Sunflower Meltdown

Halftime was less than a minute away and Kansas led Kansas State, 7-3, despite three wasted opportunities, including two horribly-timed Todd Reesing turnovers and a missed field goal after Darrell Stuckey's 66-yard game-opening kick return. My esteemed Phog.net colleague Kevin Flaherty turned to me and asked, "How is KU still leading this football game?"

I didn't have an answer, and about 35 seconds later, they weren't. KSU went into the intermission with a 10-7 lead, thanks to yet another Reesing turnover that lead to a 31-yard touchdown pass from Graham Gregory to Lamark Brown.

Kansas State hit quickly to start the second half, scoring just 4:33 into make it 17-7, and while there was still 25:27 left to play, there was a palpable sense the game was over. The ensuing KU three-and-out, capped by a sack of Reesing, didn't do a lick to diminish that feeling.

I'm the biggest Kansas homer apologist there is, but there's just not a lot of good to talk about after this one.

Granted, KU made it a ballgame – on paper at least – when Reesing and the Jayhawks moved the ball 57 yards and a 46-yard Jacob Branstetter field goal made it a seven-point game with 5:20 left. On that drive, Reesing made a huge fourth-down conversion at midfield, but he also turned a second and five into 3rd and 11 with a backward pass that short-hopped intended receiver Johnathan Wilson and rolled out of bounds for a loss of six.

You just never felt like KU ever got off the bus to play a team that's been looking forward to this game since they discovered that with a decent coach, they could play a little bit.

It's been tough, as a fan, to watch what seemed to be a promising eight- or nine-win season circle the drain the past few weeks. It's just as hard not to point fingers. Is Reesing's sub-par season the root of the problem? Should we be asking why the coaching staff has built an offense entirely around one player to the point that he can't have even an average afternoon? Why hasn't KU recruited any linebackers that can tackle well enough keep opposing running backs from rushing for 185 yards on 24 carries?

It's terribly disappointing that this bad loss had to come against Kansas State, but I wouldn't be in any better mood KU been so badly outplayed and out-executed by any other Big 12 team.

One can point to the Reesing fumble before halftime and the ensuing TD and say, "Kansas State won by seven. You connect the dots."

Problem with that is, there were enough plays in this game that made me sit back and say, "We're still a lot more talented than they are."

Talent doesn't always win ballgames. Sometimes heart and effort and confidence and execution do.

Credit to the Kansas State students, however: they didn't storm the field to tear down the goalposts. Then again, you rarely do against a reeling team that you outplay and probably expected to beat going into it.

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