I sure hope Kansas University secondary coach Pat Henderson's wife gave him a big hug when he walked into the house on Saturday evening.
Henderson needed it.
A former KU linebacker who was thrilled to be able to return to his alma mater when Mark Mangino became head coach, Henderson watched helplessly as Texas A&M; riddled the Jayhawks' pass defense.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Henderson said after the Aggies passed for a school-record 428 yards in Saturday's 47-22 victory.
Frustrating. That's euphemistic coach-speak for utter despair.
Particularly woeful were starting cornerbacks Donnie Amadi and Remuise Johnson. In the first half, it looked like Amadi had a bulls-eye on his back as often as A&M; quarterback Dustin Long was shooting footballs at him. Later, Long began picking on Johnson, who, ironically, has six interceptions this season, including one on Saturday.
"That's part of the frustration," Henderson said. "Consistency is a big word for us out there."
You can teach and teach and teach, but ultimately the pupils have to go out and perform.
"It's a two-edged sword," Henderson said. "It's my responsibility to get them ready to play, but it's their responsibility to go out and do it."
Much of the time Amadi, Johnson et al. looked like they were in Roller Derby, skating all over the place and usually trailing the pack. And the Aggie quarterbacks Â particularly Long, who threw for 399 yards Â passed over and around them like they were statues.
In fairness, it must be pointed out the Jayhawks' secondary is inexperienced and in a state of flux.
Amadi is a red-shirt freshman and Johnson a first-year juco transfer. Both are playing at the major-college level for the first time. Then there are the safeties. Sophomore Johnny McCoy started the first seven games at free safety, but opened at strong safety on Saturday with junior Zach Dyer, a quarterback until three weeks ago, starting at free safety.
So while they may have looked like the Four Pieces of Toast on Saturday, it's logical to assume they will only get better. They can't be any worse, can they?
"I'm not going to use talent as a cop-out," Henderson said. "We've just been fighting for consistency and haven't gotten it done. The real test is how you react when things go bad, and we haven't done a good job of that."
After eight games, it would appear Mangino and Henderson have the secondary they want, or at least the best secondary they could hope to have with the bodies they inherited from the previous regime.
"We've exhausted all the personnel we have on the ball club," Mangino said. "We just need to get better at it."
Boy, do they. No doubt the remaining foes on KU's schedule Â Missouri, Kansas State, Nebraska and Oklahoma State Â will go to school on how easy it was to pass against the Jayhawks. If Texas A&M;, a team supposedly so-so on offense, can turn into a NFL-like team against Kansas, who can't?
Then again, the Jayhawks haven't been so hot against the run, either. Maybe it just a case of foes picking which Kansas candy they want to eat Â the run or the pass. After all, the Jayhawks haven't really stopped a Division I-A offense yet.
"What we have is what we have," Mangino said, "and we have to make it better."
Mangino didn't say when. Clearly, it won't be this year. Hopefully, it will be next year.
To his credit, Mangino continues to point out the positives, as small and inconsequential as they may be. Still, he has been around coaching long enough to know you can't make chicken salad out of chicken feathers.
In the meantime, KU's defense needn't bother to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. It won't scare anybody.