LAWRENCE, Kan. – With a new offensive coordinator and fresh attitude, Kansas spent four quarters going toe-to-toe with Texas last week, taking the highly ranked Longhorns down to the wire on the road.
The Jayhawks didn't quite finish off the upset, but they certainly raised some eyebrows.
Two belonged to Texas Tech coach Matt Wells.
"What a phenomenal effort they played with," said Wells, who team heads to Lawrence to face the Jayhawks on Saturday. "I mean, those kids played hard. They really did. They went out and man, they did. They emptied the tank, and they had every right to win and deserved to win."
The Jayhawks (2-5, 0-4 Big 12) had 310 yards passing, Pooka Williams ran for 190 and two scores, and they scored with 1:36 left and converted an audacious 2-point try to take the lead. But their defense stumbled after that, and Texas managed to kick a game-ending field goal for a 50-48 victory.
On the mountain of moral victories, it may have pushed to the top of the heap.
Too bad for the Jayhawks it still counted as a loss.
"Another good outing but not exactly how we wanted to finish it," Kansas coach Les Miles said. "But I believe this team is coming and I think there will be some games of significance going forward."
It could start against the Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3), who are also in the foundation-laying process under their new coach. Wells led them to an uplifting win over Oklahoma State a couple weeks ago, but the Red Raiders were edged a week later by Baylor and never put up much fight against Iowa State.
The way that game went down left Wells scratching his head.
Texas Tech got off to a hot start against Oklahoma State, setting the tone early. It floundered in the opening minutes against Oklahoma. Another fast start put the Red Raiders in the game against the unbeaten Bears, but another poor start against the Cyclones made it an uphill battle.
"It's all tied to the first year, trying to build this foundation and making sure that it's exactly what we want," Wells said. "It's been a work in progress, and there's things that have gone better, but it takes more guys doing it. It takes quite a few guys."
That's a fact Miles knows, too.
"I like the way they played," he said of last-week's narrow defeat, "and I enjoyed how they took the field and they obviously were in a very competitive game right from the start. When you take the lead in the last drive, you think that, you know, you're going to win."
Now the trick is to finish it off.
JAYHAWKS FLYING HIGH: Kansas fired offensive coordinator Les Koenning and replaced him with analyst Brent Dearmon last week, and the change paid immediate dividends. Carter Stanley threw four touchdown passes without a pick, Williams was a nightmare for the Longhorns, and the Jayhawks piled up 569 yards total offense.
"It was cool. I mean, I'm proud of our guys," Stanley said. "It was a good first showing. Just going off how we played and watching film by myself, I think it was pretty good. I can be better in some areas and we left a few points off the board, but it was a good start."
JUKE-A POOKA: After he was held to just 12 yards rushing on eight carries by TCU, the Jayhawks' electrifying running back has run for 137 yards against Oklahoma and 190 against Texas. That means Williams, who was suspended for the opener against Nicholls State, now has three 100-yard games this season.
JETT NEEDS TO SOAR: Texas Tech quarterback Jett Duffey was 40 of 52 for 239 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions against Iowa State, numbers that are efficient if unspectacular. But the performance, which included nine carries for 24 yards, left Wells wanting more out of his signal-caller.
"We missed some throws. We got pressure a couple times and didn't think we needed to be. You just got to move the ball," Wells said. "We just weren't real sharp as we'd been in the passing game."
SCREEN GAME: The reason for Duffey's low yardage despite 40 completions was the fact that Iowa State gave the Red Raiders the short screen game. The Cyclones compensated by taking away downfield throws. It proved an effective strategy and one the Jayhawks could try to emulate on Saturday.
RING OF HONOR: The Jayhawks will induct former Chargers safety Darrell Stuckey into their ring of honor. He will join former teammates Todd Reesing, Chris Harris and Anthony Collins as recent additions.
"You don't really plan when you come into college something like that to happen. You look up there and it's this far-fetched opportunity," he said. "It's such a moment of joy and accomplishment."