At the halfway point in our countdown of top 10 Kansas football performances of 2008 there will be a bit of a theme developing. Namely the reoccurrence of performances associated with rivalry games. At #5 comes our first of several from the Border War. A game that had the potential to make up for some of the disappointments early in the year, the Border War game against Missouri would be a huge one for the direction of the program. Kansas had already clinched back to back bowls for the first time in school history but it sure is nice heading into a bowl with a 7-5 record instead of 6-6. The only thing standing in the way would be a top 25 opponent on a neutral field in a game that few gave the Jayhawks a chance.
Due to the several memorable performances in the Border War it was difficult to select the order in which these would check in. Each was so critical in ultimately winning the game on a cold snowy day at Arrowhead, but I went with my heart on this one as opposed to my head. I sat in the stands for this one and didn’t see it on television and while stats, replays and all that can make it easier to judge a game the feeling I got from the atmosphere ultimately determined how I ranked these. Checking in at #5 was a familiar face on the countdown and he stepped into an unfamiliar role for this one and his impact was huge in the outcome of this game.
Dezmon Briscoe’s performance against the Missouri Tigers was his first in a kick returning role and he turned in what was hands down the best special teams performance of a Jayhawk all season. Not only did Briscoe fill the void on the kick return team but he also continued to be an impact player at his traditional role of receiver.
Kansas headed to Arrowhead with a 6-5 record but momentum was not on their side. After clinching their second bowl appearance in as many years Kansas had absorbed tough losses at Nebraska and at home to the Texas Longhorns. A 13.5 point underdog is what Kansas came into the game as, and as Mark Mangino said “no one gave us a chance.”
The snow was falling as Kansas took to the field and early in the contest Kansas would strike first with a field goal off a turnover. After a 3 point first quarter Kansas would again score and this time Dezmon Brisoce would get in on the action with a 9 yard touchdown reception from Todd Reesing. The game would go back and forth in the second half and I’ll recap it from different perspectives at other spots on the countdown so on this one I want to focus on Briscoe.
While quietly amassing 9 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown from his traditional receiver role it was what Briscoe did on special teams that really put this performance over the top. The Jayhawks kick return game was ranked last in the country, yes 119th going into this game, and for the first time the Kansas coaches made a bold move putting Briscoe back to return. Dezmon responded and he responded in a big way. The Jayhawks had the luxury of excellent field position all afternoon and most importantly on the final two scores, ones that were critical, Todd Reesing was given a short field because of Briscoe returns. Overall he would round out the day with 7 returns for 195 yards. That amounts to a 28 yard average and the best average starting field position all year for Kansas.
In the end there would be several memorable performances in this one but Briscoe’s 310 all-purpose yards made everyone’s job a little easier that day and if we had tried this little experiment out earlier in the year I have to think Kansas gets another win somewhere along the way. Once again, #5 on the countdown of Kansas football performances of 2008, Dezmon Briscoe special teams savior.