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Archive for Sunday, November 7, 1993

ONE PLAY

November 7, 1993

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Here it was the third quarter and the droves were still parked. Then came the fourth quarter and still nobody was leaving.

Was this a Kansas-Nebraska football game?

People were actually coming INTO Memorial Stadium in the fourth quarter. Many had been sitting on Campanile Hill watching in awe and disbelief. Others may have been listening on the radio and had hurried to the stadium.

If Kansas was going to defeat Nebraska for the first time in 25 years, they wanted to be able to say they were there when it happened.

Well, it didn't happen, of course.

Yet the estimated 47,500 fans who bought a ticket, and the late arrivals, witnessed a classic -- a game decided on one play, a two-point conversion attempt.

One play. Nothing subtle. Nothing metaphysical. Make it and you win. Don't make it and you lose.

If you're the head coach and you make it, they carry you off the field. If you're the head coach and you don't, they second-guess you.

Should Glen Mason have given the ball to tailback June Henley instead of opting for a rollout pass by quarterback Asheiki Preston?

After all, Henley had almost single-handedly carried the Jayhawks on their 11th-hour touchdown drive. He had lugged the ball a body-punishing 13 times for 56 yards. Yet when the Jayhawks lined up for the two-point conversion, Henley wasn't even on the field.

Should he have been out there as a decoy? Perhaps. But the die was cast, Mason said. The decision had been made last Tuesday when the game plan was finalized.

As far as I'm concerned, Mason had to call a pass in that situation.

"If I would have run the ball and got stopped," Mason said afterward, "I would have been booed."

He's right. He would have.

What were the odds Henley would have made those three yards? Not that good, really. Of the 13 times he had carried the ball in the TD march, seven were for four or more yards and six were for three yards or less.

No one booed after Preston's pass for two was broken up by Nebraska defensive back Barron Miles.

Would Mason have been booed if he had opted for a conventional one-point conversion and an almost certain 21-21 deadlock? Hard-telling.

K-State's Bill Snyder went for the tie against Colorado a couple of weeks ago. But that's Snyder. Mason considers ties something to give fathers for Christmas.

"I think I would have gone for two if all we needed was a tie for the Big Eight championship," the KU coach said.

Saturday's game was Mason's 66th at Kansas and 65 of them have had a winner or loser. The lone deadlock was a 34-34 non-decision at Iowa State in 1990. ISU coach Jim Walden went for the stalemate in that one, sending Jeff Shudak out to kick a 53-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining.

If Mason could turn back the clock and have Saturday's two-point conversion attempt to call all over again I'm convinced he wouldn't have wavered. He would have called the same rollout pass again.

If the pass were completed, the call would have classified as a brilliant decision, a masterpiece of coaching wisdom. Glen Mason would have been a genius.

But it didn't, so he isn't. That's football. That's life.

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