Kansas coach Charlie Weis talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 56-16 loss to Kansas State on Oct. 6, 2012.
Manhattan — For the past two weeks, Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis preached finishing to his rebuilding program. But on a cold and windy Saturday in front of a crowd of 50,334 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, it was the Jayhawks who were finished.
For the third consecutive year and the 17th time in 21 tries for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, the Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks, 56-16, dropping KU to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in Big 12 play and forcing Weis and company to answer many of the same questions that came following similar embarrassments at the hands of K-State in 2010 and 2011.
How? Why? What now?
In the past three seasons alone, the Jayhawks have been outscored by the Wildcats (5-0, 2-0) 174-44, and much of the damage Saturday came during a third quarter that turned a promising 21-14 halftime deficit into one of the longest afternoons of the season.
"It seemed like the third quarter went on forever," Weis said.
After stopping KSU quarterback Collin Klein on first-and-goal from the five on the final play of the first half, the Jayhawks hit the locker room with momentum and also the second-half kickoff coming their way.
Didn't matter. Instead of continuing to hang tough with the No. 7 team in the country, the Jayhawks fell victim to two three-and-outs, coughed up two fumbles and threw two interceptions that turned this one into another laugher. K-State finished the day with five takeaways. Four of them came in the third quarter and led to the Wildcats scoring four touchdowns in a span of eight offensive plays.
"That ended up being the theme of the day on defense," Weis said. "It was big play after big play, and that really didn't turn out the way you planned it. ... When you have a minus-5 in the turnover ratio to a team like this, you're gonna lose like this most of the time."
Perhaps the biggest turnover of all — quarterback Dayne Crist threw three interceptions and lost a fumble — came from true freshman Tre' Parmalee on a kick return midway through the third quarter. Despite falling behind 28-14 on a two-yard touchdown pass from Klein to Travis Tannahill with 10:56 left in the third, the Jayhawks responded to Crist's second interception by stealing back the momentum when Tunde Bakare stuffed KSU tailback John Hubert in the end zone for a safety to bring the Jayhawks to within 28-16. Instead of building on that and driving to make it a one-score game again, Parmalee coughed it up after fielding the free kick, and the rout was on.
"That turnover was a big one," Weis said. "You just got the emotional high of the safety and then you got the emotional low of turning the ball over."
Added senior safety Bradley McDougald: "After that, it was like a constant bleeding. We were trying to stop the flow of their offense and get calmed down, and we didn't make a play to stop it."
The quick turnaround deflated the Jayhawks and appeared to fire up the Wildcats, who rolled to 475 yards of total offense, including 346 yards on the ground. Klein and Hubert each went over the 100-yard mark and did it on just 10 carries apiece. K-State backup QB Daniel Sams, who entered for Klein on the final play of the third quarter, nearly joined them, finishing with 67 yards on 10 carries. What's more, Kansas State entered Saturday's game with six runs of 20 yards or more and had seven such runs on Saturday while needing an average of just 3.6 plays per touchdown drive.
"Those big plays they were getting were on the same plays that we stopped them on just drives before that," senior Toben Opurum said. "A lot of stuff I feel like we handed to them by us not being where we're supposed to be. Credit them for taking advantage of that."
The lopsided final score, which included K-State outscoring KU, 35-2, in the second half, erased any memory of what was a solid first half for the visitors. The Jayhawks not only outgained the Wildcats, 263-218, through the first two quarters but also dominated time of possession (21:35-8:25), converted five of 10 third-down tries and showed they were serious about competing with the Wildcats. The most obvious such statement came on KU's second scoring drive, when Weis successfully called for two fake kicks to keep the drive alive. On the first, punter Ron Doherty rumbled for 13 yards on fourth-and-eight from the KU 29. The second came seven plays later when holder Blake Jablonski hit Opurum for a 12-yard gain on a fake field goal from the KSU 23.
"Every week I have (special teams coach) Clint (Bowen) look for anything that has a chance," Weis said. "When he thinks something has a chance, he comes to me. If I say put it in, I'm calling it, especially in a game like this. When you're playing a team of this caliber, you gotta be willing to take some risks."
The Jayhawks were, but, in the end, they too often resembled the team that suffered fourth-quarter collapses against Rice and Northern Illinois earlier this season. The search for answers marches on.
"One thing I can't do is I can't just stay status quo," Weis said. "I can't just say, 'Well that's OK, we got our butts whupped by K-State, that's OK, fellas.' Trust me, that was not the message that was relayed in the locker room. Let me just say that."