Forth Worth, Texas The gap between telling yourself you can do something and actually believing it can be wider apart than the hands a lying fisherman describing his latest catch.
That’s why if Kansas University had taken its anticipated beating Saturday at the hands of TCU, the words of KU junior linebacker Marcquis Roberts would have been emptier than Allen Iverson’s bank account.
Not the case, though. Kansas stayed in it until the end, keeping TCU’s offense without a touchdown in the first half and losing 23-17 after knocking Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin out of the game with an ankle injury for the final three quarters.
So when Roberts said what he said, the words hung in the air long enough to approach reality without immediately being shoved into the box labeled “fantasy.”
Winless Kansas was in it until the end against one-loss TCU on the road. Even without Boykin, nobody could have expected that.
KU football coach David Beaty on the heartbreak of KU's close call vs. TCU.
“I feel like we can win these last two games,” Roberts said after the loss. “We’re practicing, preparing and playing to win.”
West Virginia this coming Saturday and Kansas State the following week represent KU’s final two chances for a victory. Both games will be played inside Memorial Stadium.
The defense played with visible passion, including some barking at opponents from Roberts and linebacker Joe Dineen. Damani Mosby, Ben Goodman and Dineen all had sacks. Fish Smithson, who shared leading tackler honors with Roberts with 12, had a huge interception that he returned 22 yards. Defensive ends Mosby and Anthony Olobia, juniors playing Div. 1 football for the first year, had made most of their noise in the way of potential flashing during training camp. They both showed the source of the fuss Saturday in Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Defensive tackle Corey King, senior graduate transfer from Miami, had his best game in a Kansas uniform.
The defense, in retreat most of the season, played with a contagious passion.
“Having fun,” was how Roberts, a graduate transfer from South Carolina, explained it. “I love this game. I love what I do. It’s a blessing that I get to do this. Any time I get out there and get to do it, I try to do it to the best of my ability, fullest I can, all-out every play.”
Roberts missed two years with different injuries at South Carolina and has played through aches and pains at Kansas. He doesn’t take it for granted. He was in the middle of so many big plays during KU’s best effort of the season, none bigger than the play that enabled the score to remain tied, 10-10, at halftime.
TCU coach Gary Patterson decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the KU 12. Aaron Green (30 carries for 177 yards) took the handoff and couldn’t get the first down.
“I was mirroring the running back and I knew wherever he went, I had to go, and I had to stop him from getting the first,” Roberts said. “He tried to bounce it outside. We sent the inside pressure, there were no gaps inside and he bounced it right out to me. That was everybody doing their job and it just came right to me. I was excited. I was excited. The whole game, the whole experience was just fun.”
The coaching staff preached all week to the players that they liked a lot about a number of matchups and the players took the bait, even though TCU ranked second in the nation (behind Baylor) with 46.7 points per game and Kansas ranked last with 48.4 points allowed.
“I believe we came out here with a lot more fire and belief about what we were doing today,” Roberts said. “It’s never good to lose, but I feel like that just showed that we can compete with anybody.”
Roberts pinpointed how Kansas was able to play so well and knows that’s the blueprint for competing in the season’s final two weeks.
“Our preparation this week was ridiculous,” Roberts said. “We knew we had a chance to win. We knew we wanted to win and we had a belief that we could win. We went out there and left it all on the field.”
It wasn’t good enough and if Kansas is fueled by that and doesn’t lose its edge during the final two weeks of practices, that elusive first David Beaty victory is within reach. If Kansas resorts to letting down in the wake of a near-miss, as has been its pattern in recent years, losing in a pair of blowouts is the most likely finish to the season.
— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com’s live coverage.