Do you remember as a kid blowing up a balloon as big as you could and then letting it go to see it sputter around the room? That’s how watching Kansas football has felt over the past few weeks – deflating.
Let’s rewind just one month ago. The Jayhawks took the Texas Longhorns down to the wire in Austin, eventually losing 48-50 in a thrilling game. While the loss stung because they were so close, it was still a real positive building block for the program seeing that they could perform like that against a then-ranked Texas team on the road.
KU followed up that performance with another exciting game at home against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. KU fought back from an early deficit and found a way to win that game 37-34 and finally, FINALLY, it felt like the team was on the rise heading into the biggest Sunflower Showdown against K-State in over a decade.
KU fans responded by selling out David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for the first time in years, hoping to finally see a victory against their in-state rivals for the first time since 2008. And just when fan hopes were at the highest they’ve been in recent memory…they get trounced. KSU controlled the game from the beginning and never let up, winning 38-10.
A bye week followed that game and the hope was that the nerves just got to the team and they would take the off-week to shore up things and get back to the high-scoring offense they showed under new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon’s first two games. That didn’t happen either.
The Jayhawks went into Stillwater and yet again got off to a slow start. The Jayhawks were scoreless through three quarters, down 31-0, before finally scoring 13 garbage-time points in the fourth quarter to make the box score look a little less putrid than the game actually was.
Both performances were disappointing for different reasons. The K-State game was disappointing because the team had just come off a rare Big 12 win at home against Texas Tech and an admirable performance against Texas in Austin, causing fans to show out at Memorial Stadium, only to be let down in a huge way by losing (badly) to their in-state rivals for the 11th straight season.
The Oklahoma State loss was disappointing because the team had just came off a bye week and looked as if they made zero improvements during that time. The offense under Brent Dearmon and Carter Stanley that we had seen in previous weeks was nowhere to be found and the game was essentially over by halftime.
Despite only being 3-5 at the time, KU had a lot of momentum around the program heading into the game against K-State. Fans were hopeful, the team was confident, Les Miles was confident, and then the wheels fell off in a big way.
The focus now for the team and the staff needs to be making these last two games against Iowa State and Baylor as competitive as possible. If they are not, then that’s only going to hurt program support heading into next season. Fans, alumni, and boosters want to see progress and performances like the past two weeks make it hard to believe that’s happening – which is going to hurt season ticket sales for 2020.
Most importantly though, the team needs to finish strong to send a message to recruits that this program is still on the rise. The early signing period begins on Dec. 18, 2019 and KU currently has the No. 31-ranked class overall according to Rivals – despite losing two commitments just last week.
If they want to keep this strong class intact, the best way to do that is to show strong performances down the stretch and make them believe that Miles has this team headed in the right direction. Athletic Director Jeff Long and Les Miles have both said that the only way to properly build this team is through high school recruits, so it’s critical that they keep these players committed and get them to officially sign with Kansas next month.
We’ll see if they are up to the task this Saturday in Ames as they take on the Cyclones. The game kicks off at 11 a.m. CT on FSN.
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