Posts tagged with Oklahoma

The Day After: Almost at Oklahoma

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) guards Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) at the basket during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) guards Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) at the basket during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. by Mike Yoder

Whether you want to talk about the defensive breakdown in the final seconds or the fact that a short-handed KU team nearly walked out of Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday with a surprising victory, the so-called meaningless final game of the regular season gave us plenty of material.

The Jayhawks clearly are and should be proud of the effort they put forth without Perry Ellis (knee), Cliff Alexander (eligibility) and Brannen Greene (suspension), three regular rotation guys who missed the game. But one of the best signs for this up-and-down KU team was that no one walked out of there feeling too good about the moral victory.

Landen Lucas and Frank Mason, who both played fantastic games, focused on the bottom line — a loss — and Bill Self said he was pleased with the team's effort but not as pleased with its execution.

In many ways, that's a best case scenario right now. Had KU won, some of those execution breakdowns might have been easier to overlook or, at the very least, might not have had the same impact. Instead, the Jayhawks lost and came away from the game hellbent on tightening those areas up instead of feeling too good about coming oh-so-close in difficult circumstances.

That's the kind of adversity that tends to pop up from here on out, and this team, at least to me, seems as focused as it's been all season.

Quick takeaway

It remains to be seen how well the Jayhawks will play this postseason, but you can't question the fact that they're ready. The past three games — two victories and one loss — have all resembled Big 12 or NCAA Tournament games, with both teams fighting and scrapping for every possession, point or advantage they could get. The two victories were at home and the Jayhawks won't have that advantage the rest of the way. But Sprint Center is close to home and their showing at Oklahoma, without three regulars, has to at least be a little encouraging when they think about playing away from Allen Fieldhouse.

Three reasons to smile

1 – You can't say enough good things about what Landen Lucas did on Saturday. He was a monster on the glass, he played tough on both ends of the floor and, seemingly out of nowhere, even gave KU an offensive presence in the post that was missing with Ellis out. Lucas' confidence and production are rising to new heights every time out, which can only help this team in the win-or-go-home weeks ahead. Lucas played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss to OU and showed, as long as he continues to play like that, that he can give productive minutes not just fill in as a stop-gap option.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a 2nd-half rebound during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Norman.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a 2nd-half rebound during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Norman. by Mike Yoder

2 – KU's offensive rebounding was insane... at least early. The Jayhawks grabbed 16 offensive boards total in this one and had 14 of them by late in the first half. Landen Lucas grabbed six offensive boards by himself and Kelly Oubre (3) and Hunter Mickelson (2) also chipped in to give KU multiple extra possessions. OU coach Lon Kruger tweaked his rebounding match-ups in the second half, which emphasized big guys blocking out instead of helping on the drives of KU's guards, and that kept Kansas from adding to its total. Still, had the Jayhawks not done that kind of work on the glass, they probably would've been down double figures at halftime instead of just two.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot  attempt by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler during the Jayhawks game Saturday, March 7, 2015 against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot attempt by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler during the Jayhawks game Saturday, March 7, 2015 against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman. by Mike Yoder

3 – Even though he wound up getting the game-winning tip-in, KU's guards did a good job of making OU junior Buddy Hield work for his 18 points. Hield shot just 6-of-20 from the floor and even though Wayne Selden did next to nothing offensively, his work, in limited time, guarding Hield was very valuable. Every shot Hiled took was contested — he was 2-of-7 from three-point range — and he only got to the free throw line five times, making four. If there was an issue here, it was the fact that Hield got seven boards, one of which won the game.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Brannen Greene's last-minute suspension is a real problem. Not only did it hurt KU's chances on Saturday — Greene likely would've gotten most if not all of the 13 minutes Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk played and given his experience may have knocked down an extra shot or two that Svi missed, which could have changed the outcome — but it's also a recurring problem. Self suspended Greene for “just being irresponsible,” and every time the guy has been in trouble during his two years at KU so far, that has been the basic reason behind it.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham (4) and Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) race to a loose ball in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in Norman.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham (4) and Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) race to a loose ball in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in Norman. by Mike Yoder

2 – Those who want to will blame the ankle injury, and that's a legit excuse especially when you consider it limited him to just 18 minutes, but Wayne Selden's confidence has to be a concern right now. He missed all seven shots he took, including a pair from behind the arc, and did not score a point or grab a rebound. There are enough other options, especially when Ellis returns, for this team to overcome Selden's struggles, but one can't help but wonder what it would look like if he were clicking.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hits his 3rd free-throw in a row after being fouled on a 3-point attempt late in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hits his 3rd free-throw in a row after being fouled on a 3-point attempt late in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. by Mike Yoder

3 – It's a shame that the Jayhawks' defense on Oklahoma's final possession took away from the fantastic play call and clutch free throws by Frank Mason that tied the game. After watching the replay a few times, several guys were way too passive on that final drive by Jordan Woodard. It's a tough spot to be in because you definitely don't want to foul, but you can't allow a guy to split two defenders and get an open look either. Mykhailiuk came over to challenge the shot after Woodard got by Mason and Oubre and that left Hield all alone to crash the rim for the game-winner. The only good thing to come from the failure to get a stop was that the Jayhawks were absolutely sick about it. That might be what it takes to help get it fixed.

One for the road

KU's loss at Oklahoma in the regular season finale:

• Marked the first time in 10 years that the Jayhawks dropped three-straight regular-season conference road games. In late 2005, KU lost at Texas Tech (80-79, 2OT, 2/14/05), at Oklahoma (71-63, 2/21/05) and at Missouri (72-68, 3/6/05).

• Made Kansas 24-7 overall and 13-5 in Big 12 play, its lowest conference win total since going 13-3 in 2005-06.

• Dropped KU's all-time series lead vs. Oklahoma to 142-66, including 50-42 in Norman.

• Moved Self to 349-76 while at Kansas, 14-5 against Oklahoma (14-3 while at KU) and 556-181 overall.

• Made KU 2,150-829 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will head to Kansas City, Missouri, where they'll open play in the Big 12 tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Sprint Center as the top seed against the winner of the Wednesday game between the conference's No. 8 (Kansas State) and No. 9 (TCU) seeds.

By the Numbers: Oklahoma beats Kansas, 75-73

By the Numbers: Oklahoma beats Kansas, 75-73

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The Day After: Overcoming OU

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) holds up three fingers to celebrate his shot beyond the arc that shot high off the rim and down through the net during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) holds up three fingers to celebrate his shot beyond the arc that shot high off the rim and down through the net during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It was one of the wildest games in Allen Fieldhouse in quite some time and featured two teams fighting from start to finish that played at an incredibly high level.

In short, it was everything we love about college basketball.

Journal-World Sports Editor Tom Keegan remarked after KU's 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday night that it was really like watching three games in one, with KU dominating the first game, OU dominating the second and the Jayhawks out-slugging the Sooners down the stretch in the third act.

Given the way Kansas played in its loss in Ames, Iowa, just two nights earlier, it was not entirely unexpected to see the Jayhawks come out with great energy and a something-to-prove attitude. And, for a while, it looked as if that energy, which led to eight straight made three-pointers during the first 20 minutes, was enough to knock out the Sooners before they ever got started.

But OU regrouped at halftime and kept coming, which led to a fantastic finish and a big moment of growth for KU's young guys and the team as a whole.

Quick takeaway

Although we're all still trying to figure out so many things about this version of Kansas basketball, I think it might be time to put one thing down in pen instead of pencil — the Jayhawks are a much different team at home than they are on the road. I know that sounds obvious and is probably true with most teams, but it's as true with this team as any I can remember. KU was great in a lot of ways against Oklahoma, but the Jayhawks were at their absolute best when the crowd was fueling them and they were fueling the crowd. Had Oklahoma, which confirmed all of the things I already liked about them (mental and physical toughness, great guard play, well coached) had been able to erase that 19-point halftime deficit and walk out of there with a victory, it would've been one of the better wins in school history. Instead, KU rose a level above and the home crowd took the Jayhawks the rest of the way to a huge conference victory that may very well have re-established KU as the team to beat in the Big 12.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Kelly Oubre was clutch down the stretch. Forget the numbers or the way the points came or how much he was on the floor. The freshman was sensational down the stretch and showed glimpses of being able to become this team's go-to guy. He might not be the first option to handle the ball on the perimeter and create a jumper for himself. But if you're looking for someone to attack the rim with poise and either finish in close or get to the free throw line, Oubre looks like your guy.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls back for an attempted dunk as he attacks the basket against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls back for an attempted dunk as he attacks the basket against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – KU's energy, intensity and urgency as a whole much better from the start. That did not really surprise anyone, given that they were playing at home against a ranked team two days after a loss, but it looked natural and effective. It did not seem like a group of athletes trying to play hard to please their coach. It looked like a group of athletes playing hard because it meant something to them. That could be a good sign for the second half of the season.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) tips away a rebound as he battles with Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) tips away a rebound as he battles with Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – A lot was made about KU's ability to find a way to win close games during the non-conference season, but this took it to a completely different level. I'm not sure people can understand just how tough it is to push past a collapse like the one the Jayhawks experienced on Monday night. From up 20 and rolling to down 4 out of nowhere. Lesser teams would've folded. Teams without any mental toughness would've fallen apart. But, as Perry Ellis told me after the game, “You just have to block all that out. You can't worry about what the score was, you just worry about what the score is and keep playing.” Great attitude that paid off big time.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – During the 9-0 and 27-7 runs that Oklahoma ripped off to start the second half, KU appeared to be in total retreat mode, especially when the Sooners pushed the tempo early in the second half. It wasn't quite as bad as what Iowa State did by beating the Jayhawks down the floor over the top, but it was clear that KU's transition defense needs some work. OU got several easy buckets and a couple of and-ones simply by pushing the ball and attacking the rim. A lot of coaches have talked about employing that strategy against Kansas because they don't want to try to attack KU in the halfcourt.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) puts up a shot as he is defended by the Jayhawks during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) puts up a shot as he is defended by the Jayhawks during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – It doesn't sound like anything major, but you never want to hear about guys being injured and Self revealed after Monday's victory that Jamari Traylor has been dealing with a hip injury for about a week. Self said the extent of Traylor's injury was not really known at the start of Monday's game but it quickly became clear that it was bothering him. KU's front-court depth is pretty thin and Traylor having even a nagging injury would not be good news for the Jayhawks.

3 – Kansas made more free throws (13) in the second half than field goals (10) and missed seven foul shots in the second half. Combine that with KU's 37 percent shooting from the floor and it's no wonder that OU stormed all the way back. Of course, when it mattered most, KU delivered, which is all that anyone will remember. As Self said, it wasn't so much a case of KU playing poorly in the second half as it was OU playing great.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. reaches through for a steal against Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. reaches through for a steal against Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One for the road

The Jayhawks' 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday:

• Made Kansas 15-3 overall and 4-1 in Big 12 play.

• Improved the Jayhawks to 53-17 all-time on ESPN’s Big Monday, including 30-1 inside Allen Fieldhouse. The win was also KU’s 23rd-straight Big Monday win in Lawrence.

• Extended KU’s win streak to 14 games against Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse (dating back to the Big Eight Era, 1/10/94) and made the all-time series 142-65 in favor of the Jayhawks, including 72-16 in Lawrence and 45-7 in Allen Fieldhouse.

• Pushed Kansas’ win streak in Allen Fieldhouse to 18-straight games, which includes a 10-0 home record this season (9-0 in the Fieldhouse).

• Made KU 722-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse and 184-9 at the Jayhawks' home gym in the Bill Self era.

• Marked the first time the Jayhawks have won a game this season when trailing with less than five minutes to play in regulation.

• Improved Self to 340-72 while at Kansas, 14-4 against Oklahoma (14-2 at Kansas), 18-0 in ESPN Big Monday matchups in Lawrence and 547-177 overall.

• Made KU 2,141-825 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will head back out on the road for a tough test at Texas at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be shown on CBS.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Oklahoma, 85-78

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Oklahoma, 85-78

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The Day After: Oh no at OU

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds looks in the direction of the scoreboard while he and his teammates gather to leave the field following the Jayhawks' 44-7 loss to the Sooners on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds looks in the direction of the scoreboard while he and his teammates gather to leave the field following the Jayhawks' 44-7 loss to the Sooners on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

The Kansas University football team was drubbed on the road by Oklahoma on Saturday and it seems safe to say that very few people really saw the 44-7 beat-down coming.

For one, KU had built a little momentum of late, knocking off Iowa State in dominating fashion and nearly upsetting No. 5 TCU a week later. Thinking the Jayhawks would win in Norman was a reach, but expecting them to be competitive, give OU a tough battle and keep that momentum moving in the right direction seemed fair. Even a couple of national writers in the press box prior to the game remarked to me about how they figured KU would easily cover the 28-point spread.

They didn't. Not even close, really, as OU's superior size and ability to adjust to the inclement weather proved to be way too much for KU to handle. The offense did nothing. The defense was blown off the ball over and over as OU freshman Samaje Perine rumbled to an NCAA record and a whole mess of school records and the game was pretty much over by halftime, making the second half a mere formality.

Quick takeaway

This game was ugly. The Jayhawks never got anything going on offense, struggled even worse on defense and just looked outmanned from start to finish. Some people will want to blame Bowen for this one and he certainly deserves his share of the blame, but this was a total team collapse and the outcome won't move the needle much when looking at whether Bowen is the right guy for the KU coaching job, in much the same way that last week's near-upset of No. 5 TCU did not end with a contract landing on Bowen's desk. It's the big picture that matters here — Bowen's vision for the program, plans to execute that and ability to coach players, rally the program and recruit to Kansas. Those things are all way more important than the outcome of any one game — good or bad — and that's why Bowen remains as strong of a candidate for the job today as he was before the beating at OU. His answers to those questions, and more, during the formal interview process will determine his fate.

Rain pours down on interim head coach Clint Bowen as he watches an extra point by Oklahoma go through the uprights during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Rain pours down on interim head coach Clint Bowen as he watches an extra point by Oklahoma go through the uprights during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to smile

1 – These are tough to come by after an outing like that, but there was a play late in the game when senior Tony Pierson caught a short pass and appeared headed toward being knocked out of bounds with relative ease for a short gain. He wasn't. Pierson fought off the tackle, slipped past a couple more and turned it up the field for a first down. It was a rare highlight for the Jayhawks on Saturday and it didn't change a thing about the outcome. But it was a subtle reminder about the character and toughness of this senior class, which now has just one game left as a part of the KU football program. Expect a ton of emotion and heart like this to be on display next week in Manhattan.

Kansas wide running back Tony Pierson (3) is dragged down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas wide running back Tony Pierson (3) is dragged down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

2 – Freshman running back Corey Avery had a couple of really nice runs in this one and also caught a pass for one of KU's biggest gains of the day. It didn't matter for Saturday's game, but it definitely showed how fortunate KU is to have this guy coming back next season. Avery has been every bit as good as advertised and should only get better. It's not easy for a true freshman to handle so much of the load on a bad team, but Avery has done an admirable job and learned a lot during Year 1 of what figures to become a solid career.

3 – It's hard to know exactly what was going on because the sounds were muffled and I didn't get my own eyes or ears on the situation. But while we were conducting postgame interviews on Saturday, there was some commotion coming from what appeared to be the KU locker room. Lots of yelling, passion and even a little anger were the tone of what we heard and even though there was no way of telling whether it was KU players, coaches , both or even KU people at all who were responsible for all the noise, it was very evident that the Jayhawks were pissed about their play. That should not surprise anyone, but has to be nice for KU fans to hear, given that the tone of the postgame comments was more about moving forward and forgetting about what happened. If the sounds were from Jayhawks, it's clear that they took some time to vent before moving on.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Having an NCAA record set on you is bad enough, but having it done the way it was only makes it worse. Samaje Perine is a heck of a running back and he's got a bright future in the Big 12 and beyond. But most of the holes he ran through were enormous and I think you could conservatively say that most capable running backs in the country would've gained at least 250 yards running behind that same line and through those same holes. The record will live for a while and always be a part of NCAA history. How quickly KU can move past the mental hit of getting blown off the ball all day will determine how competitive they can be next weekend in Manhattan.

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds (55) tries to drag down Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine (32) during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas linebacker Michael Reynolds (55) tries to drag down Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine (32) during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

2 – KU's O-line play, which had taken a couple of steps forward during the past two weeks, took a major step back on Saturday. Credit OU's D-line and active front seven for a lot of that, but it was still very obvious that the KU O-line no showed. Michael Cummings had guys in his face all day long, the KU running game only had a few moments worth talking about and these guys looked vastly overmatched all day long. Their struggles severely hampered the KU offense and took three of the Jayhawks' best playmakers — receivers Nick Harwell and Nigel King and tight end Jimmay Mundine — almost completely out of the game.

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings is dragged down short of a first down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. At right is Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans (26).

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings is dragged down short of a first down by Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker (19) during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. At right is Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans (26). by Nick Krug

3 – Even KU's punting game was a little rough in this one. Sure Trevor Pardula booted it 11 times for a 41-yard average, but he had one snap zip right through his hands (although the turnover didn't hurt KU) and another came dribbling back to him (which he responded to by fielding it well and bombing a kick). A big theme this season has been the fact that KU just can't make as many mistakes as its opponents because the Jayhawks' margin for error is so much smaller than everyone else. By this point in the season, bad weather or not, those types of mistakes can't be happening.

One for the road

KU's long afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma:

• Moved the Jayhawks to 579-597-58 all-time.

• Increased a streak of 16-straight losses to opponents ranked in the top-25.

• Prolonged streaks of 29 consecutive losses in true road games and 32 losses in games played away from Lawrence. Kansas’ last road win came at UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009.

• Also extended KU’s Big 12 Conference road losing streak to 25-straight league road games and 28 conference matches played away from Lawrence with the last victory occurring in Ames, Iowa on Oct. 4, 2008.

Next up

The Jayhawks will close out the 2014 season and the interim head coaching era of Clint Bowen with a 3 p.m. kickoff in Manhattan against Kansas State on Saturday. The Sunflower Showdown has been lopsided — both ways at different times — for a number of years and it's hard to know what exactly we're in for this weekend.

Oklahoma running back Keith Ford (21) dives over Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney (31) for yardage during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Above is OU fullback Dimitri Flowers (36).

Oklahoma running back Keith Ford (21) dives over Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney (31) for yardage during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Above is OU fullback Dimitri Flowers (36). by Nick Krug

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Monday Rewind - Oklahoma: Return of the running game a good step, but can KU keep it going?

Kansas running back Darrian Miller makes a cut against Oklahoma during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Darrian Miller makes a cut against Oklahoma during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

It's hard to know if it can be trusted given the inconsistency of the offensive line, but it appears that the Kansas University football team has found its running game again.

During last Saturday's loss to 18th-ranked Oklahoma the Jayhawks came out on fire in the first quarter, with senior James Sims leading the way with 11 carries for 85 yards. Those numbers included Sims carrying the ball on seven of KU's first eight plays from scrimmage and eight of the first 10 en route to the 13th 100-yard rushing day of his career.

One of the great parts about getting Sims going again — sophomore Darrian Miller also looked sharp with 67 yards on 9 carries — is that this latest effort came against a legitimate defense. The 6-1 Sooners rank at or near the top of the Big 12 in almost every major defensive category and, for a quarter, the Jayhawks had their way with them, opening up huge holes, getting a great push from the offensive line and picking up double-digit clips of yardage over and over on the ground.

While that was beneficial for this team's chances in that game, the best part overall is that it likely restored this team's confidence in itself and its ability to run the ball again. You know the old theory, 'Hey, if we can do it against a team like OU, we can do it against anybody.'

While that may be true and certainly was the case in 2012, the key from here on out will be to keep the hunger and desperation that delivered the performance in the first place. This is no time to get complacent or feel too good about the job they did on the ground vs. Oklahoma. It still came in a losing effort and it was slowed down significantly from the first quarter on.

A couple of people I talked to about the game said that OU's coaches were very impressed with how KU came out and ran the ball. For one, they did not expect the Jayhawks' to be able to dominate up front like they did and, for two, a lot of the looks the Jayhawks showed in that first quarter rushing attack were new to the OU coaches and players. Credit KU coach Charlie Weis and his staff, once again, for coming up with clever ways to disguise the basics of what they do. Now, the key is to either figure out a way to do it for longer periods of time or make the necessary adjustments to prevent the offense from hitting the wall.

While last Saturday's effort was encouraging, it was much more about heart and being questioned as football players, men and competitors than anything else.

After Saturday's loss to the Sooners, which, like the Texas Tech loss before it, started out in such promising fashion, Weis was asked to determine how fragile his locker room was at this point in the season. It's one thing to lose games and have no chance in them, but it's another to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders and feeling sky high only to see that hot start turn into a sluggish finish and another loss. Such an up-and-down pattern can really mess with the mind, and these guys deserve credit for hanging in there, whether that includes this year, last year or their entire careers.

Weis has said time and time again that there are enough quality leaders and people who care in that locker room to keep the fragile mindset out of the equation. But the Jayhawks are not in this to keep from being too fragile; they're in it to win games and, even if it does make for a good soundbite, they really don't care about moral victories.

“That was the whole conversation I had after the game,” Weis said. “That was my whole message, about how you really have one of two ways to go when things don't go well. Especially half way through the year, you're sitting at 2-4, you could say, 'Ah, the hell with it, we're 2-4, that's just the way it's gonna go.' Or you could fight to do everything you can to be part of the answer.”

“That was basically the challenge to them,” he continued. “And this was an individual challenge, not a team challenge. It wasn't, 'What's the team gonna do?' it was, 'What are you gonna do?' Because, really the only one that you can control is you. So that was the question I posed to all of them.”

With high-powered Baylor on deck, things may get worse before they get better. But if the Jayhawks can hang in there in that one and continue to put forth the Oklahoma- and TCU-type efforts, things could start to look up down the stretch, when the schedule softens just a bit, believe it or not.

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Monday Rewind: Oklahoma & a closer look at QB Michael Cummings

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings is swarmed by Oklahoma defenders Tony Jefferson (1) Corey Nelson (7) and Chuka Ndulue (98) during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 at Memorial Stadium in Norman.

Kansas quarterback Michael Cummings is swarmed by Oklahoma defenders Tony Jefferson (1) Corey Nelson (7) and Chuka Ndulue (98) during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 at Memorial Stadium in Norman. by Nick Krug

All right, forget the final score, the details of the blowout or the fact that the Jayhawks seemed to take a one-week hiatus from what had, for the most part, been a pretty promising streak of progress during recent days.

We all saw it. And those who didn’t were lucky to miss it. Either way, there’s no need to rehash the obvious: KU got whipped by Oklahoma last Saturday night. End. Of. Story.

What is worth looking back on, however, is the play of red-shirt freshman quarterback Michael Cummings, who picked up the first start of his career against the Sooners and had a few good moments and a few too many bad ones.

At this point in KU’s season — the Jayhawks are 1-6 overall and 0-4 in Big 12 play — the biggest question about this team is not so much whether it will win another game as much as it is, do they have a quarterback.

We’ve seen what Dayne Crist can do, and, unfortunately for him, KU coach Charlie Weis and the Jayhawks as a whole, watching him play the position has been rough. Remember, this is a team that’s just a couple of throws away from owning a 3-4 record, perhaps better. Even if the Jayhawks had just laid a 52-7 egg at Oklahoma, can you imagine what a different feel this thing would have if that were the case? I know I can.

So, let’s take Crist out of the equation. Will he play again this season? Probably. Will he start again this season? I doubt it. Will it matter either way? Probably not.

What will matter, though, is the play of red-shirt freshman Michael Cummings, who last week against at Oklahoma, answered a couple of questions and raised a few more.

Here’s a look:

QUESTIONS CUMMINGS ANSWERED:

1 - Is he capable of stepping into a hostile atmosphere and leading the offense? Absolutely. KU didn't score much, but Cummings' moved the offense on the first couple of drives and did so in a high-pressure situation. The more I’m around this guy, the more impressed I am with him. He’s young, inexperienced and has played just a few minutes more than I have out there, yet you’d never know it from talking to him. He’s a cool customer and has a very natural leadership vibe.

2 - Cummings has a strong arm. We’ve heard Weis say it throughout the year and we finally got an extended look at Cummings' arm strength on Saturday. If anything, he may have a little too much zip on a lot of his passes, but you’d probably rather have that problem and work on the feel than have the opposite problem. Of the 21 passes Cummings threw, several were on a line and got on the receivers in a hurry. The KU wideouts are going to have to adjust to that to help Cummings become more effective, but we know this guy can wind up and wing it.

3 - Cummings is coachable. Rather than roll out there like a wildman looking to make plays at whatever cost, Cummings stuck to the gameplan, did what his coaches asked him to do and leaned heavily on KU’s running game. (By the way, this would be a good time to point out that this KU ground attack is legit and James Sims is well on his way to becoming one of the toughest players ever to wear a Jayhawk uniform.) OK, back to Cummings, for a young guy with no experience, sticking to the script surely earned more trust from the coaching staff. With more trust should come more of a chance to make plays. Weis hinted at that Sunday night: “This week, if Michael were the guy,” Weis said. “I think the offense would be quite expanded from where it was (against Oklahoma).”

QUESTIONS THAT WERE RAISED:

1 - Can the Jayhawks open up the offense when Cummings is under center? It sure didn’t look like it Saturday night, as Cummings handled mostly handoffs and read-option-type running plays. That was by design. Here’s Weis’ explanation: “Remember now, this is the first time the kid’s played and he’s going to Norman against a top-flight team. The last thing you want to do is have him having to think about 100 different adjustments walking in there. You want to get it where he knows what to do so he can just get out there and play.”

2 - Can Cummings eliminate the ill-advised throws down the field and into coverage? Time will tell. There’s no way to know the answer to this without, at first, letting things play out. But a good sign that he can get there is that both Cummings and Weis made it clear that they understood and communicated to each other (and the media) that he forced way too many throws while trying to make a play. With experience, such mistakes usually can be corrected.

3 - Can Cummings stay within the offense, even while running around to escape pressure and extend plays? Again, time will tell. I’ve seen as much evidence that he can get his head up and his eyes downfield as I have that he can’t. I really think Cummings’ cool, calm and collected demeanor will go a long way toward helping him in this area. This is not a guy who wants to be a hero on every play. He wants to make plays — no question about it. But he wants to make the right plays and has no problem deferring to his teammates.

Because none of us can get inside the mind of Charlie Weis, it’s hard to say what all of this will mean.

It’s possible that Cummings will be given the keys to the offense from here on out and will use the next five games to audition for some type of role on next year’s squad, whether that’s as a legitimate threat to push Jake Heaps for the starting job or as the clear-cut back-up.

It’s also possible that Weis will continue to play both Crist and Cummings, and, depending on how that goes, may even consider looking in the direction of reserves Turner Baty or Blake Jablonski, although that option seems like a longshot at this point.

Stay tuned...

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Three & Out with Oklahoma…

• Kansas Jayhawks (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (4-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) •
— 6:05 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla. —

Opening Las Vegas Line: OU -35.5
Current Las Vegas Line: OU -35
Television: FSN

Three and out, with Oklahoma...

First down
As is the case during most years, the Oklahoma roster is packed with future pros, but this defense, which ranks 14th in the country and has seen its starters surrender just one touchdown in the past three weeks, is led by an usual group — its defensive backs. OU’s three leading tacklers start in the secondary, with safeties Tony Jefferson (37) and Javon Harris (30) joining cornerback Aaron Colvin (20) as the top tacklers on the team.

KU coach Charlie Weis said the trio of defensive backs leading the team in tackles is a product of the way the Sooners play defense. There’s not a lot of trickery and deceit and the defensive backfield often is divided into quarters, with each guy manning an area and all of the defensive linemen and linebackers funneling the action into those spots where the DBs often play close to the line of scrimmage and lower the boom on anybody that comes their way.

Odd-cornerback-out, Demontre Hurst is fifth on the team with 18 tackles.

Second down
While KU has started to look to red-shirt freshman quarterback Michael Cummings to bring a different a little different look — read: more mobile — to the Jayhawks’ offense, what Cummings does on the field pales in comparison to what the Sooners get from their change-of-pace quarterback, Wichita native Blake Bell.

Known simply as “The Belldozer,” OU’s back-up QB to Landry Jones stands 6-foot-6, 254 pounds and has one job and one job only.

“We know about the Belldozer,” Weis said. “We all got that one down. They put in this huge mountain of a man at quarterback when they get down close (to the goal line) and they run Jayhawk formation, they snap it to him and he runs it in and everyone knows he’s going to run it. We will probably stop him and he’ll probably throw a pass (this week). But when they put him in there, it is usually just to go ahead and muscle it in.”

OU coach Bob Stoops said they believed when they recruited Bell that he could add that kind of Tim Tebow look to the offense.

“We knew how big and strong he was,” Stoops said. “He was a good athlete in high school. We always recruit our quarterbacks first on if they can throw the football and if you can run with it, it gives you a little extra dimension.”

Third down
Putting too much emphasis on The Belldozer seems to be a dangerous idea considering the fact that the guy who starts at QB is the Sooners’ all-time leader in several statistical categories.

“It really all starts with Landry Jones,” Weis said. “He’s 6-foot-4, 218-pounds, has experience, a big arm and accurate. He throws for 270 a game. The things that you have to look for to stand out for good quarterbacks is touchdown-to-interception ratio and in this case it’s 3-1, which I think is always a magic number. He has nine touchdowns and three interceptions, which is a 3-1 ratio.”

Jones currently ranks as OU’s all-time leader in wins by a QB (33), passing yards (13,731), TD passes (102), completions (1,135) and pass attempts (1,813) and ranks fourth in completion percentage (.626).

Punt
Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Kansas, 69-27-6. The Sooners have won seven straight against the Jayhawks, including a 47-17, primetime victory last season in Lawrence, when the Sooners came in ranked first in the country.

Prior to that, KU had hung tough with the Sooners for a while during their last two meetings, losing 35-13 in 2009, and 45-31 in 2008. KU was ranked 24th and 16th in those games, respectively.

KU’s last win in the series came in 1997 in Lawrence, when Terry Allen’s first KU squad stunned the Sooners in front of a crowd of 43,500 at Memorial Stadium.

OU owns a 36-13-3 advantage in games played in Norman.

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