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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Tait

Matt Tait: Moral victories have their place with Kansas football

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) runs the ball as Texas defensive back Brandon Jones (19) pursues during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) runs the ball as Texas defensive back Brandon Jones (19) pursues during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

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Moral victories suck.

By definition, they’re a cold, empty reminder that the one reason all teams suit up did not happen.

But that doesn’t mean they’re totally worthless.

KU’s 50-48 loss at Texas on Saturday night in Austin, Texas, was all the adjectives you could possibly imagine and then some.

Maddening and exciting. Heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. Wild and crazy. Tough to swallow. Encouraging.

The list goes on.

But for all the ways that this one will be remembered, not remembering it as a major step in the rebuilding of the Kansas football program under Les Miles would be a mistake.

These types of outings can help teams turn the corner. They do matter in the big picture.

And it’s OK for those things to be true and for the outcome to hurt like hell at the same time.

No one in crimson and blue who walked away from the Jayhawks’ latest loss was happy about the result in the moment. But there were so many good things that happened and so many reasons to be encouraged that you’d be doing yourself a disservice to overlook them.

To name a few: The offense was sensational under new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon. The team refused to fold when down 10 with eight minutes to play. And then there was that 2-point conversion that put them ahead by a point with 71 seconds to play.

Forget the play, the call or the execution. The simple fact that the KU coaching staff chose to go for the win instead of settling for the tie was significant stuff. If there was a player or two left on this roster who had not yet bought in to Miles’ approach before Saturday, they’re all in now.

That kind of statement of trust from a coach is so huge for the psyche of a team. And this team, now that it has survived the scary three-game stretch of TCU, OU and Texas, should move forward with the confidence and belief that they can be in any game left on their schedule.

That’s no small thing.

An effort like the one the Jayhawks put forth on Saturday night can catch the eyes of way more than those who were there or watched on television.

For at least a night, Kansas football was respected as a national brand. Recruits paid attention. Fans who had given up peeked out from behind their hands. KU alums stood tall and former players once again felt pride in the program.

In the moments that followed Saturday’s loss, I came across the following tweet from former KU coach Mark Mangino. I’m going to assume he was referencing the KU-Texas game in it. And even if he wasn’t, it still very much applies as the best way for the Jayhawks — and their fans — to move on from this latest setback.

“Never let a heartbreaking loss get you down,” Mangino’s tweet began. “Learn from it. Use it for motivation! Hence, better days ahead! #beentheredonethat.”

I’m buying what he’s selling. And I’m buying the Les Miles rebuild more tonight than at any point in the past 11 months.

Comments

Joe Ross 4 weeks ago

Article is spot on.

This 2-5 Kansas team could have been at this point reasonably 5-2, with Coastal Carolina, WV, and Texas all falling under categories of shoulda won (CC and TX) or could have won with better offensive play calling (WV). This, in the FIRST year of a new regime, with players inherited from a sub-par coach.

The record doesn't show, nor will it by season's end, that this team is trending in the right direction, and this is true despite the fact that the win-loss column is a carbon copy of some past seasons by this point in the year.

Throw in a win at BC, and you've GOT to see that Kansas is about two years off from actually being GOOD in football. Miles has to get some of his own recruits in (next year) and have them play a year in the system before being able to shine (perhaps '22). But imagine the recovery if the play continues to improve even at the pace we're on.

Considering that, there is every reason to be hopeful about Kansas football if the coaching staff can stay together and the recruiting solidifies, which appears to be the case from what we're seeing.

I wonder if Bryce will eat his hat to jump on the bandwagon a couple of seasons from now. Regardless, this year's Kansas team is sowing the seeds of respectability.

Nevertheless and for the present time, it seems as if we are destined to lose these toss-up games. When you're bad for so long it tends to happen. Perhaps we're being vexed by old mindset, bad juju, or the Curse of Mangino, but I can hear three witches chanting, "Double double toile and trouble...fire burn and cauldon bubble...".

We're gonna be good soon.

Brian Wilson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I wouldn't necessarily call Beatty a sub-par coach. Beatty did what he was hired to do. He fixed the roster and scholarship issue. During his first three years no one could have won with roster issues KU had.
Beatty also was not given the money to put together the kind of coaching staff that KU has right now. Why would KU spend all that money on coaching when the players were flat out bad. And so... how that really affected Beatty in his game time coaching is another matter. May be if all that other stuff had been taken care of maybe it would have been different....but the one thing you can say is that "under the circumstances"....Beatty was a lousy game time coach.

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Brian, in Beaty's last season he gutted his gains in the scholarship issue with his attempt to save his job with a bandaid full-blown juco approach.

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Add to your comments, Joe, that we're also about 2 years from having a full complement of scholarship players. We're seeing a strong rebuild without a full deck.

Brian Jahelka 4 weeks ago

If you are just a college football fan, and you watched the 2019 version of the KU vs UT football game, you can't come away from that game with anything but "Wow, that was one of the best football games I've ever seen". I watched the game at West Coast Saloon with a small contingent of KU fans, and I think I speak for everyone there, we were PROUD of our Jayhawks the whole game. They were tough as hell and fought like crazy.. If they would have won, I'm sure we would still be out partying... Two missed field goals, one missed extra point, and a blocked extra point returned for 2 (a three point differential)... Pooka's TD run called back cause one cleat was out of bounds. AP's TD catch no good (well, he had a whole foot out of bounds). I mean, the Jayhawks SHOULD have won that game. And Texas knows it.

This awesome group of young men that are working their ass off for our entertainment are going to win some more games this year. Do I dare say they will make a bowl game? I think its entirely possible (for the first time, in a long time).

I came to KU in '89, as a fan of football. Of course, you can't go to KU without becoming a huge basketball fan, and I did. But I always wanted KU to be a perennial player on the college football scene. I loved the Glen Mason (Aloha Bowl Champs, beat the tar out of UCLA) and Mark Mangino years (that Orange Bowl win was special!). Les Miles and his staff are doing "special things" with this KU football program. I'm pumped for the rest of the season, and can't wait to see what the rest of this season will bring, let alone what Les and staff can do with the talent infusion we are getting next year.

Hold your heads high Jayhawks. You did us proud down in Austin. Those W's are comin. Beat TTU!!!

RC (freakin) JH!!!

PS Joe, Bryce can FO. We don't need bandwagon fans.

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I'm also on the west coast but we were able to watch the game on our laptop by signing up for a 5-day free trial at vue.playstation.com . No, we don't have a playstation. We were able to watch on the web. Immediately after the game we canceled the free trial so we watched for free. I cannot imagine us having to "watch" the game by following a play-by-play on the computer. Wow, what a great game!

Eliott Reeder 3 weeks, 5 days ago

LOL, he wasn't ON the West Coast, he was AT the West Coast (Saloon).

Dirk Medema 4 weeks ago

Was it 1 or 2 years before the OBowl that we just seemed to find so many ways to lose games. It was just a few points in 4 or 5 games that we ended up falling from ahead. As the tweet says, it seemed that they learned from it and turned those games around the next year. Today was very encouraging for the future; this season and next.

Pamela Shanks 4 weeks ago

One year I think. I was thinking the same thing. It felt exactly like that last night even though we were listening on the radio out in CA. Great game and looking forward to more! Rock Chalk!

Stephen Johnson 4 weeks ago

Carter Stanley was special - constantly under pressure, making plays and no turnovers.

Steven Haag 4 weeks ago

@Joe.......this is your words from above “ But imagine the recovery if the play continues to improve even at the pace we're on.”. I’m assuming you are talking about offense? If so, I agree. We gave up OVER 600 yards on defense. 600. Several other games was over 500. That’s not “continuing to improve”. Guess how many teams yesterday scored 48 points and lost? One. Any guesses as to who it was? Listen, I’m not trying to be glass half empty, a “Debbie downer” or anything. We weren’t an embarrassment. I’ve said all along that we have talent and skilled players. That’s why I’m not in 100% agreement with Matt on the whole “moral victory” I got all excited a couple years ago when we beat Texas in overtime at home. Sooooo many posts about how we were “turning the corner” only to get throttled a game or two later. We regularly compete with K-State in terms of recruiting classes and yet lose many more games. That should not be I bleed crimson and blue. I love all things KU. But I am not on the roller coaster anymore. Too many ups and downs for my liking. I will continue to root and support them each and every game. But until they show absolute consistency, I won’t drink the koolaid and get my hopes up that we have turned a corner, can win out and go bowling, etc.

Danny Hernandez 4 weeks ago

Seriously, what's it cost you to drink the Koolaid and get your hopes up?

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 6 days ago

"But until they show absolute consistency, I won’t drink the koolaid and get my hopes up that we have turned a corner, can win out and go bowling, etc." --- precisely the definition of "fair-weather fan."

Aaron Paisley 4 weeks ago

Steven Haag, Texas is a good offense, they've scored over 35 points in all but one game this year. Nobody has hung more points on LSU or Oklahoma's defenses than the Texas offense. The defense wasn't the issue yesterday, it was special teams. Multiple kickoffs out of bounds giving Texas the ball at the 35, multiple blocked FG's including a PAT that Texas returned for a 2 point conversion. That's a 6 point swing in favor of Texas last night.

Aaron Paisley 4 weeks ago

Joe Ross, KU did this last year under Beaty as well. OT loss to Nicholls, a 4 point loss at KSU they should've won, and a 7 point loss at home to Texas last year. KU hung 40 on Oklahoma last year. Two years away from being good is the story of Kansas football the 70 years outside of about 5 seasons no matter who the coach has been.

Brett McCabe 4 weeks ago

Matt is dead on. Going in, I thought that we’d beat the spread but this was an enormous performance and an enormous step forward for the program. Yes, Herm is right, “you play to win the game”, but rebuilding teams have to find points of progress, real points of progress, in other ways. And there is absolutely no way to argue that, on the road vs 97,000 and a ranked team, KU overcame deficits, made big plays, made big calls, converted and competed to the very last second, and progressed as a team.

And my hat is off to Carter Stanley. He was a stud.

I watched the Miles to Go episode this week with my wife, and we both agreed that we love this new coach because he is real, authentic, sincere. There is a lot of season left. There isn’t an unbeatable team left on the schedule. This could be a really, really, really fun ride!

Dane Pratt 3 weeks, 6 days ago

They played a full 60 minutes. If they do that each and every week we will still end up with a losing record but those are the small steps we have to take before we can turn those near misses into wins. They left it all on the field yesterday, something they haven't always done. That's encouraging.

Dale Rogers 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Yes, we gave up over 600 yards to a team repeatedly described as a "high octane offense." Yes, we need our defense to improve even more but giving up 600 at this point of our rebuild to a team of that offensive caliber is not a major negative in my eyes. Two years from now, different story. And don't forget we're without Dru Prox, who was our leading tackler and in the top two or three in the Big 12 at the time he went down. And we had some injuries during yesterday's game, also.

Steven Haag 3 weeks, 6 days ago

@Aaron, I will absolutely agree that our special teams didn’t play the way they usually do. It definitely cost us some points. The mistakes are fixable. However, for you to say that “defense wasn’t the issue” is troubling. Letting a team hang over 600 yards is troubling. We’ve given up over 500 in multiple other games.

Matt, I’ve seen articles about our offense stats versus the rest of the country. There was a very big statistical commentary in the article on Dearmon becoming the OC. showed in many cases we ranked 100 or worse in several categories. Could you drum up some statistics on the defensive side as well. Rushing yards allowed, passing yards, points, 3rd down stops, total yards, etc. and where we rank. It definitely helps put things into perspective as to where we are and where we need to go.

Kit Duncan 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Aaron, Kansas has been to twelve bowl games since 1948, winning six. There have been about ten or twelve additional winning seasons where they did not receive a bowl invitation. Though KU has not been a powerhouse football program, neither has it been as bad as you seem to believe.

Aaron Paisley 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Steven, special teams cost KU 9 points yesterday. 3 for the missed FG, 3 more for the blocked FG, and 3 more for the blocked PAT that Texas ran back (-1 for missing the kick and +2 for Texas on the return) .

No KU's defense isn't elite, even before Drew Prox got injured for the season during the WVU game and didn't play against TCU, OU, or Texas who happen to rank 39, 1, and 16 in total offense and 38, 1, and 9 in scoring offense. KU's defense still did enough last night to give KU a chance.

If you're worried about giving up big yardage, it's the Big 12, teams are going to put up yardage, that's what the Big 12 has been about for the better part of 20 years now. 6 of the top 17 total offenses are in the Big 12. Texas is only giving up 3 fewer yards per game than Kansas has and that hasn't stopped them from being good. Yards per game, offense or defense, is the most overrated stat there is, because it doesn't tell you how good or bad a team is.

Jim Stauffer 3 weeks, 6 days ago

We scored more points against Texas than LSU. Doesn't that make you just a bit happier than prior to this game?

Randy Bombardier 3 weeks, 5 days ago

If the Texas game showed anything it showed we have the talent to win now, we finally have a leading edge OC, we never had a QB problem...we had a square peg in a round hole. Stanley fits this system. He made himself look good, his receivers look good and his coaches look good. Why, because the coaches saw something in him and stuck with him even though how they were using him was not the best use.

Forget the past. Flush it. It's going to be different from here on out.

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