The one thing that the Kansas Jayhawks simply can't afford is to have QB Todd Reesing come out flat, and for the second week in a row, that's exactly what happened.
Last week, it resulted in a heartbreaking 34-30 upset loss to Colorado
in Boulder, but at least Reesing pulled out of the tailspin in plenty
of time to rally the troops.
The outcome Saturday against Oklahoma in Lawrence was a 14-0 deficit
less than a minute into the second quarter and a football game that
was, for all intents and purposes, over.
Two Reesing interceptions – one an 85-yard pick six by OU's Dominique Franks as KU threatened to tie the game – staked Oklahoma to that early
14-0 lead. Reesing was never a factor in the game. In fact, I don't
think I'd get much of an argument if I said it was Reesing's worst game
as a Jayhawk.
Two Jacob Branstetter field goals just before the half got KU back to
within eight, 14-6, and gave KU a little bit of a boost heading into
the locker room. Even in the second half, though, Reesing never did get
his feet underneath him. Crisp, well-timed passes were the exception
more than the rule. When he should've thrown the ball on a line, he put
air under them. When they needed air, he threw them on a line. If
Reesing was a pitcher, he'd have been high and outside all afternoon
I asked Mangino if maybe his quarterback was trying to hard, and he was
quick to say no.
The coach said, ""I don't think he's trying to do anything spectacular.
He's playing within the talent level that he has. I think people are
making some good plays on him. There are no excuses. He has made some
throws he should not have."
Mangino continued, "We need to coach better. We need to put him in
situations to succeed early, and maybe I need to look in the mirror."
The Kansas coach has historically been measured and somewhat guarded
when talking to the media. He's fiercely protective of his players, and
perhaps this is just another case of him protecting his best player, a
tremendously talented young man who's as capable of – and probably as
entitled to – a lousy game as anyone else.
Reesing acknowledged the expectations and sounded a little bit like
those expectations might be wearing on him a little bit.
"I think after how many games I've played here, (fans) expect a certain
level of performance, and I expect that from myself as well. And to go
out there and not be able to make plays that I'm used to making and
(when) I'm not making the throws I used to make, yeah, that expectation
KU's football team has come a long way in Mark Mangino's seven-plus
year tenure, but Saturday showed us the wide gap that still exists
between the Jayhawks and the Oklahomas of the world.
Here's reality, KU fans: Todd Reesing has no margin for error. None.
He's the only player on the squad who can't afford a bad game, or even
half of a bad game, ever.
That's not fair.
Oklahoma racked up just 337 yards of total offense – way below their
season average – behind a backup quarterback who was fronted
by a young, inexperienced offensive line that, on occasion,
looked like a Chinese fire drill. And they still won by three
That gap won't get any narrower until players other than Reesing step
up and make plays. Yes, it falls to the coaches to recruit better
athletes. One has to ask one's self if the tried and true Mangino
recruiting model – recruit the 2-star kids with a big heart and then
coach the hell out of them – will get the Jayhawks past the
7-5 ceiling they seem to have hit.
I'm hard-pressed, however, to believe that there aren't a number of
football players on this squad who can't look inside themselves and
find what it takes to step up and make plays when KU's lynchpin, be
it Todd Reesing or Kale Pick or Toben Opurum or whomever it
might be, is struggling.
I still think Kansas has the opportunity to go 8-4 and make something
slightly better than the Woot.com Bowl. Nebraska still
doesn't scare me, especially after losing a 9-7 pillow fight to Iowa State in Lincoln. Kansas State can't do anything but run the football,
which is nice because KU's defense defends the run really well.
Finally, Missouri is reeling a little bit, particularly with their
newest five-time Heisman winner, Blaine Gabbert, dealing with an ankle
injury that won't get any better until the season is over.
If KU's going to win those games – and if they expect to try and sneak
a win out of Lubbock and to be competitive at Austin – they can't
expect Reesing to shoulder the entire load. Other guys have to step up.
Another Bad Start Dooms Jayhawks
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