LAWRENCE — Apparently, things are going to get worse before they get better for the Kansas Jayhawks.
Saturday night's 45-10 beating by Texas A&M — a team that came to Memorial Stadium having lost three straight games — wasn't just another blowout loss for a bad football team.
By the end of this one, the Jayhawks lost their top two quarterbacks. Starter Jordan Webb left the game late in the second quarter with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder, and backup Kale Pick sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter. KU coach Turner Gill said both players' status for next week's game at Iowa State is unknown.
They lost the hope that they could take advantage of a sloppy opponent. The Aggies committed 12 penalties for 130 yards, but the Jayhawks weren't good enough to cash in on another struggling team's mistakes.
Mostly, they lost the remaining faith of an already frustrated fan base. Three years after Kansas slapped Nebraska with 76 points on homecoming Saturday, the Jayhawks played the second half in front of a mostly empty house on a day when alumni are supposed to come back to Campanile Hill and feel a sense of pride in their school.
In year one under Turner Gill, there isn't much pride left. The Jayhawks (2-5, 0-3 Big 12) have lost their last three by a combined score of 159-24.
"Obviously, after that game, the morale is shot," KU tight end Tim Biere said. "It's just terrible. As much as most of us have dedicated to this program, it's just terrible to see this right now."
Former KU coach Mark Mangino would never have believed this was possible — many of the players he recruited in the aftermath of the 2008 Orange Bowl victory losing 12 of 14 games. Of course, Mangino was responsible for seven of those losses, but the Jayhawks did not suffer the indignity of being blown out by average teams.
Mangino was spotted on the sidelines of the Hutchinson-Butler game on Saturday night in El Dorado. He was there watching his son, Tommy, who is on the Hutchinson staff.
Kansas talked all week about wanting to get off to a better start but found itself trailing 14-3 less than nine minutes in. The Jayhawks fought back and were trailing 17-10 when the defense held the Aggies on third-and-15 in the second quarter. But a roughing-the-passer penalty on KU defensive end Jake Laptad kept the A&M drive alive, and the Aggies scored on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Jeff Fuller to take a 24-10 lead.
"There's plays out there, plays that if they had just gone our way, it could have been a different game," Laptad said. "That was a tough one for us."
The backbreaker came on the next series. Webb quickly drove the Jayhawks down the field but injured his shoulder on a scramble that set KU up with third-and-6 from the A&M 7. Webb elected to stay in the game and grossly underthrew a fade pass that was intercepted and returned 83 yards by Texas A&M cornerback Dustin Harris. A&M would score another touchdown, and for all practical purposes, the game was over.
Backup Kale Pick, in his first real action since starting the season-opening loss to North Dakota State, was ineffective in Webb's absence. He completed 7 of 12 passes for 40 yards but failed to move the offense.
Defensively, the futility of a lost season continued to sink in. On a night when Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson set the school's career total yardage mark with 8,888, Tannehill, his backup, passed for 155 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score.
The Jayhawks had made some adjustments, moving linebacker Toben Opurum to defensive end and cornerback Chris Harris to safety, but none of it seemed to matter.