It’s tough to imagine anyone still cares at this point, but, believe it or not, there are a few who do.
So let’s get on with this week’s Monday rewind.
Texas A&M 61, Kansas 7.
Those 22 characters and spaces pretty much tell it all. Kansas, for the 18th time in 23 games under coach Turner Gill, left the stadium with a loss and the disappointing, yet familiar, feeling of simply not being good enough.
With just one game remaining in the 2011 season — and, most likely, in Gill’s time at Kansas — the only question really worth examining after the Texas A&M loss is one that won’t be much fun but should spark some debate.
Was this KU’s worst loss under Gill?
The way I see it, there are seven or eight real candidates here. Before getting into the what and why of it all, I’ll list them as a refresher.
6-3 loss vs. North Dakota State
55-7 loss at Baylor
59-7 loss vs. Kansas State
66-24 loss at Georgia Tech
70-28 loss at Oklahoma State
59-21 loss vs. Kansas State
43-0 loss at Texas
61-7 loss at Texas A&M
These are the games in which the Jayhawks were utterly hopeless. Whether they happened because of poor execution, poor game-planning or poor coaching, these were the games that seemed to get the KU faithful the most riled up.
As you can see, going strictly by the scores, last Saturday’s drubbing by the Aggies was KU’s biggest loss. Only one other time had a Gill team lost by more than 50 points, and that came during last season’s embarrassing 59-7 loss to K-State in Lawrence.
But does that make it Gill’s worst loss at Kansas?
For my money, the answer’s yes. And here’s why.
Although the loss to NDSU in last year’s opener was pitiful, there were plenty of reasons to see it coming. New coach, new season, a no-win situation and a group of inexperienced players and overmatched coaches trying to figure it all out. There’s no way KU should have lost that game, but at least you can pinpoint the reasons why they did. Heck, when we pulled up to the stadium that day, Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan even called it.
Last year’s Baylor game was the first road Big 12 game for a whole bunch of Jayhawks. And let’s face it; Baylor was damn good. That one probably comes the closest for me, but, again, there were at least some reasons why the Jayhawks had such a hard time, and it’s a lot easier to forgive a team for that kind of performance five games into a head coach’s tenure than it is 20 games later.
Moving on to this year, many people forget that the Jayhawks were in the Georgia Tech game at halftime. They trailed just 24-17, and, after a horrific start, had shown a lot of fight to get back in the game and hang around. One quarter later, the score was 52-17 and the party was on.
The Oklahoma State loss, like Baylor last year, is close to being the most brutal, but, if you recall, KU marched down the field on its opening drive of that game and actually had a 7-0 lead. Fifty-six points and 30 minutes later, the Cowboys were in control and questions of whether OSU could score 100 in the game seemed legitimate. But again, for at least a few minutes early and a few minutes late, the Jayhawks ran their stuff, moved the ball and scored points.
As for the Texas game this year, it was awful offensively, but the Jayhawks' defense showed up and played its butts off. Had they not forced a couple of turnovers, made a goal-line stand and held UT to field goals instead of TDs, this one would've been in the 70s, too.
That leaves the two Kansas State losses and even though both ended up being blowouts, there were moments in both games — more this year than last — where the Jayhawks looked like they wanted to be out there and their play reflected that. Whether that was a big hit (Isiah Barfield in 2010) or a couple of nice drives to get back into the game (just before halftime this year), there were signs of life, however briefly they may have stayed.
Last Saturday, in College Station, there were none. Give the KU offense credit for fighting to the end to try to prevent the shutout. It worked. And finding motivation to keep playing in a game like that is easier said than done. But other than that last drive, the Jayhawks never truly threatened on offense from start to finish.
That’s not to say their drives fell apart or things didn’t bounce their way. They just couldn’t produce. Running plays went nowhere. Passing plays resulted in sacks, interceptions or drops and the Jayhawks looked out of sync — on both sides of the ball — all afternoon.
And then there was the defense. Oh, the defense. From A&M’s opening drive on, the Jayhawks struggled to compete. The Jayhawks made A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill look like the player that many thought he would be before the season began and the Aggies scored so quickly on so many drives that you couldn’t help but wonder how bad it was going to get.
When the dust settled, the Aggies became the third opponent to top 60 points against a Turner Gill-coached KU team, and the Jayhawks were sent away with another blowout loss.
When looking back at a string of so many bad beatings over the past couple of years, it may be irrelevant to discuss which one was the worst. Bad is bad and losing is losing.
For me, though, last week’s loss at A&M was KU’s worst setback under Gill because of when it happened, how it happened and the fact that, in terms of point differential, it was the biggest blowout. It’s hard to imagine a team playing its worst game of the season 11 weeks in. Teams are supposed to get better as the season goes along.
There were a number of factors that contributed to why it went down the way it did — injuries, suspensions, road game, etc. — but pointing to any of those as good excuses would be a cop out. The bottom line is the Jayhawks didn’t show up and the Aggies made them pay.
If they repeat that recipe this week against Mizzou, in what could be the last Border War game ever, this list could have a new game at the top very soon.