Friday, November 2, 2012

Jayhawks haunted by last year’s loss to Baylor


With 12 minutes remaining in last year’s game against Baylor in Lawrence, Kansas University’s football team led the Bears, 24-3, and seemed headed toward its first victory in two months.

But then someone woke up Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, and the man who now starts for the Washington Redskins transformed into Superman and led a ferocious comeback that resulted in a 31-30 overtime victory and more heartbreak for the Jayhawks.

“Shoot, we had ’em beat,” KU quarterback Michael Cummings said. “(Griffin) pretty much single-handedly won the game for them last year. That was a tough one to swallow.”

Cummings, a native of Killeen, Texas, did not play in last year’s game, but KU junior Darius Willis said Cummings, KU’s red-shirt freshman quarterback, was right on the money when describing how the Jayhawks handled their eighth loss of 2011.

“I really don’t think too much about it,” said Willis, who now plays defensive end but, at the time, started at middle linebacker. “Having us come up short in that game really has motivated us to want to take that next step to get to the next level.”

After coming within 12 seconds of knocking off mighty Texas last weekend, the Jayhawks (1-7 overall, 0-5 Big 12) get their next chance at the elusive Big 12 victory at 2:30 p.m. today at Baylor.

Although RG3 has moved on to the NFL, many of the guys who helped deliver the comeback in Lawrence are back. Wide receivers Tevin Reese (127 yards and two touchdowns) and Terrance Williams (52 yards and one touchdown) are two of the Bears’ top receiving threats, and place kicker Aaron Jones, the man whose extra point in overtime proved to be the game-winner, also is back.

Cummings said today’s key to success would be for his squad to focus on this version of the Bears and not worry about what happened last year.

“I’m sure everybody remembers,” he said. “But the past is the past, and we need to move forward.”

Spreading the field

During his long career as a head coach and offensive coordinator, KU coach Charlie Weis has seen, utilized and dreamt up just about every possible offensive plan of attack. However, when watching film on the Bears leading up to today’s game, Weis encountered something new.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone split from sideline to sideline,” Weis said of the way Baylor lines up its receivers. “I’ve seen people take max splits. Max splits are usually about five yards from the sideline, because if you release, you’re out of bounds already. But, now, if you have 53 yards to cover (across the field), that means that they’ve really spread out your defense as much as you could possibly spread it out.”

Such a style figures to provide quite a challenge for the Jayhawks, who rank 58th nationally against the pass and will be facing the nation’s No. 1-ranked passing offense.

Martin to see more snaps

Last week against Texas, KU red-shirt freshman Damon Martin made the first start of his career, taking the place of Duane Zlatnik at left guard. Weis said earlier this week that the two linemen likely would continue to split reps today against the Bears.

“I think it was good for Duane to get pressed by a young guy,” Weis said. “And it was good for Damon to play in a game like that and have it not be too big for him.”

As for what impact the revolving door at left guard would have on senior starter Tanner Hawkinson at left tackle, Weis painted a clear picture of that.

“Nothing,” he said. “He’s telling Duane, he’s not asking Duane. So, really, the left guard position is protected pretty well, because you have (center) Trevor (Marrongelli) inside and Tanner outside, so the communication there usually is pretty good.”


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