Jim Williamson: Monday Morning Quarterback

With the score 21-7 in favor of Northern Illinois, early in the second quarter Saturday night, Phog.net senior writer Jim Williamson admits he may have had a few flashbacks to 2010. But a newly-resilient team of Kansas Jayhawks showed him how quickly things can change.

What a difference a year makes.

The high-powered Northern Illinois Huskies took a 21-7 lead over the Kansas Jayhawks Saturday night with 8:39 left in the first half, and I started having flashbacks of last year.

Conversations were had in the student section about securing the corner booth at The Wheel at halftime. Crimson-and-khaki clad alums planned intermission trips to the car from which they probably wouldn't return.

Northern Illinois had broken open a 7-7 tie with two touchdowns within three minutes of each other. The Kansas defense was on their heels and the two Huskies TDs followed a missed field goal by K Alex Mueller and a fumble by QB Jordan Webb.

In other words, there was every reason in the world to stick a fork in the Jayhawks.

I don't hesitate in speculating that the 2010 Jayhawks would've given up another TD and gone into the halftime intermission down 28-7 on the way to a 55-10 loss.

But this isn't 2010. And that is most certainly not what happened.

Before the half ended, Kansas scored two touchdowns. The first came on a 12-play, 74-yard drive capped by an 18-yard Darrian Miller run with 4:31 left.

The Huskies moved the ball on the ensuing possession, but KU's defense handed the ball back to the offense after forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down and seven at the Jayhawk 30.

With 1:46 left in the half, Kansas used timeouts, intelligent play by QB Jordan Webb and a 39-yard reception by RB by James Sims to set up a 36-yard TD pass to a wide-open Kale Pick with 11 seconds left in the half.

That tying TD may not have been a game-changer, according to Pick, but it was big heading into the locker room.

"The game was tied. We were definitely excited, and we all thought, 'We could pull this off,'" Pick recalled.

To a man, the Jayhawks said that any resemblance to last year's Jayhawks team this season will be purely coincidental.

Webb said, "We're a totally different team. We're more focused, we're more resilient and we play with a lot more passion than we did last year. Whether we're down or up, we're going to play with a lot of confidence."

Offensive coordinator Chuck Long agreed and praised his team's ability to bounce back.

"Our guys kept fighting back. They never lost their poise on the sideline, and I'm very proud of that. I told them at halftime, I said, 'The negative thing is, we're kind of shooting ourselves in the foot. The positive thing is, you're overcoming it.' They did that all night."

The same could be said for Webb. The redshirt sophomore looked like a totally different quarterback Saturday night. Webb had plenty of chances to try and force passes and try to do too much, but he didn't.

If you want to talk about resiliency and heady play, think about this: Webb was 11-of-12 passing on third-and-five or longer, including the six-yard game-winning TD pass to WR D.J. Beshears on fourth down and goal with just nine seconds left on the clock.

"I'm proud of (Webb) and how he kept on playing," Jayhawks head coach Turner Gill said. "He played within the system and made plays when he had to make them. He made some great throws and scrambled around a bit. He had some good touches on the ball and threw some good passes, so I appreciate what he is all about."

The leadership and persistence shown by Webb seems to be contagious. No one panicked, and there was a sense that when Kansas got the ball back, down 42-38 with under five minutes left in the game, the Jayhawks were going to make in interesting. They'd come back all night long; why stop now?

Maybe this Kansas squad will indeed be more competitive than I gave them credit for. I'm not picking KU for a return to a BCS bowl game yet, but it was great to see that kind of determination from a Jayhawk team for whom, in 2010, that big snowball couldn't be stopped once it started rolling downhill.

No one, however, was happier to such purpose from the team than the head coach.

"I think it shows we've got a lot of resolve," an obviously-proud Gill said. "They didn't lose their composure at all. They kept believing; That's what we talked about as our mission statement and I think they demonstrated that today. They just kept playing."


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