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Keegan: Huskers won this one on lines

November 9, 2008

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2008 KU-Nebraska football
Spodcasters

Spodcasters Postgame: Nebraska

The guys (Tom Keegan, Jesse Newell) tie up loose ends following the Jayhawks' 45-35 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. The two discuss KU's disappointing play Saturday on the offensive and defensive lines and also wonder what changes are next with the Jayhawks' secondary. The two also discuss whether fans should be clamoring for defensive coordinator Clint Bowen's job.

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— Slammed to the ground for the second consecutive play, Kansas University quarterback Todd Reesing was pulled up by a teammate and slowly made his way off the field for the final time Saturday.

He tried to run to the sideline, but his body wouldn't cooperate, so he hobbled, a beaten man, roughed up from start to finish, still clever enough to make a game of it, but in the end, beaten by a better team.

The quarterback is the one who shows the bruises, but when that happens, it generally means the real beating took place in front of him.

Such was the case on another cold and gray day in Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, where Nebraska won, 45-35, by controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides and surviving its tendency to spit up the football.

Afterward, first-year Nebraska coach Bo Pelini marveled at Reesing's toughness and talent.

"I was taken aback by his size," Pelini said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he has a huge heart. He's a playmaker, and the whole offense runs through him. He's a heck of a football player. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him."

Pelini is right about Reesing being a playmaker, and he's not the only big-time Big 12 offensive player on the Kansas roster. Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe (176 receiving yards), Kerry Meier and Jake Sharp all fit the description. All four players scored a touchdown, and so did Dexton Fields.

None of the five touchdowns came as the result of Kansas linemen blowing Nebraska's defenders off the ball. The touchdowns came as a result of clever play-calling, nifty footwork and flat-out speed. Finesse, yes. Physical domination, no.

The basic difference Saturday boiled down to one quarterback, Nebraska's Joe Ganz, having the time to wait comfortably for a play to unfold in front of him and the executing it, and the other quarterback having to make do with what little time he was given.

Too often, that has been the story in the year after Kansas won the Orange Bowl and finished with a 12-1 record. Mix in a secondary that is seldom at full strength and mighty shaky even when it is, and the result is a team that needs to pull off a major upset in one of its remaining two games (Texas, Missouri) to finish better than 6-6.

Nebraska's front four hasn't been able to bring consistent pressure this season, but had its way Saturday, sacking Reesing five times.

"We thought we could get after him up front," Pelini said. "They got after him and made him uncomfortable from start to finish."

The physical advantage was as obvious when Nebraska had the ball.

"They played awesome, awesome, awesome," Ganz said of his offensive line. "I'm going to have to take those guys out to dinner tomorrow night if my dad gives me the credit card tonight."

That will be a big bill. Nebraska has linemen with healthy appetites. Kansas needs more of those, but it's the toughest area for a program to upgrade its recruiting because unlike in the case of skill positions, instant playing time generally isn't realistic, so the recruits opt to build their big bodies and wait their turns at traditional powerhouses.

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