Archive for Thursday, August 29, 2002

KU won thriller in 1992

Twenty-six point rally stunned Cyclones

August 29, 2002


Do you believe in miracles? You do if you were in Ames, Iowa, 10 years ago for the Kansas-Iowa State football game.

To this day, I'm still not sure how Kansas won that game. Or as KU coach Glen Mason said afterward: "I still don't believe it. It was the damnedest thing I've ever seen."

To describe the Jayhawks' astonishing comeback the greatest in the school's 100 years-plus history any other way is a waste of adjectives and adverbs in pursuit of hyperbole.

Kansas was favored yeah, I know it's hard to believe a KU team was favored to win on the road and when the Jayhawks grabbed a 21-7 edge in the first quarter, it appeared we would see what we thought we'd see.

Then the Cyclones scored the next 40 points. That's right. Forty. Four. Zero. Late in the third quarter, Iowa State led, 47-21. This one was over. No KU team had ever rallied from a 26-point deficit.

When quarterback Chip Hilleary rambled 17 yards for a touchdown to climax an 80-yard drive with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter, few expected the dam was about to burst.

Early in the fourth quarter, Kansas mounted another 80-yard drive capped by Hilleary's 30-yard TD pass to tight end Dwayne Chandler. Then strong safety Hassan Bailey forced an ISU fumble and Hilleary tossed a 12-yard TD pass to Matt Gay with 6:28 remaining.

Whoa. Momentum had shifted. The Jayhawks were on a roll and the Cyclones were walking on eggshells. KU had scored 21 straight points, but still trailed by five. Iowa State was clinging to a 47-42 advantage with plenty of time remaining.

Not that the Jayhawks would need much of it. To be exact, 21 seconds.

On the Cyclones' first play after the kickoff, quarterback Bob Utter was spilled by KU cornerback Gerald McBurrows and the ball hit the ground. But was it a fumble? For all intents and purposes, it appeared the ball had squirted out after Utter hit the deck.

Thus practically everyone on both teams stopped, including free safety Clint Bowen, now the Jayhawks' running backs coach.

"I was easily the first guy there," Bowen recalled the other day. "I heard the whistle and thought the play was blown dead. I looked at the ball and I didn't even think of picking it up."

One KU player did pick the ball up, however. Linebacker Larry Thiel scooped it up and rumbled 37 yards into the end zone with just about every player on both teams watching him go, thinking the ball had been blown dead and would be brought back.

It wasn't. The officials signaled a touchdown and the Cyclones were shocked. The Jayhawks? Well, hey, you don't look a gift zebra in the mouth.

Funny that in the first half Iowa State had scored a touchdown on one of those fumblerooski plays since outlawed where the quarterback puts the ball on the ground and an offensive lineman picks it up and lugs it into the end zone, making the defense look like a bunch of goofs.

"They were laughing at us after that fumblerooski," Bowen said. "That's how bad it was."

Ah, but he who laughs last laughs best and after Thiel's TD gallop, Maurice Douglas bolted over for a two-point conversion with 6:07 remaining to give KU a 50-47.

Hard to believe, but nothing happened in those last six minutes. The stupefied Cyclones ran three plays and punted. Then the Jayhawks ran the last four minutes off the clock.

Kansas 50, Iowa State 47.

"That game was crazy," Bowen said, shaking his head. "I can still remember Thiel thanking me for not picking that ball up."

Bowen, a junior filling in for free safety Kwamie Lassiter who was injured early in the game, led the Jayhawks with a dozen tackles that day, but it was not an outing the defensive players wanted to remember not after the Cyclones compiled 516 yards of offense.

That 1992 Kansas team, which later dumped BYU, 23-20, in the Aloha Bowl, featured such future NFL defenders as Gilbert Brown, Don Davis, Dana Stubblefield, Chris Maumalanga, Lassiter and McBurrows. Maumalanga is the only one who isn't active in the NFL today.

As Mason left his postgame news conference late that amazing afternoon, he looked back, smiled and quipped: "Oh, and one thing I didn't mention. We were damn lucky, too."

If you're going to be anything in a game as wacky as that one, lucky has to be the first choice.

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