Kansas University's football team suffered through the terrible threes against Colorado on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Three straight games replacing the starting quarterback. Three straight games with a fumble returned for a touchdown by the other team. And, most importantly, a third straight loss after starting the season 3-3.
KU quarterback Jason Swanson - starting in place of Adam Barmann who was out with an injured right shoulder - left early in the first quarter after appearing to injure his right shoulder. He had led KU to a 14-0 lead in his short time on the field.
"It was a great start for us," KU head coach Mark Mangino said. "Our offense was clicking. Jason made some good plays, some good reads. It started off very, very well."
Two plays after John Nielsen replaced Swanson, running back John Randle fumbled after catching a shovel pass and Colorado's Dominique Brooks returned the miscue 41 yards for a touchdown.
The play was eeriely reminiscent of similar turnovers turned into scores against Oklahoma and Iowa State - both of which happened after KU's starting quarterback left the game.
"Those plays hurt," Mangino said. "We had momentum and we came out of the box pretty well. We just can't allow those things to happen.
The Jayhawks went three-and-out on their next possession, and the Buffaloes marched downfield and scored on a 19-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. Colorado converted four of five third downs on the drive, and finished the game with nine third-down conversions in 16 attempts.
Neither team could score the rest of the half, and the Jayhawks went to the locker room with a 14-10 lead.
That advantage didn't last long, though, as the Buffaloes marched 70 yards in eight plays on the opening drive of the second half. Klatt hit Joe Klopfenstein for a four-yard touchdown pass and a 17-14 lead less than four minutes into the third quarter.
Nielsen returned the favor on KU's next drive, leading the Jayhawks to a 21-17 lead with a 19-yard scoring pass to Brandon Rideau. KU picked up four first downs on the drive and converted two third downs, including the touchdown.
"Give credit to John," Mangino said. "I thought under difficult circumstances he did some things very well today."
Kansas's defense held Colorado for the rest of the third quarter, but Stephone Robinson returned a Kyle Tucker punt 48 yards for a touchdown and a 24-21 lead with 12 seconds left in the third period.
The Buffaloes added another touchdown on a four-yard run by Lawrence Vickers with 3:27 left.
KU's offense stalled in the final period, failing to pick up a first down until the Jayhawks' final drive in the closing minutes.
The Jayhawks' first two touchdowns came on short runs by Randle. The first came on the game's opening drive, and the second came just less than two minutes later after Rodney Harris picked off Joel Klatt's first pass.
Charles Gordon intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble, sacked Klatt and caught a late pass.
"If he's not one of the top football players in America, he has to be among the best," Mangino said. "Who does what he does?"
Swanson was 3-of-5 passing for 67 yards before leaving the game. Nielsen finished 21-of-31 passing for 183 yards.
Randle had 61 yards on 20 carries, and Austine Nwabuisi added 17 yards on three rushes.
Randle also caught six passes for 35 yards, and Lyonel Anderson had five catches for 60 yards. Mark Simmons added three receptions for 52 yards and a 19-yard rush.
¢ Brandon Watkins started at tight end for the Jayhawks.
All stats are unofficial.