Baylor beatdown a tough reminder that Kansas football still has a long, long way to go

Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) gets into the end zone untouched by the Kansas defense during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Before we get too far into this column, let me start by saying that none of what you’re about to read should come as a surprise.

Yet, because of things like human nature and emotion and hope, there we were on Saturday morning, seeing and hearing from Kansas fans who genuinely believed that the Jayhawks not only could be in the game with Baylor but also could win.

They weren’t. They didn’t. Baylor 45, Kansas 7.

Roughly as many people showed up for KU’s Week 3 game and Big 12 opener as were there in the season opener. And by early in the fourth quarter nearly all of them were gone.

Just like that, a day and game that started with some excitement and optimism ended the way we’ve seen so many KU games end in recent years — with a lopsided outcome on the scoreboard and the cold, hard glare of concrete serving as the backdrop for the final meaningless minutes.

This is not the fault of the current coaching staff or even the players who were out there fighting on Saturday. This is the fault of reality. And the reality is KU still has a long, long way to go before it can expect to be competitive in the Big 12 Conference.

Remember, this was an unranked Baylor team that had not proven anything yet. Not only that, this latest Bears team to lay a beat down on Kansas wasn’t even one of the 21 teams that received votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.

You know who was? Five of KU’s final nine opponents, meaning that seven of KU’s nine remaining games will come against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes this week. Generally speaking, those aren’t the kinds of teams that this Kansas team can be or should be expected to beat.

It’s things like that, and outings like Saturday’s, that should — and now likely will — keep Kansas fans from overreaching for relevance the rest of this season.

Lance Leipold was hired to rebuild a program that was in the gutter long before he ever considered taking on the challenge. It was never going to happen overnight.

It was clear during the postgame press conference that this unfamiliar feeling is not one that Leipold is used to or willing to accept. That can only help. But even with that, the progress is going to be a slow-and-stalling sort of thing.

Leipold’s message to his team after Saturday’s game was simple: Own the beating, accept responsibility and come back more motivated than ever to improve.

It’s really all they can do. And it’s what Leipold and his coaching staff will demand, which, in the big picture, provides some long-term hope.

The hope that comes in the short-term, though, is just too fragile to be real.

Consider the most gut-wrenching part of Saturday’s blowout as proof of that.

After surviving an ugly first quarter and finding their way back into the game in the second quarter, the Jayhawks trailed just 14-7 at halftime and had all the momentum on their side heading into halftime. For that 20-30 minute portion of Saturday, KU appeared poised to make its believers look awfully good.

And then, just five plays into the second, it was over — the game, not just the momentum.

A three-and-out by the Kansas offense. A KU punt. And a 69-yard touchdown pass by Baylor on its first offensive snap of the half put this one on ice.

The rest was merely a formality and it set up an October and November that will test both this team and its fan base that proved through two home games that it was willing to show up to support this team.

We’ll see where things go from here.


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