Well, that was disappointing. I’m starting to put together these thoughts at about 2:45 on Sunday afternoon, and suffering from a massive headache. I’m not sure if that’s from the beer I drank last night, my contacts/glasses giving me problems, or from dealing with the girls alone all week. Hopefully it won’t interfere with putting together some relatively clear thoughts.
First, it must be said that Missouri was much better than KU on both sides of the ball last night. In rivalry games, it’s easy to make excuses about this or that, but sometimes the difference is clear. I, like most KU fans, am bemoaning the fact it seemed to take a long time to exploit the MU secondary, the fact Todd Reesing couldn’t really step into the pass that turned into his first interception of the night, and of course the two missed field goals. It’s not difficult to see a scenario where KU had a 17-14 lead at the half. However, even with those changes, it’s difficult to account for how differently MU would have managed the game on offense if the score was closer. They seemed to making a determined effort to grind out drives and keep the ball away from KU. But, given how we showed an inability to control the short and middle games, I don’t know that MU wouldn’t have just run ten yard patterns instead of five and scored faster. But, with those scores, perhaps KU’s mental state is less fragile and we would have seen a very interesting game in the fourth quarter, instead of just a kind of interesting game.
I thought a big key was MU finding their mental and emotional footing, if that makes sense, quicker. After the initial drives, they seemed to settle into a fired up and focused state, where KU seemed to suffer from the pressure of the game. Even late, when KU was scoring, it wasn’t the smooth, methodical offense we’ve grown used to this season.
I was very disappointed in the performance of the KU defense. I don’t know how you can scheme Mizzou better than Bill Young did. You have to offer something, and it’s better to keep giving up short gains than getting beat deep. What killed us, though, was the inability to tackle. Far too many times KU defenders were unable to lock up guys they had hands on, and the result was often a long gain. There were a few third and longs that were converted because of this, and those were killer.
I wonder what happened to Jake Sharp. I love Brandon McAnderson, but he was not a good match-up against Mizzou’s defense. I think Jake could have made a difference when we were still floundering early.
As much as a loss like this hurts, I think it will be an important lesson to the program. MU is, in many ways, a blueprint for where KU can go. Todd Reesing can become as efficient and effective as Chase Daniel. While KU’s receiving corps isn’t quite as talented as MU’s, there is some good, young depth that can learn a lot from the players they saw last night. And both lines can learn to be more aggressive. It was obvious last night that MU had learned from its struggles last season. KU can put what it learned last night to use in the bowl game, and then as it builds towards next season.
Now we KU fans are left to wait for next week and the bowl assignments. Along with the wait comes an unholy dillemna. Do we root for MU next week, hoping they give Oklahoma a second loss and put us into a BCS bowl, even if that means the Tigers play for the national championship? Or do we hope our bitter rivals come up short at the cost of only playing in the Cotton or Holiday Bowls? That’s a tough one, and I’m not ready to properly ponder it.
Actually, I am. I’ve always said I’ll root for MU or K-State if it helps KU. Going to a BCS bowl is a monumental achievement. I won’t pull openly for MU next week, but if their win puts KU in a BCS bowl, I’ll tip my cap to them.
As I’ve done the last three weeks, I kept reminding myself yesterday that a bad result would not negate what has been a fantastic season. After we cut the game to 21-7, those words finally sunk in and I was able to relax a bit and just sit back and watch. As I said last week, when you’ve been playing with house money for so long, you can’t be upset when things go bad. Despite the miscues and struggles to adjust that could have made it a more interesting game, it was clear that Missouri was the better team last night. (Man, I wish we had held on 3rd down with 4:00 and change left. The game would have been veeerrrrrry interesting if we get the ball back with time to do something.) Because it comes to a rival, it stings a little more, but there’s no shame in the loss. Now, the guys get a few weeks to heal up, practice, and prepare for what could be the biggest bowl game in school history. Life is still good for KU football fans. For my Jayhawk brothers and sisters in KC, keep your heads up.
Late Update: Nearly a double-bummer as the basketball Jayhawks meandered through an overtime win over Arizona. I don’t expect much from Bill Self’s teams in the first 4-6 weeks of the season. He doesn’t concentrate on offense until late December, and for some reason his teams never rebound well early. Throw in the loss of Sherron Collins for six weeks and Brandon Rush’s continuing rehab, and this was a recipe for a loss. If you told me Russell Robinson would play like a walk-on, Mario Chalmers would be silent for most of the game, and the big men would leave 20 points on the court by either passing the ball to nobody or missing layups, and I’d be happy if we kept it close. So I was thrilled with the win tonight.
How about that final shot of regulation by B. Rush? I feel sorry for Chase Budinger who clearly didn’t understand what his coaches were telling him to do when he got his fifth foul. Then again, I’ve never liked Kevin O’Neil, so perhaps he did tell his leading scorer to foul when he had four fouls.
This by no means stands up to the classics KU and Arizona have played over the past ten years, but it was a nice rebound after Saturday’s loss. I hope there were some kids in the house who understand Miles Simon’s story and had some derisive signs prepared. I’m proud of how I’ve mellowed a bit in recent years, but if I was in Allen Fieldhouse tonight and was close to the Arizona bench, Simon would have heard me chirping at him all night. KU fans know what I’m talking about, how the fucker never should have been eligible for Arizona’s monumental upset of KU back in ’97.