This is closing the gap?
Just days after Kansas University football coach Terry Allen proclaimed the Jayhawks were, indeed, closing in on their in-state rivals, KU did little to make Allen's case.
Aided by favorable field position set up by a tenacious, stifling defense, Kansas State routed the Jayhawks, 52-13, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium to claim its series-best eighth straight victory in the Sunflower State Showdown.
And that gap looked every bit the chasm it has been since Allen came to town.
In the three previous years Allen has presided as Kansas' head coach, the average KSU winning margin was 51-10.
"I still believe we have better athletes than we did before," Allen said afterward. "Was it demonstrated today? No. Do I still believe that? Yes."
At least some of the Jayhawks aren't so sure.
"I don't know what to say about that," fifth-year KU center Bob Schmidt said. "They've got a great squad. Maybe we have closed the gap, but we haven't shown it yet."
Just about every aspect of Saturday's game fell on the Wildcats' side of the gulf. KSU outgained KU 468 total yards to 231, collected six sacks to Kansas' zero and had just one turnover to KU's three.
At least there was no what-if, if-only closeness for the Jayhawks this week, unlike a week ago when they could only shake their heads and point to seven turnovers as the reason for their loss at Oklahoma.
"It's like they knew all our plays," said Kansas senior QB Dylen Smith, who lost a fumble and threw an interception and sat out all but two first-quarter series after suffering a back injury while getting sacked, and fumbling, on the game's third play. "They just had a great scheme for us this week. They just seemed to have our number today."
Kansas' defense felt much the same way after watching Jonathan Beasley, the most efficient passer in the country coming in, complete 12 of 18 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown and running for four more scores.
"We'd be in one thing, he'd look around and call a play, and we'd get in another thing, and he'd call something else," lamented KU junior defensive tackle Nate Dwyer. "He was one step ahead of us all day."
The fourth-ranked-but-sure-to-rise Wildcats (6-0 overall, 2-0 Big 12) were a step ahead from the start before that, even, when KU (2-3, 0-2) won the pregame coin toss and deferred.
K-State opted to take the stiff north wind at its back, and the Jayhawks took the opening kickoff.
They went all of two yards before Smith was drilled by Chris Johnson one of 16 total stops and one of seven tackles for losses for Johnson on the day and Mario Fatafehi recovered on the KU 16. Three plays later, it was Kansas State 7, Kansas 0, and the rout was on.
"If I could change one thing," Allen said, "I wouldn't defer. I would have gone ahead and kicked off and would have taken the wind in the first quarter. I thought we'd end up getting the wind, that they'd take the ball."
But the ill wind that blew away any hope of a KU victory blew hardest in the second half, when K-State bucked the breeze for 31 points to carry a 38-0 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats' first four scores came from a short field: the fumble, a short (13-yard) KU punt, a big (33-yard) KSU punt return and a fumbled kickoff.
"It's hard to say anything positive when it's 38-0 at half," Allen said. "We didn't play well in any facet to give anybody a positive. They had their way with us offensively, defensively and special teams in the first half."
At the half, the stats were skewed even more in KSU's favor than at game's end: 304 total yards to 76. Heck, K-State punted only once in the first half, while KU had just six first downs, including two by penalty.
Kansas scored its two touchdowns a one-yard Smith run and a five-yard Smith run early in the third quarter and late in the fourth.
"They're good, and they knock you off-stride, and you lose composure," Allen said. "It could have gotten real ugly, but it didn't, because we hung in there a little bit in the second half. The three aspects of the game are defense, offense and special teams, and that's all the package K-State puts together."
Now the Jayhawks face the unenviable task of heading to Columbia, Mo., next Saturday to face Missouri, their other primary rival.
"This was a devastating, difficult loss," Allen said. "How we bounce back we'll see what we're all about."