Saturday’s 38-23 loss to Coastal Carolina the latest in a long line of setbacks just like it for Kansas football

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas wide receiver Takulve Williams (16) fumbles when hit by Coastal Carolina safety Alex Spillum (10) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

One did not need to dissect the scene too intensely to see just how tough Saturday’s 38-23 loss to Coastal Carolina was on the Kansas Jayhawks.

It sucked. It stung. And there was no doubting that these guys saw the 2020 season opener playing out differently than it did.

But there was a strange sense of calm about the way they handled it.

Well versed in dealing with disappointing outcomes, the four players who talked with the media following the season-opening loss early Sunday morning wasted no time talking about looking in the mirror, watching the film, getting back to work and putting their latest flop in the past.

And, really, what else can any of them do?

What’s done is done, and as much as fans might enjoy seeing these guys rage or rant and rave about their performance, that wouldn’t do anything to change the outcome.

Still, you can’t help but wonder how devastating of a blow this latest loss was for the big picture of the program.

When it comes to Kansas football, just about everything is graded on some kind of a curve. Even a lot of the victories come with a disclaimer or explanation attached.

So it’s not as if this latest loss — No. 10 of the Les Miles era and No. 100 since Mark Mangino was sent packing — is really all that different from any of the others. It’s just the most recent, so it no doubt feels that way.

Some fans on Twitter talked about Saturday’s first half and the 28-0 hole that KU fell into as being one of the true low points of the past five years. And far be it from me to argue with them.

But there have been so many low points during the past 11 seasons that I have stopped ranking them or even remembering them.

For perspective, you have to go back and add up parts of the previous 17 seasons, starting with Mangino’s last year (2009), to get to 100 losses for the program prior to this recent 11-season stretch. That’s approaching twice as long. And that has to leave anyone paying attention wondering when — or even if — this thing is ever going to turn.

Every time the program bottoms out, it seems to find a new way to dig just a little deeper. And each time that happens, fans everywhere find themselves asking the million-dollar question — how?

Miles was asked during his postgame session with the media if he thought Saturday’s outcome would slow down the turnaround he’s hoping to execute at KU.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “First of all, I never want to fix a team that has lost games. I would much rather fix teams that have won games. But I think we have a team that’s committed to doing things for the upperclassmen that are significant. I like the commitment the team has together. That’ll make a difference.”

It might. And it might not.

Recent history shows it’s probably the latter.

But Miles still believes in this team. This team still believes in Miles. And as long as that holds true, they’ll all likely stand in there and keep fighting.

After all, how else can they handle it?

“I think you just take it day by day,” said junior quarterback Miles Kendrick who finished Saturday’s game 15-of-24 for 156 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. “You’ve got to hit the film room and see where we need to get better. You’ve got to look in the mirror. And we’ve got to come out in practice and take steps forward. We can’t do what we did in the past… We’ve got to get better and move forward.”

Asked why he thought this group could be the one that does that, Kendrick, like his head coach so often does, pointed to the character of the players in the Kansas locker room.

“I think it’s a close-knit group,” he said. “I think everybody trusts one another. I think everybody has a pretty good relationship with one another. We trust the coaches. We trust the whole building to put us in a better position each week to move forward.”

Time will tell if that happens. It certainly did not in the season opener.


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