AUSTIN — For the better part of four years, Kansas has turned losing into an art form. For four years, as the Jayhawks have wandered through Big 12 purgatory, the losses have been defined by a certain inevitability.
Not matter what happens, no matter how well Kansas plays, the moment is coming.
On Saturday afternoon, a picturesque fall day in the heart of Texas, the moment included a quarterback falling to the turf, a ball squirting out, and a 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
These are the kind of things that Kansas fans have witnessed for the last four years, the kind of momentum-changing plays that persisted in the Jayhawks’ 35-13 loss to Texas at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Trailing by just one score with 6:37 left in the third quarter, Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps was buried by an onslaught of Texas pass-rushers. As he was dragged to the turf, the ball came out. And Texas’ Chris Whaley picked up the loose ball and ran 40 yards for a touchdown.
The floodgates would open — Texas would score 21 unanswered points — and Kansas (2-6 and 0-5 in the Big 12) was doomed to its 26th straight conference loss. That’s three shy of Baylor’s all-time record for Big 12 futility.
For another week, the formula was the same: The Kansas defense, which shook off last week’s 59-14 loss to Baylor, kept the Jayhawks in the game for close to three quarters.
The KU offense, meanwhile, couldn’t find the end zone. Kicker Ron Doherty converted two field goals after freshman Matthew Wyman missed a 31-yard attempt on the opening drive of the half. But after Heaps’ fumble was returned for a touchdown, the Jayhawks’ offensive woes were even more apparent.
For nearly 56 minutes — before KU freshman quarterback Montell Cozart tacked on a late rushing touchdown — the Kansas offense surrendered more points (seven) than they scored.
Junior quarterback Jake Heaps started and played one of his better halves of the season in the first half. A errant third-down pass on the Jayhawks’ opening drive kept KU out of the end zone, but he still managed to complete eight of 16 pass attempts for 116 yards in the first half.
That didn’t stop Kansas coach Charlie Weis from going to Cozart early in the second quarter. And for the most part, Cozart wasn’t able to provide a spark.
It was the little mistakes that handcuffed Kansas during the first half. And also some big ones. Too many penalties. A few missed opportunities. A handful of mental mistakes.
The Jayhawks trailed 14-3 at halftime, and in some ways, it could have been a lot better. In other ways, it could have been a lot worse.
On the final play of the half, Doherty came on and drilled a 21-yard field goal as the clock expired. The kick came moments after quarterback Jake Heaps had connected with Rodriguez Coleman on a 43-yard deep ball inside the 5-yard line.
After a solid opening drive in the opening minutes of the first quarter, Heaps missed Tre’ Parmalee on a simple crossing route on third down deep in Texas territory. The errant throw forced the field-goal unit onto the field, and freshman kicker Matthew Wyman pulled a 31-yard field goal attempt to the left.
The next costly breakdown came after the KU defense had forced Texas to punt in its own territory in the final minutes of the first quarter. On fourth and 5 from the Texas 13-yard line, KU’s Billy Owens ran into Texas punter Anthony Fera, prompting a 5-yard penalty and keeping the drive alive. The Longhorns promptly drove 82 yards, taking a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run from Malcolm Brown.
Brown would add a second touchdown run, putting Texas up 14-0 after a seven-play, 56-yard yard drive in the final minutes of the second quarter.
The Jayhawks, who entered Saturday on a four-game losing streak, were looking for their first victory against Texas since 1938. Instead, they left town with another loss.