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Tale of the Tait

What caught my eye at Wednesday’s KU football practice: Nov. 26

On a cold, blustery Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Kansas University football team went through its final Wednesday practice of the 2014 season.

Just two practices remain before Saturday's game at Kansas State, which will bring to a close another KU football season filled with a couple of close calls and more disappointment.

There was nothing disappointing about the start of Wednesday's practice, which featured a World Cup-esque penalty-kick shootout-style punting drill involving some of the most unlikely candidates.

Ben Heeney and Nick Harwell were the captains for their respective squads in the best-of-five contest and Heeney was allowed only to pick offensive starters and Harwell only defensive starters. From there, the two sides took turns fielding punts from the mechanical punter to see which side could pick up the most grabs.

First up were Tony Pierson for Team Heeney and Dexter McDonald for Team Harwell. Pierson, as he's done several times throughout his playing days, dropped back and smoothly corralled the ball as it fell into his arms. McDonald, despite hearing from teammates how the pressure was on, followed suit and both teams were on the board.

Next up Jimmay Mundine for Team Heeney and Courtney Arnick for Team Harwell. Mundine also made his grab look smooth and Arnick, though under it in time, bobbled his try and watched it fall to the ground. 2-1, Heeney.

Now's when the fun really began. Next up: offensive lineman Junior Visinia for Team Heeney and defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson for Team Harwell. As the ball soared through the air and tracked into Visinia's area, the big freshman stuck his two hands out and speared the ball like a pig at a luau. No points for style here. A catch is a catch, and Junior's grab got the team fired up.

Needing to match Visinia to keep things tied, Johnson ran way too far in on his while it was in the air and watched it soar 15 yards behind him when it came down. 3-1, Team Heeney.

With Team Harwell needing to win the next two just to draw even, offensive lineman Larry Mazyck squared off for Team Heeney against D-lineman Keon Stowers for Team Harwell. Mazyck looked smooth as all get-out as he made his way to the ball but may have been a little too smooth on the catch and it fell to the ground, keeping Team Harwell alive. Stowers, however, could not capitalize, as his “ole'” attempt at the floating punt came up empty. Team Heeney put this one away, 3-1, with one kick left on the board.

Naturally, the KU offense exploded with joy over the victory and then went into the meat of practice.

Here's what caught my eye from the rest of the time I was out there:

• New father DeAndre Mann was a full participant and ran plenty of reps with the first string. Mann's absence has hurt the Jayhawks a little lately in that it's left the bulk of the running duties in the hands of true freshman Corey Avery. Avery has done well, but that's quite a load to handle and Mann's size, maturity and style certainly would've helped the KU running game. Maybe Saturday will be the day he gets a little momentum back to take into the 2015 season.

• Former KU linebacker Brandon Perkins (2002-05) showed up to practice to surprise interim coach Clint Bowen and the attempt worked. Bowen lit up when he saw Perkins and immediately had memories of a five-sack game for Perkins against Louisiana Tech in 2005. When Bowen asked Perkins what he was doing in town, the former KU linebacker said, “I came back for you, coach.” Perkins ranks fourth on KU's all-time sacks list with 20.

• Call it a hunch, but look for T.J. Semke to make an impact in Saturday's game. Listed behind Stowers as a second-string nose tackle along with Andrew Bolton, Semke looked to have a little extra nastiness to him during Wednesday's practice and seems like the kind of guy who would do well in a game like Saturday's.

• Finally, KU will practice on Thanksgiving but will go in the morning so the players can spend the afternoon of the holiday with their friends and families. Several guys from out of state will either spend the day with their teammates who have families nearby or with members of the KU coaching staff.

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What caught my eye at Wednesday’s KU football practice: Nov. 26

On a cold, blustery Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Kansas University football team went through its final Wednesday practice of the 2014 season.

Just two practices remain before Saturday's game at Kansas State, which will bring to a close another KU football season filled with a couple of close calls and more disappointment.

There was nothing disappointing about the start of Wednesday's practice, which featured a World Cup-esque penalty-kick shootout-style punting drill involving some of the most unlikely candidates.

Ben Heeney and Nick Harwell were the captains for their respective squads in the best-of-five contest and Heeney was allowed only to pick offensive starters and Harwell only defensive starters. From there, the two sides took turns fielding punts from the mechanical punter to see which side could pick up the most grabs.

First up were Tony Pierson for Team Heeney and Dexter McDonald for Team Harwell. Pierson, as he's done several times throughout his playing days, dropped back and smoothly corralled the ball as it fell into his arms. McDonald, despite hearing from teammates how the pressure was on, followed suit and both teams were on the board.

Next up Jimmay Mundine for Team Heeney and Courtney Arnick for Team Harwell. Mundine also made his grab look smooth and Arnick, though under it in time, bobbled his try and watched it fall to the ground. 2-1, Heeney.

Now's when the fun really began. Next up: offensive lineman Junior Visinia for Team Heeney and defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson for Team Harwell. As the ball soared through the air and tracked into Visinia's area, the big freshman stuck his two hands out and speared the ball like a pig at a luau. No points for style here. A catch is a catch, and Junior's grab got the team fired up.

Needing to match Visinia to keep things tied, Johnson ran way too far in on his while it was in the air and watched it soar 15 yards behind him when it came down. 3-1, Team Heeney.

With Team Harwell needing to win the next two just to draw even, offensive lineman Larry Mazyck squared off for Team Heeney against D-lineman Keon Stowers for Team Harwell. Mazyck looked smooth as all get-out as he made his way to the ball but may have been a little too smooth on the catch and it fell to the ground, keeping Team Harwell alive. Stowers, however, could not capitalize, as his “ole'” attempt at the floating punt came up empty. Team Heeney put this one away, 3-1, with one kick left on the board.

Naturally, the KU offense exploded with joy over the victory and then went into the meat of practice.

Here's what caught my eye from the rest of the time I was out there:

• New father DeAndre Mann was a full participant and ran plenty of reps with the first string. Mann's absence has hurt the Jayhawks a little lately in that it's left the bulk of the running duties in the hands of true freshman Corey Avery. Avery has done well, but that's quite a load to handle and Mann's size, maturity and style certainly would've helped the KU running game. Maybe Saturday will be the day he gets a little momentum back to take into the 2015 season.

• Former KU linebacker Brandon Perkins (2002-05) showed up to practice to surprise interim coach Clint Bowen and the attempt worked. Bowen lit up when he saw Perkins and immediately had memories of a five-sack game for Perkins against Louisiana Tech in 2005. When Bowen asked Perkins what he was doing in town, the former KU linebacker said, “I came back for you, coach.” Perkins ranks fourth on KU's all-time sacks list with 20.

• Call it a hunch, but look for T.J. Semke to make an impact in Saturday's game. Listed behind Stowers as a second-string nose tackle along with Andrew Bolton, Semke looked to have a little extra nastiness to him during Wednesday's practice and seems like the kind of guy who would do well in a game like Saturday's.

• Finally, KU will practice on Thanksgiving but will go in the morning so the players can spend the afternoon of the holiday with their friends and families. Several guys from out of state will either spend the day with their teammates who have families nearby or with members of the KU coaching staff.

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KU linebacker Ben Heeney goes beardless for K-State

KU senior Ben Heeney, without his signature beard, at Wednesday's meeting with the media.

KU senior Ben Heeney, without his signature beard, at Wednesday's meeting with the media. by Matt Tait

With one game left in his KU career, senior linebacker Ben Heeney did something drastic to try to bring a little luck the Jayhawks' way…. He shaved his beard.

The bearded Heeney has been a fixture around KU football for the past couple of seasons and the Hutchinson native has been known as much for the look as his dominating play on the field.

Wednesday, at the final media session of the season, though, Heeney walked in with a fresh shave an evil-genius smile.

Heeney said this week was the first time half of his teammates had seen him without the beard and even shared stories of veterans having to do a double-take when they walked past him in the locker room.

"Everyone's been turning their head because they didn't expect it to happen," he said. "I just kind of want to play a game without it and see what happens. I'm not just a beard, I'm also a human being."

Heeney said he had some fun with the shaving session earlier this week and left various forms of mustaches and snapped pictures of those with his cell phone before saying goodbye to the facial hair for good — at least for now.

"It was kind of spur of the moment and I was just like, 'Man, it's not bringing any good luck,' so I just wanted to shave it off and play a game without it and see if it brings any luck. Everyone's always been so all-about it, I was just kind of like, 'All right, this isn't all I am.'"

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KU football coaching search still a long and winding road

Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger and former KU quarterback John Hadl watch during the first day of spring football practices on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger and former KU quarterback John Hadl watch during the first day of spring football practices on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. by Richard Gwin

Talk to a dozen people and you'll get a dozen different opinions on which direction the Kansas University football program should go with its coaching hire.

Check that, you'll probably get about two or three times that many because not only could you get a different name from each person, but you also could get a different list of what factors and elements should be most important.

Welcome to Sheahon Zenger's world.

For some folks it's the idea of recruiting Texas that means the most. These people like, maybe even love, Texas A&M recruiting coordinator and receivers coach David Beaty. And why not? The guy can walk into just about any high school in Texas and bust out a secret handshake or hug with one of the football coaches and, from there, he's got a automatic chance with the players he's going after.

Don't think that's important? Think again. That kind of relationship, which current KU receivers coach Eric Kiesau developed with Nigel King's high school coach, was the deciding factor in why King chose Kansas. King trusted his coach. His coach trusted Kiesau. And the Maryland receiver picked the Jayhawks and never looked back. That's worked out pretty well for both parties, don't you think?

For other people, recruiting Kansas and/or Oklahoma is just as important as Texas. And I don't disagree with that. You'll always want to get as many players out of the Lone Star State as you can, but, at Kansas, you're never going to get the best Texas has to offer. Ever. In Kansas and Oklahoma, your chances go up to get the cream of the crop from those states and you don't have to look that far back to see proof of that. James Holt, Chris Harris and Jake Laptad all came from Oklahoma. Jake Sharp, Kerry Meier, Mike Rivera, Darrell Stuckey and Ben Heeney all came from Kansas. Both states are important. So there's no need for this to be an all-Texas-all-the-time endeavor.

Whether you favor Beaty, Clint Bowen, Tim Beck or Willie Fritz or think that recruiting, player development or sincere connections with big-money donors are the most important jobs of a head coach, this thing is probably going to come down to four or five names that have a real shot at becoming KU's next coach.

I could sit here and draw up a list of 20 guys who have been talked about, considered, contacted or crossed off the list, but that would be a waste of time because many of those guys, although intriguing for one reason or another, were never really in the running.

See, searches like this often travel down two paths. The first and most obvious path is the road to finding the right guy. It's the most important thing on the plates of Zenger and the search committee and you can bet that 12-15 hours a day — phone calls, research, investigations, etc. — from any number of people involved are being spent on trying to pinpoint Mr. Right.

The other path is completely different and, although it does not end up in the home or office of the right guy, it often leads to that person. That's where a lot of those 20 or so names come into play and many of them came into play during the last search, as well. Remember when it was rumored that Zenger had met with former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez during the search of 2011? It wasn't to see if he was interested in the job. It was instead to see what he thought about the KU program, what others had told him about Kansas and the Big 12 and an inquiry into what factors should be important. And before you go thinking that Alvarez's answers shaped Zenger's opinion, remember that this was just one example of a meeting like that and, therefore, it only had some impact into how Zenger proceeded.

Such conversations are crucial when you're trying to find a coach because Zenger has a much greater responsibility in this whole deal than just to pick the guy he likes. That's especially true this time around after Charlie Weis was shown the door. Zenger has to like the guy in order for him to have a chance, but, believe it or not, this time around it's just as important for others to like him to — committee members, current and former players, athletic department officials and donors alike.

The only way that Kansas is going to successfully rebuild its football program is by finding a leader that can take all of these elements and personalities into account and make all of them work and come together. The project is too daunting for one man — coach or AD — to do it alone. And the road is too rocky and fraught with pitfalls for anyone to expect that.

Shortly after 6:30 a.m., Kansas interim head football coach Clint Bowen walks toward his office down a hallway lined with rows of images documenting the high points from the program's recent history, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014.

Shortly after 6:30 a.m., Kansas interim head football coach Clint Bowen walks toward his office down a hallway lined with rows of images documenting the high points from the program's recent history, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. by Nick Krug

I think that's why Bowen seems to be the odds-on favorite right now. He's working with the advantage of being able to show concrete evidence of how successful he can be in some of these key areas. The players love him. The alumni is all-in. The product on the field has improved, Oklahoma and Baylor notwithstanding, and Zenger likes him. He would not have given him this chance if that weren't the case.

So, in Bowen, you've got a known commodity, a guy who plenty of people would support and a guy who, no question about it, would give his heart and soul to the program. Heck, he already has.

What the next two weeks or so are about is stacking candidates up against what you know you have in Bowen.

How does Candidate A compare to Bowen in recruiting philosophy and production? How does Candidate B compare to Bowen in player development? How does Candidate C compare to Bowen in ability to connect to people, donors, players and fans alike?

Such a scenario is rare in college coaching because, more often than not, the interim guy is not actually a candidate for the job, more just a guy who can land the ship before leaving town with the rest of the staff.

And because of that, coaching searches often produce a final pool of guys who have to be compared to one another in a guessing-game situation. If a school narrows its choice down to three guys, it has to pick the best of the bunch based on what it thinks it knows — and likes — about each guy. In KU's case currently, it can stack the strengths and weaknesses of the other finalists against what it absolutely does know about Bowen.

While that figures to be a good thing for Bowen, given the way his time as interim coach went and was received, it's an even better thing for Zenger and Kansas because it increases the odds that they'll get this one right.

Reply 19 comments from John Myers Rick McGowwan Texashawk10_2 Terran Woolley Kingfisher Calvin Miller John Smith Matt Tait Tom Hanson Len Shaffer and 4 others

The Day After: Rolling over Rider

Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander collects a rebound against Rider's Anthony D'Orazio in KU's 87-60 win over Rider night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander collects a rebound against Rider's Anthony D'Orazio in KU's 87-60 win over Rider night at Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

Monday night's final score would seem to indicate that all is well again with the Kansas University men's basketball program, and while that's true in many ways, this group remains a work in progress.

KU coach Bill Self trotted out his fifth different starting lineup of the young season — two exhibition games and three regular seasons games — and, as was the case in each of the games before Monday, got mixed returns on the decisions.

Freshman wing player Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was fabulous and has the look of a guy who could hold down a starting job the rest of the season. Forward Landen Lucas was the other new starter and, although he had a few good moments, he also still has limitations.

As a whole, KU seemed determined to bounce back from the embarrassing loss to Kentucky six nights earlier and did just that with an 87-60 victory over overmatched Rider.

Things don't get any easier from here, though, as the Jayhawks will play three games in four days against tough competition in Orlando and will return home for a match-up with Florida on Dec. 5.

With a team this young, though, it's baby steps and a consistent forward movement that are important and Monday certainly was a good step in that direction.

Quick takeaway

Two things stood out to me in this one and they both had to do with KU's starting lineup: Both Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Cliff Alexander are ready to start and both should be in the starting lineup for this team to be playing at its peak. I know that it's not always who starts that matters the most, but these guys are ready and they give KU its best chance in a lot of areas. More important than that, though, is the fact that Self said after the game that there's a right and a wrong way of doing things — on and off the floor — and he's not going to budge on those no matter how talented a guy is. That's a good thing for the overall development of this team and the sooner these guys understand, accept and embrace that, the sooner this team can really start making strides. Mykhailiuk started and had a great game so we can assume he gets it. Alexander started the second half but only played four of the final 20 minutes, which is a clear indicator that he still has some work to do to win Self over in areas other than the basketball floor on game nights.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Had Landen Lucas been able to tally one more point, the Jayhawks would've finished with five guys in double figures, just one game after scoring 40 points total in the loss to Kentucky. As it was, all nine players who scored reached five points or more and Ellis and Brannen Greene went big with 17 points apiece, while Mykhailiuk and Alexander put up their 10 points each in spurts that helped the Jayhawks bury the Broncs. It's that kind of balanced attack that Self's teams have been known for and that will be the recipe to success for this squad, as well.

Brannen Greene (14) scores two of his 17 points against Rider Monday in an 87-60 win at Allen Fieldhouse.

Brannen Greene (14) scores two of his 17 points against Rider Monday in an 87-60 win at Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

2 – Perry Ellis came to play and seemed to be making a conscious effort to address those who question his toughness. Ellis' dunk in first half was as aggressive a move as we've seen him make in a KU uniform and he attempted a similar flush early in the second half, as well. He was fouled on that play and went to the free throw line, where he connected on 7 of 10 foul shots during a 17-point night. Self still seemed concerned about Ellis' rebounding — he had just three boards in 26 minutes — but it definitely was good to see the aggression from a guy who can score in such a wide variety of ways and will need to for this team to be as good as it can be.

Kansas junior Perry Ellis scored 17 points in the Jayhawks 87-60 win over Rider Monday November 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas junior Perry Ellis scored 17 points in the Jayhawks 87-60 win over Rider Monday November 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

3 – Rider forward Xavier Lundy said effort was what separated the two teams on Monday night and it was clear from watching every Kansas player on the floor that they were emphasizing effort from the jump. Whether it was man-to-man defense, crashing the glass for rebounds or pushing the ball in transition and screening on offense, multiple Jayhawks appeared to be going as hard as they could, particularly in the first half, and that really set the tone and left Rider without much hope. The key now is to bring that kind of effort against more talented teams who will be willing and able to match KU's effort and athleticism.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – The Jayhawks were outscored by two points in the second half — 38-36 — and if they would've played the second 20 minutes with the same kind of passion as they played the first, they would've won by 40. Self said after the game that too many guys were playing to the score instead of to win each possession and that's both a surprise and a concern, given how much depth this team has and how easy it will be for Self to turn to someone else when one guy's not getting it done or not giving maximum effort.

Kansas junior forward Jamari Traylor shoots under Rider center Mat Lopez in the Jayhawks 87-60 win over the Broncs Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas junior forward Jamari Traylor shoots under Rider center Mat Lopez in the Jayhawks 87-60 win over the Broncs Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse. by Richard Gwin

2 – Jamari Traylor had a pretty forgettable night. Who knows if being pulled from the starting lineup was the reason behind it, but the KU junior finished with just six points and two rebounds in 21 minutes. He did have three assists, two blocks and a steal, but too often looked upset at a mistake or bad break and out of the flow of the game.

3 – Cliff Alexander got his chance to start in the second half and could have used that as a springboard for holding down a starting spot the rest of the year. Instead, he played just four minutes and was a non-factor after a monster first half. The guy is young and there are going to be growing pains and good moments of growth along the way, but his offensive game is ready and it's time for the rest of the Alexander experience — head, body, responsibility, etc. — to catch up with the young man's ability to score.

One for the road

KU's 27-point pasting of Rider on Monday night:

• Made the Jayhawks 2-1 for the fourth time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.

• Improved Kansas to 62-8 in games following a loss under Self, including 38 rebound wins at Allen Fieldhouse.

• Pushed Kansas to 3-0 all-time against Rider and moved the Jayhawks to 14-1 all-time against current members of the MAAC.

• Improved the program to 716-109 all-time at Allen Fieldhouse, including 177-9 under Self.

• Improved Self to 327-70 at Kansas and 534-175 overall.

• Made KU's all-time record 2,128-823.

Next up

The Jayhawks travel to Orlando, Florida, to play three games in four days this weekend, starting with Thursday's 1:30 p.m. tip-off against Rhode Island in the opening round of the holiday tournament in Florida.

"By the Numbers" from KU's 87-60 victory over Rider on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.

"By the Numbers" from KU's 87-60 victory over Rider on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. by J-W Staff

Reply 6 comments from Jeremy Wilhelm Rodney Crain Titus Canby Kellerman411 Texashawk10_2 Jayhawkmarshall

The Day After: Oh no at OU

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds looks in the direction of the scoreboard while he and his teammates gather to leave the field following the Jayhawks' 44-7 loss to the Sooners on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds looks in the direction of the scoreboard while he and his teammates gather to leave the field following the Jayhawks' 44-7 loss to the Sooners on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

The Kansas University football team was drubbed on the road by Oklahoma on Saturday and it seems safe to say that very few people really saw the 44-7 beat-down coming.

For one, KU had built a little momentum of late, knocking off Iowa State in dominating fashion and nearly upsetting No. 5 TCU a week later. Thinking the Jayhawks would win in Norman was a reach, but expecting them to be competitive, give OU a tough battle and keep that momentum moving in the right direction seemed fair. Even a couple of national writers in the press box prior to the game remarked to me about how they figured KU would easily cover the 28-point spread.

They didn't. Not even close, really, as OU's superior size and ability to adjust to the inclement weather proved to be way too much for KU to handle. The offense did nothing. The defense was blown off the ball over and over as OU freshman Samaje Perine rumbled to an NCAA record and a whole mess of school records and the game was pretty much over by halftime, making the second half a mere formality.

Quick takeaway

This game was ugly. The Jayhawks never got anything going on offense, struggled even worse on defense and just looked outmanned from start to finish. Some people will want to blame Bowen for this one and he certainly deserves his share of the blame, but this was a total team collapse and the outcome won't move the needle much when looking at whether Bowen is the right guy for the KU coaching job, in much the same way that last week's near-upset of No. 5 TCU did not end with a contract landing on Bowen's desk. It's the big picture that matters here — Bowen's vision for the program, plans to execute that and ability to coach players, rally the program and recruit to Kansas. Those things are all way more important than the outcome of any one game — good or bad — and that's why Bowen remains as strong of a candidate for the job today as he was before the beating at OU. His answers to those questions, and more, during the formal interview process will determine his fate.

Rain pours down on interim head coach Clint Bowen as he watches an extra point by Oklahoma go through the uprights during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Rain pours down on interim head coach Clint Bowen as he watches an extra point by Oklahoma go through the uprights during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to smile

1 – These are tough to come by after an outing like that, but there was a play late in the game when senior Tony Pierson caught a short pass and appeared headed toward being knocked out of bounds with relative ease for a short gain. He wasn't. Pierson fought off the tackle, slipped past a couple more and turned it up the field for a first down. It was a rare highlight for the Jayhawks on Saturday and it didn't change a thing about the outcome. But it was a subtle reminder about the character and toughness of this senior class, which now has just one game left as a part of the KU football program. Expect a ton of emotion and heart like this to be on display next week in Manhattan.

Kansas wide running back Tony Pierson (3) is dragged down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas wide running back Tony Pierson (3) is dragged down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

2 – Freshman running back Corey Avery had a couple of really nice runs in this one and also caught a pass for one of KU's biggest gains of the day. It didn't matter for Saturday's game, but it definitely showed how fortunate KU is to have this guy coming back next season. Avery has been every bit as good as advertised and should only get better. It's not easy for a true freshman to handle so much of the load on a bad team, but Avery has done an admirable job and learned a lot during Year 1 of what figures to become a solid career.

3 – It's hard to know exactly what was going on because the sounds were muffled and I didn't get my own eyes or ears on the situation. But while we were conducting postgame interviews on Saturday, there was some commotion coming from what appeared to be the KU locker room. Lots of yelling, passion and even a little anger were the tone of what we heard and even though there was no way of telling whether it was KU players, coaches , both or even KU people at all who were responsible for all the noise, it was very evident that the Jayhawks were pissed about their play. That should not surprise anyone, but has to be nice for KU fans to hear, given that the tone of the postgame comments was more about moving forward and forgetting about what happened. If the sounds were from Jayhawks, it's clear that they took some time to vent before moving on.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Having an NCAA record set on you is bad enough, but having it done the way it was only makes it worse. Samaje Perine is a heck of a running back and he's got a bright future in the Big 12 and beyond. But most of the holes he ran through were enormous and I think you could conservatively say that most capable running backs in the country would've gained at least 250 yards running behind that same line and through those same holes. The record will live for a while and always be a part of NCAA history. How quickly KU can move past the mental hit of getting blown off the ball all day will determine how competitive they can be next weekend in Manhattan.

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds (55) tries to drag down Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine (32) during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds (55) tries to drag down Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine (32) during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

2 – KU's O-line play, which had taken a couple of steps forward during the past two weeks, took a major step back on Saturday. Credit OU's D-line and active front seven for a lot of that, but it was still very obvious that the KU O-line no showed. Michael Cummings had guys in his face all day long, the KU running game only had a few moments worth talking about and these guys looked vastly overmatched all day long. Their struggles severely hampered the KU offense and took three of the Jayhawks' best playmakers — receivers Nick Harwell and Nigel King and tight end Jimmay Mundine — almost completely out of the game.

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings is dragged down short of a first down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. At right is Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans (26).

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings is dragged down short of a first down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. At right is Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans (26). by Nick Krug

3 – Even KU's punting game was a little rough in this one. Sure Trevor Pardula booted it 11 times for a 41-yard average, but he had one snap zip right through his hands (although the turnover didn't hurt KU) and another came dribbling back to him (which he responded to by fielding it well and bombing a kick). A big theme this season has been the fact that KU just can't make as many mistakes as its opponents because the Jayhawks' margin for error is so much smaller than everyone else. By this point in the season, bad weather or not, those types of mistakes can't be happening.

One for the road

KU's long afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma:

• Moved the Jayhawks to 579-597-58 all-time.

• Increased a streak of 16-straight losses to opponents ranked in the top-25.

• Prolonged streaks of 29 consecutive losses in true road games and 32 losses in games played away from Lawrence. Kansas’ last road win came at UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009.

• Also extended KU’s Big 12 Conference road losing streak to 25-straight league road games and 28 conference matches played away from Lawrence with the last victory occurring in Ames, Iowa on Oct. 4, 2008.

Next up

The Jayhawks will close out the 2014 season and the interim head coaching era of Clint Bowen with a 3 p.m. kickoff in Manhattan against Kansas State on Saturday. The Sunflower Showdown has been lopsided — both ways at different times — for a number of years and it's hard to know what exactly we're in for this weekend.

Oklahoma running back Keith Ford (21) dives over Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney (31) for yardage during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Above is OU fullback Dimitri Flowers (36).

Oklahoma running back Keith Ford (21) dives over Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney (31) for yardage during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Above is OU fullback Dimitri Flowers (36). by Nick Krug

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KU QB Cummings playing through pain and proud of it

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings heaves a pass over the Iowa State defense during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014.

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings heaves a pass over the Iowa State defense during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. by Nick Krug

It's no secret that Kansas University quarterback Michael Cummings has been dealing with some kind of arm issue for the past few weeks, although you'd never know it from watching the guy play.

Series after series, play after play, Cummings has picked himself up off the turf, hustled back to the huddle and called the next play. Teammates occasionally check on him and ask how he's feeling. Junior wide receiver Nigel King said every time he or anyone else had asked Cummings if he was OK, the reply came quickly and usually was short-lived. “I'm OK, I'm OK,” King recalled Cummings saying during a recent game.

Cummings is not interested in focusing on himself or his well-being. He much rather would nod to show nothing's really wrong and move on to calling the next play and leading the offense.

After all, that's what he's here to do, and, pain or no pain, the guy is not about to give in to a little soreness while the opportunity of a lifetime is within reached.

Asked earlier this week how he was feeling physically, Cummings painted a genuinely sunny picture.

“I feel great today, actually,” Cummings said Wednesday afternoon before being asked how he felt a few days earlier. “Sunday was a little tough. Tuesday was a little tough only because we didn't lift on Tuesday.”

Against Iowa State, Cummings momentarily left the game with a right shoulder issue before returning to lead the Jayhawks to victory. Against TCU, the injury — or something like it — popped up again after Cummings plowed in for a one-yard touchdown run.

Despite taking a shot on the play, Cummings said he came away with no bad feelings about another quarterback draw being called in the future.

“If they're there, I'll run 'em,” Cummings said.

KU coach Clint Bowen, who called Cummings' physical toughness “underrated,” will be the first to tell you that, at this point in the season, if you've been playing for your team at all, you're going to be a little beat up. A lot of times, what separates those who become players and those who don't is the ability to play through that pain and continue to produce at a high level.

“If you're one of those guys that can't handle that, then college football is a rough business for you,” Bowen said. “And Michael is obviously proving week after week that he's a pretty tough guy, and you know you can count on him to go out there and battle through some of the discomforts that come with football.”

Cummings has done that and takes pride in it.

“I'm not walking around sore all day,” Cummings said. “I think it is just playing through pain. My shoulder was sore, but if they call a pass play, I have to hit it. If not, I need to be off the field. So if I'm out there I'm gonna do whatever the play calls me to do.”

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More signs of support for Clint Bowen popping up around town

A line of Kansas students painted with letters spelling out "Bowen" cheer during a kickoff after Kansas touchdown against Iowa State during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014.

A line of Kansas students painted with letters spelling out "Bowen" cheer during a kickoff after Kansas touchdown against Iowa State during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. by Nick Krug

From the minute he was named interim head coach of the Kansas University football program, on the same day former KU coach Charlie Weis was fired, Clint Bowen brought something to the program that previous head coaches couldn't — a deep and real connection to Lawrence.

That's not to say that Weis, Turner Gill, Mark Mangino and others did not appreciate Lawrence, enjoy living here or develop some kind of connection with the community. But it never came close to reaching the level that Bowen's has.

As you all know by now, Bowen grew up here. He played football at Lawrence High and KU, has been a Jayhawk for as long as he can remember and, perhaps most importantly, has no desire ever to leave. People know that. They also know that he can coach. And when you combine the two, you get the flood of support you've seen growing for Bowen day-by-day, week-by-week for the past couple of months.

I can't go a day or a place in this town right now without hearing somebody talk to me about Bowen and why he's the right guy for the job. It should be pointed out that most of these people are not qualified to hire a head football coach at a major university, but almost all of them are KU fans and it's those fans who will have a big role in helping KU football return to respectability, Bowen or no Bowen.

Some people just talk about their feelings. Others send emails and write letters or post their thoughts on social media sites. And still more have tried to think of ways to demonstrate their support for Bowen in a larger manner. One such way recently showed up at local bars Six Mile Tavern, in West Lawrence, and Louise's Downtown, on Mass Street.

Near the front of each establishment, hang giant banners that simply read “We Want Clint!” They may only be a couple of banners hanging at a couple of bars in town, but they speak for a lot of people and are merely the latest signs of support for the hometown candidate.

The KU administration is going to conduct a full and thorough search at season's end and it's absolutely the right thing to do. The last two hires went wrong and this one, for half a dozen different reasons, has to go right. So taking their time and making sure they get it right should be commended.

Besides, it's not like KU taking its time makes Bowen any less of a candidate or eliminates the overwhelming amount of support he already has received from the community. If anything, it might actually make that support swell.

Bowen will be in the mix. And he will get a legitimate chance to convince KU, beyond the recent results on the field, why he's the best choice for the job. Until then, don't be surprised if you see more banners like these popping up all over town.

This banner supporting interim KU football coach Clint Bowen recently went up at Six Mile Tavern in West Lawrence.

This banner supporting interim KU football coach Clint Bowen recently went up at Six Mile Tavern in West Lawrence. by Matt Tait

This banner, which shows support for interim KU football coach Clint Bowen, recently went up at Louise's Downtown on Mass Street.

This banner, which shows support for interim KU football coach Clint Bowen, recently went up at Louise's Downtown on Mass Street. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Wednesday’s KU football practice: Nov. 19

Former KU standout center Chip Budde was on hand at Wednesday's KU football practice to give a pep talk to players as the Jayhawks prepare to travel to Oklahoma to play the Sooners.

Former KU standout center Chip Budde was on hand at Wednesday's KU football practice to give a pep talk to players as the Jayhawks prepare to travel to Oklahoma to play the Sooners. by Richard Gwin

I've been going to KU football practice for years now and, after a while, you start to wonder how much you really can see when you're there and, this coach or that coach, how different practices really can be.

I don't wonder any more.

Each week of the Clint Bowen interim era, I've seen something different, something new, something I had not seen before. That could be because we're allowed to stick around a little longer than we ever have before, it could be because things actually are that different, and it could, of course, be some combination of the two.

Either way, I left today's practice thinking to myself how crazy it is to see a bunch of guys who have done almost nothing but lose during their time at KU fighting their butts off in the freezing cold and having fun all the way to the end of the season.

Usually by now — at least during the past four or five years — it's been about going through the motions of getting the season over with and moving on to the next chapter of hoping for something different. Not now. Not today. After dominating Iowa State and nearly knocking off TCU, these guys really believe they can beat anybody right now and they practice like it, coaches included.

Quarterback Michael Cummings said earlier today that there's a feeling of missing out surfacing around the football complex because of the disappointment that they're just now starting to put everything together. Even with that, though, Cummings said it wasn't like the guys were dwelling on it. Instead, they're looking at the last two games as a great opportunity and he said it would be that way if they had two games, five games or 10 games left.

I saw an extra dose of energy out there last week, and coming off the Iowa State victory that made sense. But there was even more out there today. It's crazy to think, but this team really is just two special teams mistakes away from sitting on five victories and having two shots at getting that sixth win for bowl eligibility.

Had they not kicked off to OSU's Tyreek Hill, I think KU wins that game. And if Cameron Echols-Luper hadn't taken that punt back to the house last week to give TCU its first lead since the first quarter, I think that would've changed the outcome, as well.

I'm not the only one. Clearly these guys believe that and even though so many of them are down to the final two games of their careers, they're certainly not operating like the end is in sight.

Here's a quick look at what else caught my eye at today's practice:

• I watched Cummings pretty closely to see how he held up health-wise and he looked fine. Good even. He was a full participant, threw the same amount of ball as the other quarterbacks and even bounced around out there like he wasn't in any pain at all. He said earlier that he felt great today and that most of the right arm/shoulder issue he's dealing with right now was simply a matter of how well he could play through pain. That's good news for Kansas because the answer to that question is, “very well.”

• Former KU center Chip Budde was the former player who spoke to the team before practice and, like many before him, Budde's message was short, sweet, to the point and received with all kinds of hootin' and hollerin', some of it even coming from Bowen himself.

• This week's depth chart has Larry Mazyck listed with the first stringers at right tackle but I also saw Jordan Shelley-Smith (the back-up at both left and right tackle) working with the ones a little bit today. No surprise there. Shelley-Smith has played plenty during the past couple of weeks and it could simply be a case of KU making sure both guys are ready for Saturday's match-up with OU's big and physical defensive line.

• There were plenty of NFL scouts at practice again today and, at least from where I was standing, it looked like most of them were very interested in senior receiver Nick Harwell. I'm sure they were taking notes about junior Nigel King, too, but their eyes seemed fixed on Harwell for extended periods of time. And good for him. After coming to KU with an almost-certain NFL future, Harwell sat out a year and then struggled to get going this season because of KU's offensive issues. He's hot now, though, and it looks like people outside of KU nation are taking notice.

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The Day After: A UK embarrassment

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) give the ball a hard bounce in frustration after a string of Jayhawk fouls during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) give the ball a hard bounce in frustration after a string of Jayhawk fouls during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

By now, if you've even taken the time to read, listen or pay attention to any of the aftermath of Tuesday night's bloodbath in Indy, you know that KU's 72-40 loss to No. 1 Kentucky was an historically bad outing for a Bill Self-coached Kansas team.

So there's really no need to rehash that. The Jayhawks were overmatched, looked ill prepared and overall rattled and rocked by the bigger, deeper, more talented Kentucky squad that started strong and never let up at the fourth annual Champions Classic showcase.

An outcome such as the one the Jayhawks suffered Tuesday night certainly is not what anyone on the team was hoping for, but it also was not all that surprising. During its three games leading up to the clash with Kentucky, Kansas showed plenty of signs that it was still very much a work in progress and KU coach Bill Self warned all along that the bigger Wildcats would be a handful for his Jayhawks. They were. And then some.

These Champions Classic events are great when you've got a veteran team or some guys ready for the bright lights. But they can be a nightmare when you don't and KU found that out — again — last night.

Duke is now the leader in the four-year history of the event, at 3-1, while Kentucky and Michigan State are both 2-2 and the Jayhawks 1-3.

Quick takeaway

It's cliché, but it's also true. Getting rocked like that in front of the entire world could be the best thing to happen to this team. The young Jayhawks surely now realize that they need to listen to anything and everything Self has to say, and coaches always say it's easier to teach and coach after a loss than a victory, so this week's practices should be, well, interesting. KU will be fine. They'll regroup, learn from this and start to come together in the very near future. The people screaming doomsday or freaking out about Self or his players are overreacting a bit, as easy and understandable as that is to do after watching your team play like that.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk leans down for a talk with head coach Bill Self during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk leans down for a talk with head coach Bill Self during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to smile

1 – It's college basketball and not college football. Had this happened to a top-ranked team on the gridiron, it would've been devastating to their title hopes and haunted them the entire season. Not in hoops. Sure, this one might have been devastating for KU's title hopes — in the sense that everyone not named Kentucky appears to be playing for second place this season — but the Jayhawks can move past this and still have a heck of a season. That's exactly what happened in 2011-12, when Kentucky rocked KU in NYC and the two met for the national championship in New Orleans a few months later. The Jayhawks are too talented and too proud to not regroup and move on from this setback.

2 – Several freshmen showed up to compete, they just didn't play that well. It would've been easy — and completely understandable — for those young guys to be overwhelmed by the big stage and scary opponent. But that did not appear to be the case. Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, particularly, seemed fairly comfortable out there, the Jayhawks were just in too big of a hole too quickly for it to truly matter. It's tough to ask or expect a group of freshmen to lead the way when experienced veterans like Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis aren't clicking around them, and I think there's less concern about the young guys today than those vets.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pushes the ball up the court against Kentucky during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pushes the ball up the court against Kentucky during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

3 – It probably can't get any worse than that. It figures to be a long, long time before the Jayhawks play another game where they look quite as overmatched and out of sync. We're talking 10 years or more. Most teams cant' say that, so at least KU fans can hold onto that as they mourn Tuesday night's embarrassment.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – This team is lacking leadership on the floor. Wayne Selden, though competitive, has yet to fully step into that role. And neither point guard — Frank Mason or Devonte' Graham — seems to own the leadership vibe that this team is missing. It's not that the Jayhawks need someone out there who will scream and shout and rant and rave, but they do need a guy they can look to for encouragement in tough times and a guy who can pull the group together and get them going when needed. That can't and shouldn't always come from the guy in the suit on the bench. It's just not the same thing as when it comes from someone on the floor.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) watches as Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) rejects his floater during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) watches as Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) rejects his floater during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

2 – The start of the second half was awful. Obviously, the entire second half was pretty terrible, too, but after cutting UK's 18-point, first-half lead down to nine at one point and 10 at the break, the Jayhawks put themselves in position to come out fast and get back into the game. Instead, they scored just 12 points the entire second half and shot 13 percent (3-of-23) during the final 20 minutes.

Kansas players Devonte Graham, left, Wayne Selden, Frank Mason and Perry Ellis watch during the final seconds of the Jayhawks' 72-40 loss to Kentucky during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas players Devonte Graham, left, Wayne Selden, Frank Mason and Perry Ellis watch during the final seconds of the Jayhawks' 72-40 loss to Kentucky during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

3 – There were so many other bad statistics and numbers that it was easy to overlook KU's sub-par performance at the free throw line, but the Jayhawks struggled there, too. Kansas made just 15 of 27 free throws in this one (56 percent) and too often came away with empty trips that should have been points and could have helped keep the game close – at least closer. Poor free throw shooting is often something coaches just gloss over and expect the players to fix by practicing on their own and focusing in a little more. That's probably what will happen here, but the Jayhawks need to get on the right side of the free-throw stat sooner rather than later before it becomes a real problem, both on the scoreboard and in their heads.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' 32-point loss at Kentucky in Indianapolis:

·         Moved KU to a 1-1 record to start the season for the fifth time in the Bill Self era.

·         Expanded Kentucky’s lead for all-time wins in NCAA Division I history to 16 games. Kansas now has 2,127 wins in its history, while Kentucky has 2,143.

·         Added to Kentucky’s lead on the series, which stands at 22-6 in favor of the Wildcats, including three-straight wins.

·         Made Kansas’ record against ranked teams 53-29 in the Self era.

·         Made KU 7-16 all-time against the Associated Press No. 1 ranked teams, including 2-2 under Self.

·         Changed Self’s record to 3-4 against Kentucky, 326-70 at Kansas and 533-175 overall.

·         Made KU’s all-time record 2,127-823.

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison (5) gets to the bucket between Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) and forward Perry Ellis (34) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison (5) gets to the bucket between Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) and forward Perry Ellis (34) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

Next up:

The Jayhawks return to action at 7 p.m. Monday, when Rider, which does not feature nine All-Americans or any kind of platoon system that we're aware of, comes to Allen Fieldhouse for Game 3 of the 2014-15 season.

By the numbers: Kansas vs. Kentucky

By the numbers: Kansas vs. Kentucky by KUsports.com graphic

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