Sunday, October 1, 2000

Jayhawks generous: OKLAHOMA 34, KANSAS 16

Five interceptions, two fumbles end KU's chances against Sooners


Kansas University's football team wasn't supposed to stand a chance against Oklahoma.

It didn't, as it turns out, but not for the reasons anticipated going in.

KU senior quarterback Dylen Smith tied a school record with five interceptions and he had two fumbles to boot and the 14th-ranked Sooners overcame a couple of early deficits to upend the Jayhawks, 34-16, on Saturday at OU's Memorial Stadium.

"After the first couple of ones, I tried to forget about it," Smith said. "But when you have five picks and two fumbles, it's hard to forget about it."

And even more difficult to overcome.

But Smith was just one aberration Saturday.

The KU offensive line, which went three games without surrendering a sack, gave up six against Oklahoma.

And Kansas' pass defense, which led the nation in yards allowed coming in, was shredded for 346 yards by OU's Josh Heupel, the second most allowed by a KU team in Terry Allen's four-year tenure as the Jayhawks coach.

"We were real ready," KU senior fullback Moran Norris said. "We played a good game overall. We just need to cut out the turnovers. The team that has less turnovers wins, and that's what happened."

Statistically, the Jayhawks (2-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12) held their own against the Sooners (3-1), collecting 377 total yards to OU's 444.

Heck, early in the second half the Jayhawks led OU, 16-10, and took one of Oklahoma's two fumbles and drove it to the Oklahoma 14, and it appeared Kansas was going to add another score.

But not so fast.

Smith fumbled that possession away, and Oklahoma turned the returned gift into an 88-yard, seven-play touchdown drive. It was the first of three straight turnovers for the Jayhawks.

"When we were up 16-10 and were down on the 15, 16, that was the killer," said KU offensive guard Justin Sands. "All turnovers are killers, but that was THE killer."

The outcome snapped the Jayhawks' three-game winning streak over OU and a two-game streak in Norman, Okla.

It also marked Kansas' 14th straight loss in conference road games and dropped the Jayhawks to 1-16 overall on the road in four years under Allen.

"If we can eliminate some mistakes, we can be a competitive football team," Allen said. "We did a pretty good job defensively. Turnovers were our demise."

Though each turnover was charged to Smith, KU's athletic senior QB who came in with five TD passes and just two interceptions, Allen stuck with Smith to the end.

"Obviously, you think about it when a guy is struggling," Allen said, "but he's our guy. We didn't want to disrupt his confidence."

Imagine what leaving him in must have done.

Smith, curiously, had the best and worst day of his KU career. He completed 12 of 29 passes for a career-best 258 yards, and he tied a career mark with a first-quarter, 77-yard TD pass to Roger Ross.

"Coach didn't give up on me," said Smith, who had to be coaxed out of the locker room to meet the press. "A lot of teammates came up to me and said, 'Don't worry about it.' Of course I wanted to stay in, but it was a little frustrating."

Did KU's big-play mindset contribute to the turnovers?

"A lot of times the defensive backs made great plays," said Smith, who tied Frank Seurer and David Jaynes as the only Kansas QBs to throw five pickoffs in one game. "And I tried to aim too much. A lot of it was me, obviously. We had a couple of miscommunications with receivers."

KU set the tone on the game's first possession, when, on the third play, Smith threw his first interception to J.T. Thatcher, who, by day's end, tied the OU single-game record with three pickoffs.

Oklahoma turned that into a 3-0 lead, but Kansas responded in two plays, the second of which was that 77-yard bomb from Smith to Ross. Joe Garcia missed the extra-point attempt, however, and Kansas led, 6-3.

OU regained the lead at 10-6, but Kansas thanks to another quick-strike drive capped by David Winbush's 29-yard TD run went on top, 13-10, with 3:05 left in the first.

Kansas tacked on a field goal early in the second half for a 16-10 lead, but never scored again.

"It's just frustrating," said KU junior Harrison Hill, who had a career day with eight catches for 144 yards. "We were moving the ball. We just couldn't capitalize. Everybody's sick of saying, 'We can be good.' We need to score touchdowns. We're tired of the defense feeling like it has to carry us."

Neither defense did much heavy lifting early. The teams combined for 516 total yards and 40 points in the first half alone.

"If you watch the game, it was a long momentum-ping-pong-back-and-forth football game," Allen said.

And Kansas had its chances to get the momentum back its way. Twice Smith overthrew Hill on what would have been long touchdowns a 46-yarder in the first that turned into a mere field goal and what would have been a 58-yarder after a fake punt in the third quarter, a drive that Kansas eventually had to punt away.

"If we don't overthrow a wide-open receiver in the end zone in the third quarter, we have a chance to tie the game," Allen said. " The frustrating thing with (Smith) was the overthrown balls. Twice he had receivers open, but the ball was overthrown. We had two six-point plays, and the outcome could have been different."

Kansas will play host to Kansas State on Saturday. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

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