An ambush could be lying in wait for Kansas University's football team when it travels to Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday for its regular-season finale with Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys (3-7 overall and 2-4 in the Big Eight) struggled through the early season. Then they threw a scare into Kansas State and Colorado and, on Saturday, hung a 12-0 loss on in-state rival Oklahoma -- in Norman, no less, for OSU's first victory in the Bedlam Series since 1976.
"We have short-term goals," OSU coach Bob Simmons said Monday on the Big Eight coaches' teleconference. "One of our goals coming in was to upset three of our last three or two of three. We came close to Colorado. Now we've got Kansas coming up."
Though the 'Pokes have no chance to qualify for a postseason bowl, they still have the chance to ruin KU's holiday hopes. No. 15 Kansas, at 8-2 and 4-2, has qualified for a bowl, but there's no guarantee the Jayhawks will land a bowl bid if they lose their season finale.
And they're catching the Cowboys on a roll. Kickoff is 2 p.m. Saturday at Lewis Field.
"You look at the second half of the season, they're playing better," KU coach Glen Mason said. "They're a team you'd rather play early in the season than at the end. To win in Norman has to catch everybody's eye."
Kansas, no doubt, caught a few eyes by playing close with top-ranked and undefeated Nebraska for a half on Saturday. The Huskers, who cliched at least a tie for their fifth consecutive Big Eight title in the final year of the league, turned a 14-3 halftime edge into a 41-3 rout.
"I don't know how anybody could think 41-3 is a moral victory," Mason said. "We thought we had a good game plan offensively and defensively."
NU coach Tom Osborne agreed.
"I think, No. 1, Kansas has a very good football team," Osborne said. "The score wasn't indicative of the competition. I thought they played with a lot of intensity. In the second half, we played well. In the first half, we were in some trouble, even though we were ahead."
The 'Pokes were in some trouble of their own until the victory over OU. OSU is guaranteed its seventh straight losing season, but the Bedlam victory eased some of the Cowboys' anguish.
"The win over Oklahoma this past Saturday is really monumental to this program," Simmons said. "It means a lot to the alumni. ... It really shows the improvement we made this season."
OU, meanwhile, is a team on decline. At 5-4 and 2-4, the Sooners need a victory over Nebraska on Nov. 24 to qualify for a bowl. The Sooners are assured a losing record in the Big Eight for the first time since 1966.
First-year coach Howard Schnellenberger has incurred the wrath of the Sooner Nation -- the same constituency to which he promised a run at the national title.
"I have to take the brunt of the thing," Schnellenberger said. "That's my job to coach guys to be error-free and not to have an abnormal amount of penalties. I think some of it has to do with lack of confidence or lack of attention to detail. It all goes back to the head coach and his assistants."