Lance Leipold knew what he’d have to do early in overtime. Kansas’ head coach planned ahead, instructing offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki to pick the right play. Kotelnicki got back to him quickly: I’ve got one.

Leipold had Texas on the ropes and no interest in extending the fight any longer. The first-year coach and his 1-8 squad were going for two. Win or lose, they had to do it. After they scored in OT, Leipold glanced over to his boss.

“I was right there on the sideline,” Kansas athletic director Travis Goff said, “and he looked and gave me that classic Lance Leipold face. He had his eyebrow slightly raised. It wasn’t a smirk, but it was just a little nod like, ‘We’re gonna win this game.’”

Was Leipold looking his way, in that high-pressure moment, to make sure he had Goff’s support?

“Oh no,” Goff said with a laugh. “There was no, ‘Is this OK?’ It was, ‘This is what we’re gonna do here.’”

They play didn’t go how they drew it up, not at all. But it was good enough.

Kansas 57, Texas 56. The rebuilding of Kansas football has been and will continue to be incredibly challenging. One upset win doesn’t change everything. But that triumph was a good start.

“It gave our players a shot of confidence that, yes, we can do it,” Leipold said. “We can do these things. As a program, it gave validation to the process we’re instilling.”

What Leipold and his staff took on in 2021 was a Year Zero situation in every sense. Les Miles and athletic director Jeff Long were ousted in March. Goff was hired on April 5. He hired Leipold away from Buffalo on April 30. Leipold didn’t get to coach up his new team in an actual practice until August.

Kansas had the youngest Power 5 team in the country. The Jayhawks had lost every game in 2020, extending a 12-year streak of losing seasons. For the new staff, the toll of all that losing was easy to identify.