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The Day After: Out-toughing Texas

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Now that's the kind of basketball game you expect to see in March, and the Jayhawks and Longhorns brought it to us a day early.

Tough, physical basketball. A lot at stake for both teams. Pressure mounting with every tick. Multiple guys making a variety of plays on both ends of the floor, with mistakes and miscues having as big of an impact as perfectly executed offense.

I realize that most of you reading this probably did not like several aspects of Saturday's 69-64 victory by Kansas over Texas, but that's exactly the kind of basketball I love to watch so sign me up every time for a game like that.

Quick takeaway

Frank Mason said after the game that the Jayhawks had won games like that before. And while I respect what Mason probably meant — close, down-to-the-wire, make-a-big-play-late games — I don't think Kansas has won a game like that this season. That was by far the toughest I've seen this Kansas team look and the hardest I've seen them compete. The officiating was inconsistent and non-existent at times, in both directions, and, for the most part, instead of whining about the whistles or lack thereof, KU simply kept playing. Despite being without one of their bigger bodies, they battled Texas' big front line for everything they got and often did so with smaller, quicker perimeter players mixing it up. The game was far from perfect. Perry Ellis was sensational, KU's defense was solid and the Jayhawks showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the game meant something to them. That mentality combined with someone else emerging as a second offensive weapon to Ellis just could be the recipe for a deep run later this month.

Three reasons to smile

1 – This whole Perry Ellis plays the role of Superman thing is getting out of control. The guy is in one of those zones where he pretty much outdoes what he did the game before every time out. Three straight games of 23 points or more. Carrying Kansas on offense. I Tweeted this during the game and I'll say it again here just because Ellis was that good — I think that was probably the best all-around game of Perry Ellis' career. He was a manchild on both ends of the floor and looks more confident than ever. Not to mention more capable than ever. Ellis' versatile offensive game features so many different weapons and, at times, he flashes all of them during the same possession. The guy is a beast and he's definitely in play for Big 12 player of the year honors.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) delivers a dunk against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) delivers a dunk against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Texas' 14 blocked shots established a new school record, but the Jayhawks blocked a few shots, too. KU finished with 10 blocks — three each for Ellis and Kelly Oubre — and did so with the supposed best option at protecting the paint (Cliff Alexander) sitting on the bench in street clothes. Just another sign of how locked in these guys were defensively and how hard they competed.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) comes down from a dunk over Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) comes down from a dunk over Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – With Cliff Alexander stuck on the bench because of questions about his eligibility, Landen Lucas was forced to play 25 minutes and played them well. His stat line (5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 fouls) won't wow you — it pretty much never does — but the fact that he was on the floor for twice as many minutes as Jamari Traylor, who started, tells you all you need to know about how Lucas played.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Kansas made just one three-pointer and Brannen Greene missed all three shots he attempted. Just a few weeks ago, the buzz surrounding this KU team was that they were the best three-point shooting team known to man. Today, they look a little more human and seem to be consistently providing proof for why KU coach Bill Self said it's a dangerous idea to rely on three-point shooting to win games. KU was 1-for-8 from behind the arc against Texas, but the one was huge. Frank Mason drilled a three from the top of the key to put Kansas up two right after Texas had reclaimed a lead it let slip away. Eight attempts is a surprisingly low number for this team, but Self gave credit to UT coach Rick Barnes for forcing the Jayhawks to play inside the arc, which definitely had something to do with it.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Neither team reached 40 percent shooting in either half. A lot of people will call that kind of game ugly basketball. But I call it a war. Kansas shot 36.2 percent from the floor — and somehow won — and Texas shot 37.7 percent. Beyond that, the two teams who did their best to beat each other up all afternoon combined to shoot 50 free throws. If you're someone who likes to watch wide open offense and points scored in bunches, this wasn't the game for you. Credit KU's free throw shooting (26-for-32) and defense for allowing Kansas to win despite making just 21 of 58 shots.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham looks for a loose ball with Texas forward Myles Turner (52) and teammate Perry Ellis during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham looks for a loose ball with Texas forward Myles Turner (52) and teammate Perry Ellis during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Just a couple of games ago, Devonte' Graham scored 20 points and looked like a completely new player bound to spend the rest of the season attacking and helping the Kansas offense reach a new gear. On Saturday he played just seven minutes and did not record a single meaningful stat. Perhaps Texas' size and style of play simply did not suit Graham's game or maybe the experience factor was the reason. Either way, Frank Mason was back to the early-season role of playing nearly the entire game (39 minutes) and there's no doubt that he took a beating while doing it. KU's gotta get more from Graham no matter who the opponent.

One for the road

Kansas' boxing-match-style victory over Texas on Saturday:

• Made the Jayhawks 23-6 overall, giving KU 23 victories for the 26th-consecutive season, beginning in 1989-90.

• Pushed KU’s record to 12-4 in Big 12 play, marking the 15th-consecutive season that the Jayhawks recorded 12 league wins, beginning in 2000-01.

• Extended KU’s all-time series advantage to 25-8, including a 13-1 mark in games played in Lawrence and an 11-1 advantage in Allen Fieldhouse.

• Marked the 23rd-straight victory inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 14-0 record in the venue this season. Overall, the Jayhawks are 727-109 all-time at AFH and 189-9 at home under Bill Self.

• Improved Self to 348-75 while at Kansas, 15-8 against Texas (15-6 at Kansas) and 555-180 overall.

• Made KU 2,149-828 all-time.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds the crowd as he leaves the floor following the Jayhawks' 69-64 win over Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds the crowd as he leaves the floor following the Jayhawks' 69-64 win over Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Updated Big 12 Standings

Here's a quick look at the conference race. A KU win on Tuesday over West Virginia would guarantee the Jayhawks at least a share of consecutive Big 12 title No. 11. A loss on Tuesday, combined with an Oklahoma victory over Iowa State on Monday, would make KU's March 7 game at OU a winner-take-all contest.

Kansas 12-4
Oklahoma 11-5
Baylor 10-6
West Virginia 10-6
Iowa State 10-6
Kansas State 8-9
Oklahoma State 7-9
Texas 6-10
TCU 4-12
Texas Tech 3-14

Next up

The Jayhawks return home Tuesday for a rematch with West Virginia at 8 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. KU fell to the Mountaineers 62-61 two weeks ago in Morgantown. Tuesday also will be Senior Night at the Fieldhouse, where Christian Garrett will be honored for his four years with the program.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Texas, 69-64

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Texas, 69-64

Reply 3 comments from Lonnie Ross Dillon Bob Bailey Chuckberry32

The Day After: Near-perfection in Austin, Texas

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) gets a slam on a put-back dunk against Texas during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) gets a slam on a put-back dunk against Texas during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

By several accounts, Saturday's 75-62 victory over Texas in Austin was the Jayhawks' best game of the 2014-15 season.

It's hard to argue that. So many positive things went in KU's direction, with a convincing victory over a solid team being the result. The game was on the road and against a Top 20 team. Kansas turned it over just three times all game and did not cough it up once in the second half. The scoring was balanced. Newcomers and veterans contributed equally and Bill Self's crew showed toughness, confidence and even a little swagger.

The Jayhawks made 15 of 19 free throw attempts, recorded more assists and steals than the Longhorns and limited UT to 40 percent shooting, including a 3-of-18 mark from three-point range.

I'll be honest. I thought this would be another Iowa State game, where the home crowd and talent on the opposing bench proved to be too much for the young Jayhawks to overcome. But maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe it was exactly the kind of game this team needed to allow it to believe that what happened in Ames, Iowa, one week earlier was closer to being a fluke than the norm. If that's true and these guys just turned up the belief they have in themselves, the Big 12 race might be over.

Quick takeaway

So much has been made lately about Cliff Alexander's motor and how important his play is to this team. But would anyone argue that Brannen Greene's motor — or maybe just his head — might be equally as important. The sophomore guard has been sensational in KU's past two games, both tough victories over Top 20 teams. And those efforts came less than a week after it looked as if Greene might be out of the rotation for good. I guess the lesson here is that it's dangerous to write off a guy too early when he has this kind of talent. Bill Self certainly did not do that with Greene and KU is reaping the rewards because of it. If the past two games — and the lessons that were learned leading up to them — are any indication of where this team is headed, Greene and Alexander, all of a sudden, seem to have vaulted to the top of the list — right behind Frank Mason — as KU's most important players. Oh, and while KU was doing its thing in Austin, TCU was taking West Virginia to the wire in Morgantown and Texas Tech was getting ready to knock off Iowa State in Lubbock. Just one week after a loss at Iowa State seemed to blow the Big 12 race wide open, the Jayhawks have jumped right back into the driver's seat in a big way.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) pulls up for a three as he is defended by Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) pulls up for a three as he is defended by Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to smile

1 – Cliff Alexander held his own personal dunk party in Austin. Yes, Alexander's motor was revving high for the second game in a row. And, yes, that was by far the most important part of his game. But the fact that the big fella looked ferocious while playing again is nothing but good news for the Jayhawks. Alexander looked eager to try to dunk everything he could in this one. Maybe it was the challenge of playing against the bigger front line the Longhorns possessed. But if the KU freshman can find a way to channel that same attitude against teams that aren't as big as Texas up front, he could be in for some monster games in the very near future. Props also to Alexander's teammates for so often putting him in good positions to finish strong.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) delivers a dunk against the Texas zone defense late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) delivers a dunk against the Texas zone defense late in the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

2 – Jamari Traylor's effort alone on that wild play toward the end of the first half was worth a high grade for the entire game. Yes, Traylor hustled to get a block shot on one end, crashed the boards on the other and dove out of bounds after both stretches. And, yes, Traylor's all-out dive at halfcourt was the kind of play Self will be telling young players about for years. But the most impressive part about the whole thing to me was that it started with Traylor getting his shot blocked. When that happened in the past — and even in the not-too-distant past — Traylor had a tendency to show bad body language and let the bad play momentarily take him out of the game. It looks as if Traylor is growing and maturing.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dives out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dives out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

3 – So much was made about UT's length heading into this game, but how about KU's length coming through for the Jayhawks. Not only did Kansas pick up some blocks and steals because of its ability to stretch out defensively, but the Jayhawks also really benefited from their length on the offensive end, as well, whether that was Cliff Alexander flushing shot after shot or Kelly Oubre finishing at the rim. The Longhorns did finish with nine blocks, but it's a real credit to the growth and maturity of this Kansas team

*** Disclaimer: We were really forced to reach for negatives after this game.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Because the rest of the game turned out so well, people probably won't remember KU's 11-2 deficit to open the game. And why should they? As soon as Brannen Greene got going from the outside and Alexander and Perry Ellis picked things up inside, KU dominated. Slow starts like that are usually a recipe for disaster on the road, so they still fit in the category of reasons to sigh. But if KU can overcome any future slow starts the way it did in Austin, even an early double-digit deficit won't make its way onto this list.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) slaps hands with Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) slaps hands with Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

2 – KU was out-rebounded, 36-34, and gave up 13 offensive boards to the Longhorns. Like I said, we're nit-picking here. If anything, hanging in there with the Longhorns on the glass shows just how well KU played up front. The Jayhawks matched UT on the offensive glass and had five different players record at least three rebounds.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) boxes out Texas forward Myles Turner during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) boxes out Texas forward Myles Turner during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

3 – Wayne Selden's shot is still not quite right. Remember early in the season when Selden was in a big-time shooting slump that got a ton of talk? He snapped out of that one and then that was that, but, as much as things have gotten a little better since then, he's still not completely there with his shot. Selden's shooting percentage in the first six conference games of the season is just 34.6 percent (18 for 52) and that includes Saturday's 2-for-6 performance against Texas. Credit Selden for doing enough “little things” to remain an important part of this team even without clicking on offense, the most notable of which is probably his defensive toughness.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' 75-62 victory over Texas:

• Made Kansas 16-3 overall and 5-1 in Big 12 play for the 10th time under head coach Bill Self.

• Added to KU’s all-time series advantage as Kansas now leads 24-8, including a 7-6 mark in Austin (all games in the Erwin Center).

• Kept KU a perfect 2-0 on CBS this season (vs. UNLV; at Texas) and 42-16 all-time when playing on CBS.

• Marked KU’s 250th victory in Big 12 play (250-50), the most among all league foes. Texas is second at 197-103.

• Improved Self to 341-72 while at Kansas, 14-8 against Texas (13-6 at Kansas) and 548-177 overall.

• Made KU 2,142-825 all-time.

Next up

KU (16-3 overall, 5-1 in Big 12 play) will head back out on the road Wednesday night for an 8 p.m. tip-off at TCU. The game will be shown on ESPNU.

By the Numbers: Kansas wins 75-62 at Texas

By the Numbers: Kansas wins 75-62 at Texas

Reply 7 comments from Arthur Ankeney Cshjhawk Micky Baker Rodney Crain Goku Erich Hartmann

Three & Out with Texas…

• Kansas Jayhawks (2-1) vs. Texas Longhorns (1-2)
3:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas

Three and out, with the Texas Longhorns...

1st Down

You've probably heard a lot about Texas' stout defense already this week, and with good reason. The Longhorns are among the nation's leaders in several defensive categories, with their 13 sacks in three games (4.3 per game) ranking sixth in the country and their 322 yards against total ranking 26th.

Eleven different Longhorns have recorded a sack – compared with just four for Kansas — and defensive tackle Malcom Brown, whom KU coach Charlie Weis called one of the best players he's seen, period, leads the way with 3.5 sacks. Hassan Ridgeway is right there behind Brown with 3 sacks on the season.

2nd Down

This week will mark the Big 12 opener for first-year UT coach Charlie Strong, who took over for Mack Brown in the offseason. Texas is 15-3 in Big 12 openers, with the only losses coming to Oklahoma State in 1997 and Kansas State in both 1998 and 2007. The first of those K-State losses came on the road, while the 2007 setback came in Austin, Texas.

UT is 6-2 all-time in Big 12 openers on the road.

Kansas, meanwhile, is 5-12 all-time in Big 12 openers, including a 3-4 mark in Big 12 openers at home.

3rd Down

It's interesting to note that Strong was one of several names on the hot list for KU back in 2009 when the Jayhawks were looking for a replacement for Mark Mangino.

Then a defensive coordinator at Florida, Strong became one of the nation's hottest names because of the toughness and production shown by his Gator defenses in the SEC.

KU hired Turner Gill and Strong was hired Louisville that same offseason. With the Cardinals, Strong racked up an impressive 37-15 record, while guiding Louisville to four consecutive winning seasons and four consecutive bowl appearances.

After going 7-6 and 7-6 in his first two seasons, Strong won 23 of his final 26 games with the Cardinals, going 11-2 in 2012 and 12-1 in 2013. He was hired by Texas last January after a long and highly publicize search to replace Brown.

Like KU coach Charlie Weis when he took over at Kansas, Strong has endured some bumps and bruises in the early going and dismissed nine players from the team while suspending a few others. Weis said earlier this week that, while a coaching transition always has some similarities, the task that Strong is saddled with is significantly different.

“It's always tough to follow a legend,” Weis said. “When you go to Texas, following Mack Brown, what do you do? Are you going to come in and say, here's all the things Mack Brown was doing wrong? I mean, it's kind of tough to do that. I think that Charlie is doing it his way, and I think he feels comfortable doing it his way, and I believe that he believes that that's the only way to get it done the way he wants to get it done.”

Punt

Saturday's meeting will be the 14th all-time between these two programs, with the Longhorns owning an 11-2 advantage.

UT has won 11 straight in the series, a streak that includes every match-up as Big 12 foes and KU's lone victories over UT came in 1901 and 1938.

The Jayhawks had the Longhorns on the ropes two years ago in Lawrence, but a touchdown inside the game's final 20 seconds allowed Texas to escape Lawrence with a victory. It was a cool day in Lawrence that day, but not one anyone other than the Texas football staff would consider overly cold. The Longhorns shipped in their own heated benches for that game and then proceeded to watch James Sims and the Jayhawks run all over them before sneaking out of town with the victory.

In addition to owning a clear advantage in total victories, the Longhorns' average score in games against Kansas has been 43-14, and Texas is 5-2 in games played in Lawrence.

Reply 4 comments from Jim Stauffer Dirk Medema Jmfitz85

Monday Rewind - Texas: QB Heaps shows toughness, improvement

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps bemoans a missed opportunity in the fourth quarter as he heads off the field with offensive lineman Gavin Howard after being sacked by the Texas defense during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps bemoans a missed opportunity in the fourth quarter as he heads off the field with offensive lineman Gavin Howard after being sacked by the Texas defense during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

Say what you want about Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps' season, skills and struggles as KU's quarterback. But don't question the guy's toughness.

Playing — or is it praying? — behind on offensive that has struggled to keep Heaps' uniform clean all season and given up free paths to pound town, Heaps has stood in there and taken some monster hits. More important than his ability to take them, though, has been his ability to keep getting up.

With each week and each bone-crushing hit, Heaps has taken a little longer and a little longer to get back to his feet. Never was that more evident than during last weekend's 35-13 loss to Texas in Austin, when Heaps saw some of the biggest smacks sent his way all season.

The two that come to mind first were the game-changer in which Heaps, swallowed up by a sea of Texas defenders, coughed up the football and watched UT turn the fumble into seven points, and an all-out blitz in which Texas sent one more pass rusher than KU could block and made Heaps pay for it.

“The strip-sack wasn't as bad as the one he took off the right side,” KU coach Charlie Weis said of the two hits. “Their Sam linebacker was hitting him straight in the face as he was getting ready to throw the ball. That hurt me and I was watching. I wasn't even the one taking the hit.”

Heaps admitted after the loss that he was as sore as he could remember being after a game, and who could blame him? It's surely not just the physical pain that hurts. KU's inability to block defenders — be it in the running game or pass protection — has crippled this offense throughout the season and led to as much mental and emotional pain as any of the beatings Heaps has taken.

Don't get me wrong; Heaps has struggled, too. His celebrated accuracy has taken a turn south, his lack of feel in the pocket — which I think may be a result of him hoping so badly that plays will develop that he does not get the heck out of there when he should — has led to far too many sacks and stalled drives and the offense, to which he holds the keys, has averaged just 17 points per game and scored in the teens for seven consecutive weeks.

If there's one positive sign in all of the ugliness, it's that Heaps' past two games have been two of his best. I thought he was solid in the opener, decent in the Rice game and then bad in the games that followed. But against Baylor and Texas, despite the lopsided scores, Heaps looked better.

Weis agreed.

“For the most part, when the game was under control, I thought the passing game was fairly efficient,” he said after Saturday's loss.

Heaps finished the UT game 11-of-21 for 160 yards but, for the second game in a row did not throw an interception, and also showed improving chemistry with and confidence in junior Rodriguez Coleman down the field. In his last two games, Heaps is 18-of-40 for 245 yards, one touchdown and no picks. Now, I admit that those were the types of numbers I expected to see from Heaps and Weis' offense each game, but, hey, since we have to deal in reality, those numbers do represent progress, even if that doesn't mean much.

I know KU fans aren't interested in moral victories any longer. And who could blame them? But saying that Heaps deserves some love instead of the hate or that the guy should be given credit for battling week after week, series after series despite getting battered play after play does not sound, to me, like moral-victory chatter. It sounds like the humane thing to do.

Heaps is a big part of this Kansas offense and he will continue to be for the Jayhawks' four remaining games — games, by the way, which he said KU needed to win to become bowl eligible. See. Still fighting. And instead of laughing at the guy for even bringing up the words “bowl game” during a season as woeful as this, I'd think fans would appreciate that the guy has not been knocked out yet. He's still believing, still trying to get things figured out.

Who knows if Jake will be the quarterback next season? That hardly matters right now. What does matter is that the guy is taking a beating every week all in the name of doing all he can to help KU football get out of the mud.

Maybe he's just grinding his gears. Maybe it's a crane and not a quarterback that the team needs to get out of this mess. But give the guy credit for trying. And give him an Advil or two for the pain.

Reply 13 comments from Steve Hilker Table_rock_jayhawk Kingfisher Robert Brown Erich Hartmann Keithii Joe Ross Jayhawkninja Oklahawk58 Lcjayhawk

Monday Rewind: Texas

A Kansas fan expresses the sentiments of some of those remaining following the Jayhawks' heartbreaking 21-17 loss to Texas on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

A Kansas fan expresses the sentiments of some of those remaining following the Jayhawks' heartbreaking 21-17 loss to Texas on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Saturday’s 21-17 loss to Texas may have been the Kansas University football team’s seventh straight this season and 17th consecutive Big 12 Conference defeat in the past three seasons, but it proved memorable for another reason.

As the heartbroken Jayhawks made the walk from the Memorial Stadium turf to their locker room, KU fans lined both sides of the rope walkway to show their support for the effort, as KU led the Longhorns until 12 seconds remained in the game.

The show of support might not have eliminated the sting entirely, but it meant something, especially to the guys who had been here the longest and endured losing season after losing season.

“We recognize it,” said senior safety Bradley McDougald. “And we appreciate it.”

It was not just the support after the game that McDougald said meant something. He said the loud and proud Memorial Stadium crowd of more than 40,000 motivated and inspired the Jayhawks while on the field.

“It was the fourth quarter, we went back out there and you could just feel the excitement in the air, everybody was on their feet just ready to go,” McDougald recalled. “But the thing that stuck out to me was I looked over to the student section and there was a sign that said, “We Still Believe.” Even though we’ve been through our ups and downs, I know there’s still 5-10 percent of our fans that truly believe through thick and thin and those die-hard fans are the guys we play for.”

At 1-7 overall and 0-5 in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks now are officially eliminated from bowl contention, though nobody really thought such talk would come into play this season anyway.

Still, it bears mention because it demonstrates what these guys are playing for. Week after week, as the Jayhawks line up as double-digit underdogs in the tough-as-nails Big 12 Conference, there are no title implications on the line, no computer rankings to consider. Yet still, week after week, guys like McDougald and Toben Opurum and James Sims and several others lay it all on the line for themselves, their team, their school and their pride.

There are a dozen different statistics and areas of progress that point to the improvement this team is making and has made throughout the course of the 2012 season. But few of them are as important to the big picture as the fact that fans are still there.

Sure, you’ve already heard from the group that merely looks at football season as an appetizer to basketball, which begins its exhibition schedule Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse. But those fans are going to think that way year in and year out, no matter how well the football team does.

More impressive is the group that has continued to show up at Memorial Stadium on Saturdays. More than 40,000 watched KU nearly knock off Texas last weekend. A couple of weeks earlier, more than 31,000 showed up for the close call against Oklahoma State on a day that many players’ parents might not have made it out because of the weather. The best part about that one? Even after taking cover for a weather delay that lasted an hour and 19 minutes, many fans filed back in to support the Jayhawks and witness the near comeback.

From the time he arrived in town, KU coach Charlie Weis emphasized the role the fans would play in helping KU football rebuild. It’s clear, based on their support throughout a one-win season, that the die-hards heard Weis’ words loud and clear and have been happy to do their part.

Last Saturday, they almost were rewarded with a big-time upset of mighty Texas that had been 70-plus years in the making. It didn’t happen, but here’s betting what those fans saw during that one will inspire them to come back strong for KU’s home finale on Nov. 17 vs. Iowa State.

“I think the team knows, ‘Hey, we can hang with the big boys. We can beat the big boys,’” Weis said after the latest loss.

It seems the fan base now believes that, too. The win total may not improve, but, around here, getting the fans to believe is as big a step as any.

Reply 27 comments from Eastcoasthawk Kgphoto Lucas Town Kuhawkhead Micky Baker Hawkdds Oklahawk58 Phil Leister Focojayhawk Topekahawk and 9 others

Three & Out with Texas…

• Kansas Jayhawks (1-6 overall, 0-4 Big 12) vs. Texas Longhorns (5-2 overall, 2-2 Big 12) •
— 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan. —

Opening Las Vegas Line: UT -23
Current Las Vegas Line: UT -21
Television: FSN

Three and out, with Texas...

First down
Like many Big 12 coaches this season, one of UT coach Mack Brown’s biggest challenges as he prepares to face a KU squad that has lost 16 straight conference games is the idea of making sure his players take the Jayhawks seriously.

Brown said a couple of KU’s recent efforts should help in that area.

“(Our players) saw how Oklahoma State moved the ball against us and they didn't against (Kansas),” Brown said. “They know that TCU scored 53 points this weekend against Texas Tech and they scored 20 in Lawrence. So they’re not stupid. They can see. And I watched video late (Sunday) night, all (Monday) morning, and it’s a different Kansas team at home than it is on the road, and one that will play very well with a bunch of older kids.”

While Brown believes that the couple of strong performances the Jayhawks have had against Big 12 foes this season will be enough to get his team’s attention, he’s hoping that something else that took place in the past will as well.

“Needless to say, the last time we played at 11 a.m. we didn't play well at all,” said Brown, referencing UT’s 63-21 loss to Oklahoma in Dallas on Oct. 13. “I think we really have our hands full. To win on the road you've got to stop the run. You've got to run the ball. And you've got to play great in the kicking game, and those are things that we will have to do better this weekend.”

Second down
Monday morning on the Big 12 teleconference, Brown talked about how the Longhorns (5-2, 2-2) are still in the process of starting over and have been saddled with having to play a bunch of young guys while trying to get back to their traditional UT ways.

One of the toughest parts of that, Brown said, was convincing these inexperienced players that simply showing up with Texas written across the front of their jerseys wasn’t gonna cut it.

“We’re not good enough right now to beat anybody unless we’re playing with intensity and playing at our highest level,” Brown said.

Most of UT’s games this season have proven that. In wins over Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and Baylor, the Longhorns’ offense averaged 54 points per game and looked nearly unstoppable. As for the defense, UT has long been known to have a defense that produces big-time NFL players. And while that’s certainly still the case this year — DE/OLB Jackson Jeffcoat (injured), DE Alex Okafor, CB Carrington Byndom and SS Kenny Vaccaro all are slated as first- or second-round picks in mock drafts — the Longhorns have had their share of trouble defensively so far this season.

In their two losses, WVU and OU averaged 569 yards of total offense and rumbled for 343 (OU) and 192 (WV) yards on the ground. For the season, the Texas defense is giving up an average of 216 rushing yards per game.

Although such news is surely music to KU coach Charlie Weis’ ears considering the fact that his squad’s biggest strength has been running the football, Weis cautioned against reading too much into UT’s defensive “struggles.”

“You have to look at who they’re giving up those bunch of points and yards to,” Weis said. “This league has got a lot of offensive firepower. Three of those teams we are talking about, giving up those points to Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, those teams score a lot of points every week. I think Texas has a lot of good football players who are capable of playing very good defense. I think sometimes you go up against some of these offenses and they spread you out and make plays all over the field. It’s a nightmare for defensive coordinators and defenses.”

Third down
Unlike last week, when Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops barely even mentioned the fact that the Sooners were or at least should have been preparing for KU to play two quarterbacks, Brown addressed the issue early on this week.

“You start looking at them — Crist is a thrower, and he's a guy that Charlie had in the system at Notre Dame,” Brown said. “He recruited him, and he knows his offense very well. And they've struggled some offensively. And what Charlie did, he brought in Michael Cummings, who is a red-shirt freshman from Killeen, and he's running the ball so much better. So they're actually running some option and quarterback runs. So defensively, as tough as it's been for us. (We've) got to try to figure out now which offense (we’re) going to see, because we'll probably see both during the ballgame.”

Brown also made mention of the fact that current UT wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt actually recruited Cummings when Wyatt was on Turner Gill’s staff at Kansas.

Punt
Texas leads the all-time series between these two schools, 9-2. The Longhorns have won nine straight in the series, including all eight meetings since KU and UT became members of the Big 12.

KU’s last victory against the Longhorns came in 1938, when the Jayhawks picked up a 19-18 victory in Lawrence. KU’s two wins in the series both came in Lawrence, including a 12-0 victory in the first ever meeting between the two in 1901.

Last season, KU traveled to Austin, Texas, and lost 43-0. In that one, KU did not register a positive number in total offense until the final drive of the game. That drive also saw the Jayahwks’ offense cross midfield for the first time in the game.

One of the most memorable KU-UT games, of course, came in 2004, when former KU coach Mark Mangino unleashed a postgame rant that remains talked about to this day.

What inspired it? KU owned a 23-20 lead and had possession of the ball, needing one first down to run out the clock and nail down the upset of the sixth-ranked Longhorns. It looked as if the Jayhawks got that first down when Charles Gordon made a tough catch on an out pattern near midfield. However, referee Freeman Johns flagged Gordon for offensive pass interference, the Jayhawks punted and Texas and QB Vince Young scored a touchdown with 11 seconds left to win 27-23.

"You know what this is all about, don't you?" Mangino asked reporters at the time. "That’s right BCS. That's what made a difference today in the game. That's what made a difference in the call in front of their bench. Dollar signs."

Mangino later issued an apology but still drew a $5,000 fine from the Big 12 Conference office. Texas went on finish the season 11-1 and defeated Michigan, 38-37, in the Rose Bowl, a BCS game, as an at-large selection. Had UT lost to Kansas during that Nov. 20 game, it most likely would not have played in the Rose Bowl.

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