Tampa Quarterback Todd Reesing didn't lose the game Friday night for Kansas University. Instead, he almost won it, amid a swarming rush, without any running game to speak of and with very little help from a defense exposed from front to back.
That's the only reasonable way to look at Reesing's night, which ended with an interception that led to the game-winning field goal for the University of South Florida, 37-34 victors in a game that gave a national television audience a month's worth of thrills.
"There are issues we need to deal with, and one of them is not Todd," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said of the quarterback who rallied his team to a tie from a two-touchdown deficit.
The most troubling issue involved a defense that enabled South Florida to reel off 31 consecutive points.
From the second quarter on, quarterback Matt Grothe shredded a KU defense that had not given up a touchdown in the first two weeks of the season. Grothe threw for 338 yards, including 204 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
Grothe, who got off to a slow start in the accuracy department, found his mark in the second quarter and was on the money the rest of the night. He is a mobile quarterback, but for most of the night he didn't have a chance to show that.
As the game wore on, KU's defensive line had the look of a heavyweight boxer trying to hang on until the final bell but wobbling because of all those shots to the body. It looked at once young and tired.
"We have to be able to get to the quarterback with the four-man rush," Mangino said. "We're not doing that. We're not getting there. When we have to bring five or six, that means we have to man up in some situations. And we really don't want to man up with a couple of younger kids in the secondary. They're not ready for that. We have to be able to put some pressure on the quarterback with four guys."
The defensive tackles are big, but young. Their bodies haven't matured to the point they will when they're seniors, and neither has their know-how. The ends lack size.
The secondary play against South Florida's fleet receivers wasn't much better.
"One of the things I did not like about our defense is, I thought we weren't aggressive in the secondary, playing the ball at its highest point," Mangino said. "We played cautious and let them catch the ball and then tackled them. You can't do that. You've got to contest the ball. We did not contest the ball as well as we normally do. We'll find out why, and we'll do what we have to do."
The issues with the secondary appear more correctable than the shortcomings of the D-line, a little shy on talent on the outside and short on experience on the inside.
It didn't help that the defense had to spend so much time on the field in the third quarter. A more balanced offense - Kansas averaged 2.9 yards per carry and rushed for just 61 yards - would have benefited KU's defense.
For all the warts that were exposed, one reality bodes well for Kansas. Even when the Jayhawks get knocked down, Reesing's relentless aggressiveness and confidence will make them awfully tough to knock out.