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Monday Rewind: Rice

The Kansas offense huddles together late in the game against Rice during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

The Kansas offense huddles together late in the game against Rice during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

A friend and fellow reporter floated an interesting question my way shortly after the Kansas University football team somehow lost to Rice despite having a decent grip on things for most of the game last Saturday.

The question: Did KU’s 25-24, last-second loss to Rice rank as one of the Top 5 most disappointing losses of the past three seasons?

My answer: No.

There’s no doubt that Saturday’s loss left a lot of KU fans scratching their heads and perhaps forced some to consider whether they’d be back any time soon. But, to my ears, the most common reaction among the fans exiting Memorial Stadium sounded a lot more like “Well, well, well,” than “What the hell?”

This latest loss, though surely tough for KU fans to swallow, also is tough to evaluate. The Jayhawks should not have lost. Everyone understands that from the players to KU coach Charlie Weis, who went out of his way to inform us that he clearly pointed out to his team that losing games was not acceptable.

If you’re an excuse maker, your list is long after this one. It’s still early. There are a lot of guys still shaking off the rust. It’s a completely new team running a completely new system with a bunch of players still searching for their chemistry. Like I said, the list is long. But here’s the worst part — even if you’re not interested in making excuses, all of that remains true.

Before moving on, let me tell you, briefly, why I don’t think the loss to a team from Conference USA ranks in the Top 5 most disappointing losses in the past few seasons. For one, the Jayhawks weren’t embarrassed. They fought and played with fire but came up short. For two, they didn’t quit. For three, they didn’t brush off the loss as no big deal when it was over. It was clear that they were upset about letting this one slip away and even more clear that they plan to do something about it.

So what now?

Well, I realize it would be easy for most to revert back to the old “When does basketball season begin” line that we’ve heard around here for oh so long. And if that’s your thing, I won’t hold it against you.

But I still think there are plenty of good things going for this football program and I’m willing to let things play out before calling this season a bust.

Let’s take a look at a few positives and a few of the negatives.

Positives:

1. I think the defense has improved. They’re more active up front, they cover better in the secondary (even if they’re still not all that aggressive) and they’ve thrown up more three-and-outs in the first two games of the 2012 season than I can remember coming in 2010 and 2011 combined. What’s more, I think this is a group that, as long as it remains confident, will continue to improve each week.

2. The running game looks good. Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox make for a nice one-two punch, and, in seven days we can start to talk about James Sims again. If KU can continue to run the ball as effectively as it has during the first couple of weeks — and that’s definitely a decent-sized if with the schedule stiffening — the Jayhawks should have a shot at being competitive in the Big 12.

3. KU is forcing turnovers. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo said it just the other day and hundreds of coaches before him have said it, too: Turnover margin is the most important stat in football. If the Jayhawks continue to get takeaways at the current rate, things eventually will tip in their favor. What’s more, turnovers are contagious, and once you get a few, you start taking the field believing you’re going to get more. That’s huge.

Negatives:

1. Dayne Crist hasn’t been very good. You know it. I know it. He knows it. So it’s no big secret. But I can promise you one thing: He hasn’t delivered back-to-back sub-par performances by choice. The guy’s trying. And he deserves some more time to get it figured out. As long as he remains healthy, he’s still the guy that gives KU the best shot to win each week. But he’s got to perform better quickly so the rest of the team is still willing to follow him.

2. There does not seem to be a killer instinct with this team yet. Stop me if you’ve heard this one... Getting fired up for games does not seem to be a problem for the Jayhawks, but staying juiced throughout does. When your energy drops, your focus drops and when your focus drops, bad things happen. I’m not sure if it’s a case of these guys expecting too much and then being a little dazed when they don’t deliver, or if it’s just a familiarity thing and that old cliche about bad habits being hard to break. Whatever it is, though, this team needs to avoid that second half lull at whatever cost.

3. KU lacks playmakers on offense. Outside of Tony Pierson, who has flashed big-play ability in both games, the Jayhawks have not had another player step into that role yet. Senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson has the potential, but a lot of his work thus far has come in a possession-type role. DJ Beshears also has the potential, but he’s looked out of sync in both games. Someone else needs to step up. The tight ends have looked good and Crist appears to trust them, but you don’t always think of tight ends as playmakers. Maybe it’s time for Andrew Turzilli or Josh Ford to embrace the moment. Or maybe it’s up to Crist.

Time to see which list gets longer.

;

Comments

manginorh00lz 2 years ago

This really wasn't that bad of a loss, all things considered. KU should have won, yes, but this game was going to be a challenge. Every game this season will be a challenge. As long as KU can win some conference games, the season is a success.

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Andy Tweedy 2 years ago

I have one issue with your pimping of Rice over the last few days. I happen to agree with you that this isn't one of the really bad Rice teams of the past few years. But they still wouldn't finish higher than 9th in the Big XII, maybe 8th with a few kind bounces. So while this isn't the end of the world, it sure isn't encouraging to lose to a team that wouldn't exactly challenge for a conference title. But I like your optimism, there are plenty of things to like this year and going forward.

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JayHawkScott 2 years ago

That's a BIG if. I honestly can't think of another game this year in which we will be favored to win. Safe to say that I think we have more of a chance to get blown out in more games then we have to be competitive in a game. What is most disappointing is that you expect to see the greatest improvement from week one to week two and I can't say that we improved at all.

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years ago

I disagree. This loss was huge. On our schedule we have 3 games that we should be favored and this is one of them. In other words, every team we play other than Northern Illinois will be better than Rice. Unless some major progress is made, we are going to have a difficult year.

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Jeremy Hays 2 years ago

Northern Ill coming into the season had the longest win streak in the country at like 8 or 9.... I don't think they are push-overs.... Yes it is a long row to hoe but man it sucks to be people who give up at the first sign of adversity...

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years ago

Giving up would imply that I no longer follow or care about the team. I am up at 3am due to the time change to watch the game. I think I am allowed to paint out a reality and still call myself a fan. This year has a mission of progress that can still be accomplished but the Rice loss was a major hit.

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Dirk Medema 2 years ago

Did you forget to logout and your buddies are playing a joke with your account?

Or are you just recalling that MM's record his first year was worse than the previous worst coach in KU history?

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Doug Cramer 2 years ago

Matt - you have done a tremendous job with your journalism covering this team. I really appreciate it because I love KU football. Your positive personality is a nice characteristic to have...and those of us that read your articles like you a lot. Man you have put a lot of work into it...and we can see the passion for it !

But...I have a few topics to discuss:

1: I told my wife in the 4th quarter...right before we got the ball back with our last possession...that "if our offense doesn't finish this game off with a long drive to burn the clock...we will lose". Basically...if we have to depend upon our defense to win this game...it's over.

This defense is terrible...the line is terrible...our linebackers are below average...and our secondary looks slow. We couldn't stop anything that 4th quarter. The Rice offense did what ever they wanted to on us...and we couldn't stop them. Our defense just flat out stinks...and thats with 3 turnovers ! It gets worse if we don't get those turnovers.

2: Be careful to think we will force turnovers every week. Turnovers are analogous to hits in baseball. You don't always count on getting hits every game. Sometimes you get them...but sometimes you don't.

3: In your list of excuses...you mention that "it's a completely new team." While there are several different players on this team...several of the old players are still playing...and not much has changed with the way they play. They still miss too many tackles...our corners still play way too far off the line of scrimage...and our defensive line couldn't pressure a quarterback to save their lives.

4: You are correct...in that the running game looks pretty dam good. Our offensive line has performed well with run blocking. However...I'm not so sure our O-line has looked very good with pass protecting ??? The pocket looks congested on every play...and Crist doesn't have as long to pass...like our opposing QBs have had. And we're talking about Conference USA and FCS competition !

Bottom line...I'll be surprised if we even beat Northern Illinois in two weeks. If we don't beat Northern Illinois and Rice...how the hell are we gonna compete with anyone in the Big 12. I mean...look at Iowa State...they beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. We may not even have a chance against them.

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JayHawkScott 2 years ago

I totally understand your points here but while I have been as critical of this team since the last loss I think we need to keep things in prospective here.

Your first point regarding the defense was a little strong when you said the defense was "terrible." I too thought that if we gave the ball back to Rice late in the game that we would be in trouble but I do think the defense has improved over the past two seasons. Not saying we are good because we are still a poor defense but the last two years set expectations so low for the defense that it's hard not to improve some. If nothing else we are bigger and deeper up front and we actually have more of a chance to stop the run up the middle. So far I can't say that I'm that impressed with Dave Campo's defensive scheme. We are far to predictable in what we do and we really need to try and confuse the opposing offense more because we can't get it done with talent alone because we don't have it.

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Mike Plank 2 years ago

Agreed on almost all of these. Regarding the first point... I said the exact same thing to the people sitting around me. I said, "if we don't score here, and have rely on our defense to win games, it's going to be a long season, starting today. I'll be real mad if we lose this game 25-24" And look what happened...

Also, I thought Campo said back in the spring that we were going to play more press coverage. All day long we lined up 8-10 yards off the receivers. And all day long, Rice took advantage, and we never adjusted.

We are staring 1-11 directly in the face.

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Randy Bombardier 2 years ago

I don't agree with all of that but I too thought toward the end of the game that the mo was changing and we better get back to the run game and stop practicing the passing game. (It appeared that we knew the passing game wasn't working but so what, Dayne needs the practice). I knew that if we did not execute the run game at that point we would lose. Then, the pick just was a poke in the eye for the arrogance of continuing what was not working.

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Jeremy Hays 2 years ago

It was 3rd and 8... With two runs be shut down.... Give me a play call that would work against a 7 or 8 man box running for 8 + yards???? That is what the coaches were dealing with ... Oh by the way you have 40 seconds go!!!!

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Andy Tweedy 2 years ago

I agree with point number 3, but without Jaworski breaking down tape for me ala MNF pre-game, I just don't know who to blame on that. Crist has looked pretty bad at times, and I haven't seen a lot of open receivers, but he sure had a lot of time to throw Saturday. I just can't imagine we have no receivers who can get open in that amount of time. I'd really like to hear more details about why the coaches think we can't get a big play. And what about Cox? He looks like a difference maker at times.

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Jim Jackson 2 years ago

Some points of emphasis for me:

Crist looks like a statue out there. Is he scared to run for first downs? We need him to.

Our receivers are MINISCULE. Beshears and Patterson are 5'10 at the most! That in-out pattern in the end zone would have been a TD to Patterson if he were a couple inches taller.

Oline did a GREAT job of run blocking and pass blocking. Crist had all day, many times but our receivers were not open. Time to put Josh Ford out there.

Good job by the D line.

NCAA really screwed up by not letting McKay play.

I have faith though, let's hope the fans show up for TCU. Rock Chalk!!!

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741hawk 2 years ago

Crist is virtually a statue. Never fast anyway. Now playing after (I think) two knee surgeries. That may work in the NFL, but most successful college qbs have "escapability," a la Sparky.

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WindmillGIANT 2 years ago

I know Weis said sometimes it looks like its the QB's fault to fans, when it's receivers running the wrong routes or running bad routes etc...but if I had to pin this loss on one thing, it would be Crist's inaccuracy. He doesn't lead receivers on crossing routes, he throws at them so the ball is high and behind them. He overthrows straight deep routes. And on out routes, he doesn't anticipate the receivers break, he waits until he seems them make their break and then delivers the ball too late. At least that's what it looks like to one amateur eye on the sideline. Also don't know why we try to throw deep out routes so often - the hardest there is to complete - when we are struggling so much. Can't we just run slants, short outs, screens, etc? I know we have to get some deep passes to keep the defense from cheating up, but at this point, running straight fly routes seems like a better option than deep timing routes.

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Chris Bailey 2 years ago

I think we know why he was benched in South Bend. He may have been rated a 5-star but he, much like Ryan Leaf, didn't live up to their hype transitioning from high school to college and in Leaf's case college to the pros. I hope Heaps isn't a flash in the pan! I think he will be a huge improvement. Look I like Crist, he's a neat kid but thus far I've seen nothing from him that would point me anywhere near that 5-star rating. He sure looks the part out on the field with his great size and he looks like he has a rocket arm. Problem is much like a pitcher with a rocket arm if you can't put it where you want it all that is for nothing. There is no doubt he is much better than Webb and the team looks so much better than last season. I think we all hoped we'd be better but really is anyone surprised we are 1-1? Sure we lost they game they didn't win it but we knew all along this was a process. Will we get better? Sure but it will take time. Weis leading us to a bowl game will take 2 two more seasons IMO. Heaps and McCay will be seniors and will lead us to a winning record. I was optimistic this year as well but in the back of my mind I knew we could be 3-9 or 2-10. No way we lose 11 straight we'll get better. I'm excited to go to the game Saturday to see TCU's first Big12 game and I am glad we get to be that opponent. It may be a long day but a fun one none the less. Let's all be sure to stay behind these guys! The need our support! Rock Chalk!

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Dirk Medema 2 years ago

Dayne had 2,500 yds in 8 games (equivalent to a 4,000 yd season) the last time he was given a chance to play. Why he was benched had nothing to do with his ability.

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Justin Lindsley 2 years ago

I was at the game. I couldn't believe how "quiet" the stadium was. I'm not sure if it the crazy long TV timeouts that sucked the energy out or if it was just the game itself. There were a lot of short plays. There was no big break play to get everyone amped up. I just remember thinking that it was just dead in the stadium. It might be hard for the players to stay pumped with no emotion coming from the crowd. However, they need to give us more to cheer for!! Rock Chalk.

We have coaches who know the game. There is no question about that. We obviously are still lacking enough talent to get it done. Hopefully, Charlie will be able to infuse the program with more talent and then things will look much brighter!

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Fototherapist 2 years ago

I agree. We have a lot of seniors playing right now. These were the guys playing for the past few years. Maybe they are just not that good.

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Eric Dawson 2 years ago

Unfortunately, Fototherapist, I think you are spot on. For me, I'm ready to see some young blood out there learning on the job rather than keep playing the upperclassmen who have shown they cannot make the grade. Sometimes all a player needs is a chance to show what he can do in a game. Reesing never would have replaced Meier if Meier had done anything at all behind center. Yes, that is an extreme example of a bench rider's later success, but wouldn't it be great just to have some improvement in some of the other positions if the young guys have a chance to make their mark? At least start the taller wideouts so Crist has some targets he can see downfield. Then if Crist does a 3peat against TCU, consider trying Cummings or the QB of last year's JUCO National Champions, Turner Baty. At least he has shown he can win at some level beyond HS. There comes a time when knowing the system is no advantage if you can't make it work for you.

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741hawk 2 years ago

Maybe it's because the fans are SO FAR AWAY from the field.

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jhox 2 years ago

Or maybe it's because too many KU fans know and care little about football, and would rather spend time in the parking lot drinking with friends. Tell it like it is. Our fans are terrible when it comes to a sport other than basketball. Building a long term winning program will be very difficult with our fan base.

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fan4kufootball 2 years ago

I really think that allowing the second string QB to run a few plays would provide a little competition for Crist - possibly giving him enough pressure to step up to the plate. NO ONE is indispensable.... So far Crist has not lived up the expectations touted in the media.

It was a Big loss for the fans. I sure hope fans will still fill the stadium this Saturday.

Does anyone know anything about the overhead cable camera that was used Saturday? Was it a one-time thing by the sports network covering the game or was it an addition to the stadium by KU Athletics after the ESPN deal that was reached last week?

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CO_Hawk 2 years ago

Does anyone have an update on removing the track from Memorial? If we want our football program to be taken seriously this is a necessity....

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Dirk Medema 2 years ago

Check the article from the summer.

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Fototherapist 2 years ago

If the only goal this season is to say that the Jayhawks are competing better, then I think they are showing that. Is there room for improvement? You betcha. I think Weis should start looking at different QB's and receivers. I doubt that will happen as Weis seems to have a deeply personal connection with Crist. He made it clear from day one that Crist is the man. It'll be interesting to see if Weis will take Crist out if it's clear that he's not improving. Only time will tell on that though.

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Jeff Hargate 2 years ago

I too noticed the CB's playing way too far off the Rice recievers, but the Smith and McDougald were playing so close to the line they had no help over the top. That's on Campo - not the players. I saw Patmon many times looking frustrated after Rice completed another 8 yard out. We make a couple tackles down the stretch and we are all talking about how our D stepped up. We are close to turning the corner. The offense looks completely different without Pick. I thought his injury was what changed the game. Has anyone heard the severity of his injury? I also noticed in the 1st half we would run Pierson 3 times and then pass 3 times. If I am noticing this from the stands we are in trouble.

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oldalum 2 years ago

One of the articles on the front page said Pick wasn't as serious as they had feared. Kande is the one who will probably miss the next game.

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BPSkelly 2 years ago

While I likely agree with many of the points above (Crist, "D", playcalling, tackling, etc) the one thing I keep coming back to is this...

... had they MISSED that FG, while we'd all feel much, much, much better about the situation at hand (2-0) the reality is this team isnt very talented. Weather were 2-0 or 1-1.

I think whats so jarring for fans is the fact that many of us logically figured we're simply building -- and I still think we are --- but emotionally we just werent ready for that first really true dose of reality. It's here with a vengeance apparently. I've already gotten 5 emails from alums/friends with the "how many days until Late Night". In fairness, ive thought this as well.

But im still confident that there is building going on here. I actually thought the schemes we're running make sense... IF we had more talent. We just dont. The "Pro Set" offense is ideal when you have actual decent D-1 players at those positions. I dont think KU can claim that. We'll see what adjustments are made if any. Im still keeping faith that we'll pull off an upset or two. Crist cannot be this bad... but maybe he is. Im willing to play it out though. What options do we have?

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AsadZ 2 years ago

I am curious if students stayed to see players sing Alma mater on Sat?

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bville_hawk 2 years ago

No, and it's really kind of pathetic. The student section was virtually full 10 minutes into the game, yet by the end of the 3rd quarter it was 75% EMPTY. And this at a fairly entertaining and well played game by both teams that we were leading in. I cannot understand what students would have to do at 4:30 or 5:00 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon that would drag them away.

I know, beer and sex, but really can't they spare 4 hours 6 Saturdays a year to support fellow students and THEIR football team?

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BPSkelly 2 years ago

sex > KU football anyways.

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danette8084 2 years ago

Fact is, Crist hasn't played in a game for over 2 years, maybe longer given his injuries. Being benched in the 1st game of 2011 hardly counts as "playing" last year. Give this guy time. Tait's "rewind" comments are fair.

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 2 years ago

As a one year starter, he does not get the luxury of time. If he doesn't get going in the next week or two, there should be some talk of getting Baty or Cummings some snaps. It only makes sense for Crist to play if is is vastly superior to the other guys. I can't imagine that being the case at the moment.

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Doug Merrill 2 years ago

I wonder if there isn't some chance that Cummings could be considered for a red shirt if Crist stays healthy...and that could be one (other) reason that Crist wouldn't be pulled any time soon.

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Dirk Medema 2 years ago

Cmmings has already used his redshirt - last year.

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DocPossum 2 years ago

Vast improvement will not happen overnight. The more support the team has, the sooner the change will occur. Strength and conditioning is improving but it is not finished. A full year of recruiting will help for future years. Who the coaches were able to bring in this year on short notice was very positive. Students leaving in the fourth quarter had to be a downer for those on the field. If the student section was full, screaming, and making it hard for Rice players to hear would that have helped Saturday? Crist may not be good enough for some of the above posters, but he turned down Wisconsin to come to Lawrence. Imagine what this year would be like without him. His presence helped get others to commit. Anyway ND had taller receivers, Floyd 6'3'', Rudolph 6'5", Eiffert 6'6", and Goodman 6'3" in their sets to go with smaller slot receivers. These guys went up and grabbed the ball, so maybe Crist is spoiled. Crist will improve.
Perhaps McCay will be the man next year, but this is this year. So you have to go with what you have until taller receivers are available or step up. It will likely be a long year but watch and support your team as it evolves, improves and learns how to win. Its apparent that the football staff is putting in much effort at turning this thing around. The students and fans should do likewise! The turnaround will happen faster.

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Layne Pierce 2 years ago

Yes. It is going to be a long season. The only question is whether we are going to be competitive and if there are signs of positive change. I for one, do see some positives. We are less a laughing stock than we were before.

Fact is we do not have any concrete way to win until Crist starts figuring it out. Our running game gives us a shot. If Crist improves, this team can still win 2 or 3 games.

Rock chalk jayhawk ku.

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AirCapJay 2 years ago

I don't think this team has time to let Crist improve. By the looks of it, it might take half a season before Crist get going. If Crist struggles against TCU, I say lets go with one of the backups and push the running game to the max. That's our best chance to win a couple more games.

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