Kansas head coach David Beaty isn’t one to believe in moral victories, but if he did, Saturday’s 30-20 loss to Texas Tech could conceivably count as one. The Jayhawks fell behind 20-0 at halftime and in the past, the final score could have easily have been 48-7 or something similar.
However, in the second half, his team came out and fought and were only down 23-20 in the fourth quarter, having a chance to complete the comeback before a couple of mistakes sealed their fate. Still, it’s a sign that little by little, Kansas (0-6, 0-3) is improving>
“Yeah. I mean it's a sign of improvement, absolutely, but our expectations are to win games, and we put ourselves in position, once again, to be able to get the result we wanted, and we were not able to close it out,” Beaty said. “But, I'll tell you this: There was some great things that I saw out there today that had not shown up to this point. That team (Texas Tech) averages 52.7 points a game, and our defense played with unbelievable heart, courage. I thought they hustled to the ball well. I thought they tackled well. I thought our coaches did a great job with the game plan.”
Texas Tech (5-2, 2-2) sputtered their way through the first half and the Jayhawks had several opportunities to jump on the visitors, but three missed field goals and later a missed extra point made things more difficult.
After trailing 20-0 at halftime, Kansas came out a new team in the second half, looking like they believed they could get it done. Freshman quarterback Ryan Willis hit receiver Darious Crawley for a 10-yard touchdown strike to cut into the lead. Overall, Kansas responded very well to the adversity.
“We went in at halftime, and those guys, we just talked about understanding what happened to us, lots of early penalties, which is something we've stressed from the first day we got here, how do we get better faster, be the smartest team in the country, smartest team in the conference,” Beaty said. “We were No. 1 in the conference, I believe, coming in. We still didn't have a whole lot of penalties, but we had some early that stalled our drives; that hurts the momentum.”
Kansas would cut it to 23-13 early in the fourth quarter with a Willis 25-yard touchdown pass to Tre Parmalee. The rally ignited the Jayhawks defense, which produced their best performance today against the high octane Red Raiders and when they forced another stop, the offense picked up where they had left off.
Running back Taylor Cox scored from a yard out with 6:26 to play and it was now 23-20. On the ensuing Tech possession, Kansas got another stop and were starting to think about victory, but Willis committed a rare error throwing an interception that was returned 27 yards for a touchdown with a little over four minutes remaining to end the comeback bid.
Despite the mistake, Willis was phenomenal in his second career start, completing 35 of his 50 passes for 330 yards with two touchdowns to go with the pick and while it was another loss, it didn’t feel the same afterwards. The remaining fans in Memorial Stadium gave the Jayhawks a standing ovation and the difference in the team from earlier in the season was clear.
“They knew they could win, and they've known that the entire year, but they knew it; they played like it. They believed in it,” Beaty said. “The morning meeting this morning was different. It was different. And I like it. There was some intensity from coaches and players today, and they weren't afraid of anything. They knew they could win. They had plenty of talent out there to win games. That's not the problem. We got plenty to do it. We just have to play smarter, do what we've been coached to do and we'll be okay. Future looks bright.”