LINCOLN, NEB. Reggie Duncan enjoyed a good game for Kansas University against a national championship-caliber team Saturday, but he wasn't about to gloat.
Even the Nebraska crowd that cheered the Jayhawks as they retreated to their locker room, saluting them for showing up and competing, offered little solace to Duncan and his teammates.
Truth is, there was very little to write home about for the Jayhawks in their 56-17 loss to Nebraska.
"They had a real good defense," Duncan said after rushing 11 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. "The only thing I can see is that we never did quit. We have to keep our heads up."
Duncan has had to be heads-up lately with the rash of injuries that has hit Kansas' backfield. He has seen his playing time increase dramatically the last couple of weeks because of the absence of fullback Moran Norris, who missed his second consecutive game because of a sprained ankle.
Norris dressed and participated in pregame drills, but Kansas coach Terry Allen would not allow him to risk further damage, even though a contribution from the bulky back arguably could have been a major spark to an offense that gained just 133 yards rushing on 29 attempts.
"Moran couldn't play," Allen said. "As much as he wanted to, and as much as he tried, he just couldn't."
Fleet-footed senior David Winbush was left to take the majority of the handoffs. That is, until an ankle sprain sidelined him after six carries for minus-five yards. The injury was not serious, and he is expected to recover in time for next week's home finale against Texas.
That was about the lone positive for Kansas none of the injuries should inhibit anyone from playing next week.
Quarterback Dylen Smith completed 14 of 29 passes for 129 yards before he was replaced early in the fourth quarter after a clean hit. Smith was blindsided on a tackle, and a few plays later Allen decided that enough was enough, so Zach Dyer entered.
At halftime, Kansas had just 99 yards of total offense, but Smith improved and hit several nice passes before he exited. Harrison Hill was his favorite target with six catches for 63 yards. Kansas finished with 266 yards of total offense.
"They came after us," Smith said.
Duncan wasn't fooled by the second-half surge. A lot of it came against Nebraska's backups, and the final score said it all.
"What we got was an old-fashioned butt kicking," Duncan said.
With the game's outcome certain, Allen was asked why he would leave Smith in for so long with such a big game coming up Saturday. Allen thought there was no other choice because of Kansas' struggles. If nothing else, Smith at least gave Kansas the ability to sustain drives and chew up the clock so Kansas could get out of Lincoln quicker.
"We didn't want to give the ball back to them," Allen said, "because we couldn't stop them."