure the fans get a lot of joy out of seeing this role reversal with Nebraska,'' said fullback Brandon McAnderson, who tied a school record by rushing for four touchdowns.
``But this is just one more game for us. We can play better. We have to, because we have Oklahoma State next week.''
Quarterback Todd Reesing, considered too short at 5-foot-10 to be recruited by most big-time programs, has already smashed the school record with 23 touchdown passes. He threw for a school-record six TDs against the helpless Nebraska defense, directing touchdown drives on a stunning 10 straight possessions.
``This is a group who is pretty smart, tough as nails and plays hard,'' Mangino said. ``We have some guys who you would call intellectuals, who are really smart and intelligent kids that prove it in the classroom. They are out there playing for us, making smart plays and not making mistakes.''
While the sun shines brightly for Kansas, dark, gloomy storm clouds are gathering over the once-proud Huskers and their embattled head coach.
Bill Callahan now has the top two losses in school history on his record. The 76 points Reesing and his teammates dropped on the Huskers (4-6, 1-5) beat the record 70 Texas Tech scored in 2004, Callahan's first season after athletic director Steve Pederson put him in charge.
This nightmarish season has already claimed Pederson. He was fired last month after a 45-14 loss to Oklahoma State that in comparison to Saturday's collapse must seem like a nail-biter to shell-shocked Husker fans.
Tom Osborne, who coached Nebraska to three of its five national championships and replaced Pederson on a crisis, interim basis, watched from a pressbox suite Saturday. He spoke briefly to Callahan afterward. But he declined to talk to reporters.
The record number of points allowed and the loss to a program they had long dominated may not end the embarrassment for Nebraska fans, however.
If Reesing is chosen Big 12 offensive player of the week, it'll be the fifth time in a row the honor has gone to someone right after he played Nebraska.
``I'm not the type of person or coach to ever sit up here and give you an excuse for something that's gone bad, and I won't do it now,'' Callahan said. ``I love our players and coaches and we're doing the best we can. It's not what we wanted today and we're very disappointed. There's no words to describe it.''

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