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Monday Rewind: Nebraska
Here’s a question that’s been on my mind since the fourth quarter of KU’s 20-3 loss to Nebraska last Saturday: Did the Jayhawks play well in that one?
My answer is yes.
Maybe this is just a sign that I tend to prefer defense to offense, that I value dishing out a big hit over receiving one and that I pay too much attention to the Las Vegas point spreads (NU was favored by 35 points) to make an accurate read.
Or maybe I’m just crazy.
Let’s look at a few facts. Offensively, the Jayhawks only were able to gain 87 yards, five first downs and three points. What’s more, they completed just three passes and never, I repeat NEVER, took a snap in the Nebraska red zone.
Furthermore, the defense gave up nearly 400 yards of offense, including 230 yards on the ground, and allowed NU to jump out to a 14-0 halftime lead that Kansas never could recover from.
Having said all that, how, then, could someone — in this case me — possibly say the Jayhawks played well? Heck, how could anyone even say they played OK or decent or not bad or... you get the point.
Allow me to explain my insanity.
Although Turner Gill’s club has showed drastic improvement in the past three weeks — losing 28-16 at Iowa State, beating Colorado 52-45 at home and falling, 20-3, at No. 9 Nebraska — the memories of the epic beatings this team suffered in the weeks before those games still are so fresh in my mind.
I remember nearly every play of the 55-7 beatdown at Baylor. I can recall, in detail, the carnage that unfolded in the second and third quarters of a 59-7 loss to K-State. Beyond that, I can see vividly all of the silly mistakes, stupid penalties and inexcusable confusion that the Jayhawks delivered for most of the first six or seven weeks of the season.
And that brings me to my point: We’re not seeing that anymore.
KU might not have ever really been in that game in Lincoln, last weekend. But they weren’t really ever out of it either. And, to me, for this team, that’s a major step in the right direction.
During that entire game, all 2 hours and 37 minutes of it, the Jayhawks committed just one penalty and had just one turnover. (Nebraska was flagged for six penalties and turned it over twice). When you’re playing a ranked team on the road, there’s one sure-fire way to make things turn nasty in a hurry and that’s to beat yourself. The Jayhawks didn’t do that last Saturday and, for that, they should be commended.
What that tells me is that they were prepared and focused and that they played inspired, determined football. Was it good enough to win? Nope. Not even close. But that’s because Nebraska was the more talented team. NU has better, faster and stronger players at most positions. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes in this game. And, 99 times out of 100, that team with better talent is going to win.
Someday, the Jayhawks may have better talent. Through recruiting and continued hard work they may get bigger, faster, stronger, better, and that might allow them to beat teams like Nebraska.
But for this team, with the talent it has and the new system it’s trying to run, Saturday’s effort was a stellar performance. At least that was the view from my seat.