Jayhawks: 'We're playing for ourselves'
KU football team hurt by poor attendance for Texas Tech, but should be healthy for NU
Monday, October 30, 2000
Just 26,000 fans showed up for the most important game of Kansas University's "new" football season.
No wonder the Jayhawks felt awfully alone in their 45-39 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The defeat snapped a two-game winning streak since KU declared a new season after its first five games.
"We're all we've got," KU senior safety Carl Nesmith said. "We can't get fans to come to the game, only the die-hard fans. Now we're just playing for ourselves."
With the loss, the Jayhawks fell to 4-4 overall, 2-3 in the Big 12. Now they must win two of their final three games to become bowl-eligible, and it'll be a tough task.
Kansas will travel to No. 5-ranked Nebraska — smarting from its first loss of the season — on Saturday, play host to No. 20 Texas, then end the season at bowl-eligible Iowa State.
"It's going to be hard, but it's just like last year, playing Nebraska after they lost a game," Nesmith said, referring to the Jayhawks' surprising 24-17 loss to NU last season. "I feel we have a good chance of beating them."
"It's tough to come in here and play a team you know you can beat, then have to go to Nebraska," KU quarterback Dylen Smith added. "They're still the best team in the nation. But we're confident."
They also should be close to full-strength.
KU coach Terry Allen reported Sunday that all the players who were injured against Tech were probable for NU.
Wide receiver Byron Gasaway, offensive tackle John Oddonetto, tight end Jason Gulley and defensive tackle De'Nard Whitfield all suffered ankle injuries. Offensive guard Marc Owen and linebacker Marcus Rogers each hurt a knee.
"The worst one is Gasaway. We'll wait and see on him," Allen said. "But I don't know if we'll lose anybody for Saturday.
Fullback Moran Norris, who hurt an ankle against Colorado and didn't play against Tech, should return. Defensive tackle Ervin Holloman, who played just one series while nursing a calf injury, and center Bob Schmidt also should return for NU.
Whether Kansas' confidence will come back remains to be seen.
Especially disturbing to Allen was the Jayhawks' defensive showing against Tech. The Red Raiders, who hadn't scored more than 28 points in any Big 12 game this season, exploded for 45 points and 489 total yards, including 409 yards passing.
"Obviously, they threw and caught pretty well," Allen said. "We didn't defend as well as we have, and we didn't tackle well. Obviously, they're much more of a finesse team than a physical team, and we just missed tackles. But I believe they will be able to come back. They've come back every time so far. They came back pretty well on Saturday."
Many of Tech's passing yards came when its taller receivers won jump-ball tosses over KU's shorter cornerbacks.
"I don't have all the answers there," Allen said. "Obviously, they got us on our heels a little bit. Our guys lost confidence, and they did go up and make plays."
So did KU's offense, which had its best game of the season with 499 total yards.
"It is frustrating to score 39 and lose," Smith said. "The defense has helped us all season keeping us in games. It was kind of a role reversal. We'll just have to get it together, get the full package for next weekend."
Kickoff for KU-Nebraska is 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.