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Monday Rewind: Kansas State

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Kansas receiver Daymond Patterson loses hold of a catch before Kansas State defensive back Allen Chapman during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.

Kansas receiver Daymond Patterson loses hold of a catch before Kansas State defensive back Allen Chapman during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan. by Nick Krug

For KU fans, perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects of Saturday’s 56-16 loss to Kansas State — other than the final score and the third quarter, of course — was the fact that the Kansas University football team let a golden opportunity slip through its fingers.

Down 21-14 at the half with most of the momentum on their side and the home crowd booing the Wildcats as they went to the locker room, the Jayhawks looked as if they were poised to hang tough with the No. 7 ranked team in the country to the end.

Think about that. I mean really think about it. Just months removed from some of the most embarrassing defeats in school history, KU was right there with one of the top teams in the country.

Had they stayed there, it could have and likely would have changed the way these guys felt about themselves for the rest of the season. Imagine if the Jayhawks had turned in a second half that looked a lot like the first half and lost 35-24. People would be talking. Sure, the national folks would have brushed it off and it would have registered more as a “What happened to K-State” question than a “How about those Jayhawks” statement.

But inside the program and among KU fans, such a result would have been encouraging. There’s no reason to think that getting to that point wasn’t encouraging in itself.

I know KU coach Charlie Weis said he would rather get drubbed by 100 trying to win than gameplanning to stay close. But the way things unfolded last Saturday, no one would have accused Weis of being too conservative had the Jayhawks hung in there in the second half and lost by 10-14 points.

They didn’t, of course, and the final score and the feelings that followed resembled those we’ve seen in recent years with this rivalry. It’s too bad, too. Because other than the final score, this game was nothing like the blowout losses we saw the past couple of seasons.

In those games, the Jayhawks looked lost, made tons of bonehead mistakes and never seemed to actually be in the game. Saturday, KU committed just two penalties (by the way, they’re the third least penalized team in the country through six weeks), made plenty of mistakes but mostly mistakes of effort and had the ball down just 12 points with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

To me, that’s progress.

Don’t confuse the word progress with achievement. Nobody is saying KU has accomplished anything yet. Not I, not Weis, not the players, nobody. But I think it’s OK to say they’re making progress. Especially when it’s true.

I have to admit I’ve been a little surprised by the outrage shown by a good chunk of KU’s fan base so far this season. I’m not sure if people actually expected this thing to turn around overnight or if they just have gotten so used to complaining about KU football that it’s the only thing that seems right these days.

Either way, I think it’s too bad. Because even though the signs of progress — better effort, fewer penalties, more competitive play, a coach who works hard and cares — haven’t made a difference on the scoreboard, they are there. And, overall, Weis seems pretty pleased with that. Pleased, mind you. Not satisfied.

The first step, he said, was getting to the point where he didn’t have to wonder if his guys were going to play hard for 60 minutes. They’re there.

The next step, he said, was getting to the point where the outcome of each game was still in doubt at the half. They’re there.

I’m guessing the next step will be consistently having a chance at the end of the game and then, from there, winning.

Whether Weis’ Jayhawks get to those the next few steps this season remains to be seen and certainly seems unlikely considering Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and the rest of the Big 12 are still on the schedule.

But the tide is slowly turning and I think it’s fair to say that this is not the same old Jayhawks.

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