Lincoln. Neb. Kansas University's football team has its way of exciting the masses. That can't be denied, especially after Saturday.
Another nail-biter, another overtime game - and like 50 percent of the close ones so far this year, another loss for the Jayhawks, 39-32 in overtime to No. 21 Nebraska.
In one zany, four-hour stretch, the Jayhawks looked like failures and fighters, futile and fantastic.
It's hard to conclude what deserves more attention - the 17-0 lead Kansas spotted Nebraska with embarrassing first-quarter play, or the inspiring way the Jayhawks came all the way back to make the game a true thriller.
On the road, no less.
There was a prolific offensive attack, led by Adam Barmann's 405 passing yards and Jon Cornish's 145 rushing yards, and there were big-play problems in KU's secondary, highlighted by three Nebraska touchdowns going for 75 yards or longer.
The scoreboard should be the deciding factor in what seems like a balanced argument, and Kansas' good play didn't prevail. But KU's coaches and players hardly seemed devastated afterward, despite falling to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in Big 12 Conference play.
"We're not playing horseshoes, so close doesn't count," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "We're disappointed that we lost, but I can't help but to tell you that I am very proud of my football team. They did a great job. They just came up short."
KU showed some grit, and it led to an exciting fourth quarter of football between two teams still trying to feel their way. Kansas took a 25-24 lead with 6:47 to play, after Barmann orchestrated an 88-yard drive that ended with a touchdown catch by Derek Fine on third down.
Nebraska answered right away, when, on third-and-18, NU quarterback Zac Taylor threw a deep ball that Frantz Hardy caught next to a disoriented Blake Bueltel. Hardy streaked in for his second score, and a two-point conversion put the Huskers up 32-25.
Left for dead, and with an 85,069-person sea of red ringing the Jayhawks' ears, Barmann calmly answered with a game-tying drive of 11 plays and 81 yards. The final strike, with 46 seconds left, was a 26-yard pass from Barmann to Brian Murph. Scott Webb's point-after tied the game at 32.
Extra football came for the second time in three weeks for the Jayhawks, and it ended the same way. Nebraska was on offense first and scored on a touchdown, and KU's drive ended when a fade pass from Barmann to Marcus Henry went long.
Nebraska escaped for the 18th straight time in Lincoln. But certainly not without a scare.
"I think some people might not have thought too much of Kansas," NU running back Cody Glenn said, "but they proved tonight that they are a good football team."
Well, at least after the first quarter.
Kansas undoubtedly had its roughest stretch of the season early in the first 15 minutes, helping Nebraska jump to a 17-0 lead.
Consider the bad plays and bad breaks in the first five minutes alone:
¢ Blown coverage by KU freshman Anthony Webb on Nebraska's second play of the game resulted in a 75-yard touchdown catch by Terrence Nunn.
¢ An apparent mixup between Barmann and Henry resulted in Barmann throwing an interception with Henry nowhere near the pass.
¢ Nebraska punted a ball that went out of bounds about 18 inches from the Kansas end zone.
¢ Barmann threw an interception that Andrew Shanle returned to the KU six-yard line.
¢ Nebraska scored again on the next play, when Aqib Talib fell down and his man - Todd Peterson - was left wide open for the catch.
0, 2 First-quarter passing yards, interceptions by KU's Adam Barmann 405, 1 Barmann's passing yards, interceptions over the final three quarters 0 Sacks recorded by Nebraska's vaunted defense 26, 16 First downs earned by Kansas, Nebraska 6.1, 7.9 Average gain per offensive play for Kansas, Nebraska 2 100-yard receivers for KU (Brian Murph, Dexton Fields) 3 TD passes of 75 or more yards by the Huskers 17 Nebraska's biggest lead - which it held twice, at 17-0 and 24-7
Add to it a bounced snap, more blown coverage, a one-yard kickoff return and some missed throws by Barmann, and Kansas seemed primed for the wailing that outsiders and oddsmakers expected the Jayhawks to get all week.
But it never came. Instead, Kansas became competitive among the howling fans at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. By the third quarter, the showdown was back on.
"We don't really get upset about stuff like that," linebacker Joe Mortensen said of the early hole. "We keep our cool, focus and come back."
The battle back came up just short on Saturday. But win or lose, it seems anyone associated with such a contest at least can appreciate the kind of battle they fought.
It wasn't always clean, but, hey, it doesn't always have to be.
"That's what made it a great game," Mangino said. "Both teams made mistakes, and both teams made great plays."