Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 13-10 loss to Iowa State on Nov. 5, 2011.
Ames, Iowa Through eight games this season, the Kansas University football team had found just about every way imaginable to lose a game. Saturday, during a 13-10 loss to Iowa State in front of 51,575 fans at Jack Trice Stadium, the Jayhawks discovered another.
Two missed field goals and another off day from the Kansas offense led to KU's seventh straight loss and dropped the Jayhawks to 2-7 overall and 0-6 in Big 12 play. By now, talking after losses has become routine for the Jayhawks, who officially were eliminated from bowl contention Saturday.
"A loss is a loss," said Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb. "But, whenever you're that close and you feel like it's right in your grasp and you don't go out there and get it, it definitely hurts. It hurts a lot."
There were positive elements to the Jayhawks' latest letdown — perhaps more than any other loss this season. The defense played what Gill called its best game since he arrived at KU, and the running game, which had struggled mightily during the past 10 quarters, temporarily got back on track with 174 yards on 39 attempts, good for a 4.5-yard average. But the signs of life hardly mattered. When it counted most, the Jayhawks did not deliver.
First came a failed attempt deep in Iowa State territory late in the third quarter. The Jayhawks ran eight plays inside the ISU 15-yard line but could not reach the end zone and were forced to settle for a game-tying field goal. The series, which came with Kansas trailing 10-7, included five rushing attempts for freshman Darrian Miller, one fourth-down conversion and another fourth down in which Gill chose a field goal from the 2-yard line instead of going for the lead.
"I thought about it," Gill said. "If we would've been on the one, I would've went for it. But the two yards, I kind of went back and forth and decided, hey we've gotta tie the ballgame and give us a chance to win in the fourth quarter."
The fourth quarter proved equally disappointing. After the KU defense held the Cyclones to a field goal for a 13-10 lead with 4:30 to play, several Jayhawks said they believed they were in position to win the game.
"In that situation, it was a win," said junior safety Bradley McDougald of the ISU field goal. "They didn't come up with seven points. And it was a perfect situation for our offense to march down the field. There were four minutes left and the only thing we could do was just be cheerleaders for our offense."
Instead of a heroic drive, the Jayhawks ran three plays and punted on fourth-and-11 with 2:37 remaining in the game. Gill said he considered going for it on that fourth down as well, but elected to punt and take his chances with his defense and two timeouts.
"We needed a field goal," Gill said. "If we would've needed a touchdown, I would've definitely gone for it."
Iowa State took over at its own 46-yard line and rode fullback Jeff Woody to victory. With both hands clutching the football, Woody ran four straight times for 45 yards to put the game away.
"At the end, they kind of put in a formation that they really don't use very much," junior Toben Opurum said. "We had practiced against it, but we hadn't seen it all game and it just kind of took us out of rhythm and out of sync."
Added McDougald: "It was definitely frustrating not being able to get off the field. We were a little under-manned and they were just stacking that short side. But give credit to them. They got a great push up front and their tight ends and fullbacks came up and made great blocks."
Asked if the Jayhawks talked about an adjustment, McDougald said it was too little, too late.
"We did," he said. "But, by that time, they were going into the QB kneel."
Gill said the discrepancy between KU's offensive-line play and ISU's proved to be the difference.
"Their linemen kind of took over the game and beat our linemen," he said. "We gotta win those battles."
Gill also credited ISU quarterback Jared Barnett, who ran for 125 yards and threw for 175 more, in keeping the Jayhawks' defense off balance.
"He was the key to the game," Gill said. "Every time they had to make a play, he made the play running the ball and that hurt us."
Miller led KU, rushing 17 times for 70 yards.
The 13 points scored by Iowa State were the fewest allowed by a KU defense in a Big 12 game since 2007, when the Jayhawks rocked ISU, 45-7. KU also forced three turnovers — an interception and forced fumble by McDougald and a forced fumble by Greg Brown — and held the Cyclones scoreless in the third quarter.
"Our defense really stood in there and played well and gave us an opportunity," Gill said.
Added McDougald: "We definitely did a great job today playing as one unit. A lot of guys were out there just playing passionately. We don't have anything to lose at this point, and guys are out there giving it their all. We're just gonna keep coming back and keep trying to get better. That's the only thing we can do at this point. It's the same story, basically. Guys are going to go to the film room and keep trying to get better."