KU Seized Opportunities Saturday

Any team visiting a stadium in which they haven't won since the current president's dad was president has to take advantage of every opportunity you're handed. And so it was that the Kansas Jayhawks did just that in a 30-24 win over Kansas State. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it was perfect enough.

The Wildcats led 7-0 with less than five minutes left in the first quarter and was moving the ball well when PK Brooks Rossman – a fine name if you’re a law firm or an upscale department store but an unfortunate name if you’re a football player – attempted a 44-yard field goal with a substantial Kansas south wind behind him. He jerked it, however, and it bounced off the left upright.

Instead of leading 10-0 – or maybe more importantly, two scores – and taking the driver’s seat, KSU had to settle for maintaining their 7-0 lead.

Kansas bounced back to tie the game about seven minutes later on a 10-play, 84-yard drive capped by a 20-yard TD run by RB and native Kansan Jake Sharp.

Giving credit where credit is due, the Wildcats put a stop to any KU hopes of taking over the game at that point. On the very next possession, KSU went 80 yards in 11 plays to regain the lead. Not only that, but KU QB Todd Reesing quickly threw his second interception of the day, giving Kansas State the ball at their own 32 and another chance to really put the Jayhawks’ talons to the fire.

State QB Josh Freeman turned right around and, even more quickly, threw a pass that was tipped by a KU d-lineman and intercepted by DE Russell Brorsen, giving KU a short field with just 1:27 left in the half.

Sure enough, the Jayhawks took advantage. After being sacked at midfield and using a timeout, Reesing used the next 1:03 to complete five straight passes, the last one a five-yard TD pass to DB/WR Aqib Talib that tied the game at 14 just prior to halftime.

After taking a 21-14 lead and holding onto a 21-17 lead for much of the second half, Kansas once again found themselves behind, 24-21, with 7:32 left in the game. A low Rossman kickoff bounced along the turf and was picked up by KU LB and resident guy-who-scares-little-kids Joe Mortensen (who played RB high school) at the 28. JoMort bulled his way ahead to the KU 38, giving KU good field position with 7:32 left.

With their back to the wall, the KU offense proceeded to work with the efficiency fans enjoyed against perennial powers like Central Michigan and Florida International. Thing is, this was the 14th best defense in the country. Reesing completed passes of 23 and nine yards then hit WR Dexton Fields who made a very nice run after the catch for a 30-yard TD pass. The Jayhawks had regained the lead just 1:05 after they’d lost it. Stick a fork in the Wildcats: they were done.

KU reached their final margin of victory after Freeman threw an interception to DB Kendrick Harper, who played his first game as a Jayhawk with a cast on his arm, at the KSU 26. KU moved the ball 19 yards to the Wildcat seven-yard-line, taking 2:21 to do it and setting up PK Scott Webb for a chip-shot that made it 30-24.

Coach Mark Mangino’s team is starting to look eerily reminiscent of teams coached by his mentor and Kansas State glory days architect Bill Snyder. Snyder took 15 years of heat for scheduling noncom cupcakes. Then he’d go out and win 10 games.

I’m not calling that shot just yet, but Iowa State and Baylor look like, well, Iowa State and Baylor. Missouri’s really good, but Nebraska is really awful. Colorado is surprising people, but we’ve seen how inconsistent teams can be with a freshman signal-caller. KU matches up very well with a spotty Texas A&M team and will give them fits, even if it is in College Station. Finally, Oklahoma State…well, I’m going to keep my mouth shut. I don’t need Cowboys coach Mike Gundy coming to my house and screaming at me about how old he is.

This is clearly a different Kansas team than it was in 2006. I think it’s even a darn sight better than the 2005 group that went 7-5, including a Ft. Worth Bowl win. They’re playing with more abandon, they’re taking chances and it’s clear this group is having fun.

Even with more of a gambler’s mentality, though, there were no trick plays needed to beat Kansas State yesterday. No hook-and-ladder plays to John Randle. No fake punt shovel passes from P Kyle Tucker to RB Brandon McAnderson. The Jayhawks beat the Wildcats playing straight up, punch-them-in-the-mouth football.

Maybe it’s not time yet to predict something special for the Kansas Football Jayhawks, but it’s getting close. A home win over Baylor and a road win at Boulder and all bets are off.

If any KU squad can seize that kind of an opportunity, maybe it’s this one.

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