Images from Saturday's football game against Texas Tech at Memorial Stadium
Kansas football coach Charlie Weis talks after his team's 54-16 loss to Texas Tech on Oct. 5, 2013.
Make it 1,064 days. And counting.
That's where KU's drought between Big 12 Conference victories now stands after a 54-16 drubbing by No. 20 Texas Tech at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Instead of celebrating the end of a dreadful streak and ushering in a new era with 25,648 fans on a beautiful fall day, the Jayhawks were forced to try to explain what went wrong in a game in which the home team raced out to a 10-0 lead and then fell flat.
“I can't justify being content with anything about that game,” KU coach Charlie Weis said after the Jayhawks fell to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in Big 12 play. “The first quarter is almost irrelevant.
“So basically what you're saying, is in a couple of minutes over a half you just got outscored 47-0. Who you gonna beat doing that? You're not gonna beat anybody.”
For the first 15 minutes of this one the Jayhawks could do no wrong. The offense looked sharp and crisply moved the ball up and down the field. The defense completely controlled Texas Tech's passing game and got stops like they were part of some sort of buy-one-get-one-free promotion.
“That first quarter, that first 10 minutes, that's what we can be,” said junior tight end Jimmay Mundine, whose 25-yard touchdown reception from Jake Heaps put Kansas up 10-0 with 7:18 to play in the first quarter.
From that point on the wheels fell off — four at a time and the spare, too — and all of the things KU had done right in the first quarter went woefully wrong the rest of the way.
It started with a curious miscue on a Trevor Pardula punt on fourth-and-13 from the KU 16, less than two minutes after Texas Tech had tied the game. Weis said a fake punt was not called but that the option always exists if Pardula sees the right look. With a standard rush coming his way, Pardula tucked the ball and attempted to run for a first down. He was stopped for no gain. Texas Tech scored two plays later. And the Jayhawks never recovered.
“That was tough,” said Heaps, who finished 16-of-32 passing for 189 yards after starting the game 8-of-9 for 113 yards. “There were definitely a bunch of plays that had a big impact on the game and we wish we could have those back.”
As the game went on, those types of plays — penalties, turnovers, drops, bad snaps — began to occur more often, which virtually doubled the wounds the Red Raiders (5-0, 2-0) opened with an offensive attack that gained 518 yards on a whopping 100 plays.
At one point, from the 6:25 mark in the first quarter to the 10:23 mark in the third, KU's offense gained just 26 yards on eight drives, a streak of futility that spanned 26 plays. By game's end, six of KU's 17 offensive drives actually went backwards.
One of the day's biggest cheers — other than the sarcastic Bronx cheer that came after KU's offense finally began running the ball (which resulted in an anemic 53 yards on 37 attempts) in the second half — came early in the fourth quarter when a KU yell leader caught a Texas Tech field goal in his bullhorn.
Even when the Jayhawks finally did score again — nearly 45 game-clock minutes after taking a 10-0 lead — a missed extra point knocked some of the luster off of the 28-yard touchdown pass from Michael Cummings to Andrew Turzilli. Remember them?
“As an offense, this one really hurts,” Heaps said. “We were really playing good football, offense and defense, and when you don't hold up your end of the bargain and your defense is playing their tails off, it's very frustrating.”
Texas Tech quarterback and true freshman Baker Mayfield, who looked flustered early, wound up looking like a savvy senior. By the time he checked out of the game at the end of the third quarter with a right knee injury, Mayfield's line read like it had during his four previous starts, all victories: 33-of-51 passing for 368 yards and a rushing touchdown. Oh, and in case you're wondering about Davis Webb, the guy who replaced Mayfield in the Texas Tech lineup, all he did was throw touchdowns on two of his three completions.
“When your defense is getting worn out because they're on the field the whole time, eventually something bad is gonna happen,” said Weis, who revealed that KU's plan was to try to prevent a “horse race.”
It's hard to say exactly what happened that caused the game to flip so quickly from KU looking like a Big 12-caliber competitor to the same old punching bag we've seen around here for the past few years. The botched fake punt certainly took some of the air out of the stadium, but that was just one misstep on a field filled with dancers who appeared to have two left feet.
“I think we had too many negative plays in the game,” Weis said. “And I think it'll be glaring when we go back and review it. I don't think it was just one play in the game. There were so many plays in this game.”
The worst part of all of this just might be the fact that KU already has had both of its bye weeks and will return to work Sunday staring at eight more weeks of Big 12 opponents on the schedule.
“What we have to do is simple,” Heaps said. “We have to execute. We have to compete all four quarters. And we have to do some soul-searching right now and see how guys come back tomorrow. That's what I'm looking for. To see how guys come back from this.”
Half an hour after KU's latest embarrassing loss, a note was tucked under the windshield wipers on KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger's car outside of Memorial Stadium. It was from a friend. And its message was also simple: Think big picture. Keep your head up.
At this point, that's all the Jayhawks can do.