The game started out somewhat ominously. The Kansas offense stalled, the Texas running game marched down and put a quick seven points on the board. From the outset it looked like this was going to be another tough game for the Jayhawks. Then everything flipped. The Kansas defense tightened down and the Kansas running game took control.
Led by junior James Sims the Jayhawks walked into halftime with a 14-7 lead and Kansas was playing exactly the way they needed to if they were going to snap their Big 12 losing streak against the Longhorns in Lawrence on Saturday.
In the process of this rebuilding project Kansas has had games they couldn't close, they've had games where they were buried early, but this one did have a different feel. The Jayhawks were playing with confidence well into the second half. The only problem is that the offensive production took a hit and the defense was forced to shoulder most of the load.
Ten plus minutes on the field in the third quarter and the Jayhawk defense had still taken care of business, but eventually Texas would break through. At 14 to 14 Kansas took the ball and Michael Cummings helped lead an impressive, time consuming drive that stalled out one first down short of a sure victory. A go ahead field goal meant that Kansas needed one last stop from Dave Campo's defense and Kansas would have pulled off a top 25 upset in Big 12 play. That alone would have marked a major step in the improvement process and it could have provided a huge boost to the confidence of the program.
One near interception, a McCoy to Shipley conversion, a long sideline route and a play action toss into the endzone with 12 seconds to go. It was almost predictable. The defense looked winded, Kansas had not been able to close in nearly two years and Texas looked like a team that just assumed they should beat Kansas. It was a heartbreaker in a different way. There was nothing on the line, no real high stakes or change to the season's overall success, but this was a game where it felt like the Kansas players had earned it, they just came up a play short.
From a schematic standpoint the coaching is night and day from a year ago. Yes the offensive playcalling is still frustrating at times but much of that could be attributed to the personnel issues that we've uncovered as the season has gone on. Overall Weis is using Michael Cummings fairly effectively, we're varying our plan of attack and James Sims is by far the best and most reliable asset on this team.
Defensively Dave Campo is consistently putting together solid gameplans and the Jayhawks are developing a nice set of young players including linebackers Ben Heeney and Jake Love. The body language is different, the defense is playing with some passion and they believe in what they are being taught. It's great to see and while there will still be setbacks, Campo and the defensive staff really have done some nice work this year.
Moral victories are often shrugged off as something that shouldn't be celebrated and yes Texas isn't the same Texas that they were three years ago, but yesterday this Kansas Jayhawk football team was competitive for the sixth time in eight games and the way they played for four quarters really does provide a significant amount of hope as we continue to look toward the future.
It's a big rebuilding effort and losing most definitely gets old. This game was frustrating, yet very encouraging, so a tip of the hat to the players and the coaches for their continued progress and improvement. As a fan it just feels better to think that maybe we're on the uphill climb instead of the downhill slide, even if that climb is a big one.