LAS VEGAS, NEV. Add Kansas University's football team to the endless list of Las Vegas losers. Still, like everyone else who leaves Vegas after dropping a bundle, it is not only mandatory but socially acceptable to rationalize.
So in the wake of Saturday night's 31-20 loss to Nevada-Las Vegas, there is this
The Jayhawks scored two touchdowns.
Hey, it's something.
Sure, the TDs were hardly the equivalent of breaking the bank at Mandalay Bay, but the six-pointers were like winning some pocket change at the nickel slots.
Two games. Two touchdowns. Not great, of course, but following last week's 45-3 loss at Iowa State, the Jayhawks will take whatever they can get. For the record, the TDs weren't flukes. They were the culmination of 80- and 93-yard drives.
Why did the Jayhawks mount two beautiful drives and stumble and bumble most of the rest of the time? If I could answer that, I'd be camping at the roulette wheel and trying to decide whether to buy a Lexus or a Mercedes after the spin.
Another question I can't answer is why the Jayhawks' offense was so impotent in the first and third quarters. KU compiled minus-nine yards in the first quarter and only 10 yards in the third quarter.
That third-quarter swoon may have been the turning point because Kansas had an opportunity to take control at the outset of the second half. The Jayhawks had cut the Rebels' 14-0 lead to 14-10 just before intermission and, thanks to winning the coin flip and deferring, received the second-half kickoff.
And the Jayhawks shot craps.
How can you explain KU generating one yard combined in the first and third quarters and 293 combined in the second and fourth quarters? Strange. Very strange.
But again, you have to rationalize and the 294 yards were almost double the 150 Kansas managed at Iowa State last week.
KU fans had to be heartened, too, by the performance of Bill Whittemore in his first start. The 6-foot, 195-pound transfer from Fort Scott Community College showed the "spark" coach Mark Mangino had talked about when he picked Whittemore to start over veteran Zach Dyer.
Whittemore accounted for 228 of KU's 294 yards while showing both running and passing acumen. He passed for 225 yards without an interception. Whittemore was credited with only three rushing yards, but four sacks make that number deceptive. He ran for the first TD, and threw for the second with only 45 seconds remaining.
Bottom line is the Jayhawks showed some hope of improvement with Whittemore at the controls. After last week's loss in Ames, the Jayhawks' offense appeared hopeless.
Then there's the defense. It has surrendered nearly 1,000 yards and 76 points in two games. Worse, perhaps, the defense has forced only one turnover an interception by cornerback Remuise Johnson last week.
Now that Mangino has found a spark on offense, he can devote his attention to finding one for the defense prior to Saturday's home opener against Southwest Missouri State.
In assessing the Jayhawks before Saturday's game, the beat writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal penned that the Rebels needed to win because "Kansas is oh so bad."
Kansas WAS oh so bad at Iowa State, but the Jayhawks weren't bad against the Rebels.
Heck, Kansas even beat the two-touchdown spread. And what better place to beat the spread than in Las Vegas?