LAWRENCE — The Kansas Jayhawks will be looking across the sideline Saturday at their greatest nemesis. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is 15-4 against KU and waltzed out of Memorial Stadium last season with a 59-7 victory in the game that he has always placed above all others.
If this 2-4 Kansas team has any chance of pulling an upset over this 6-0 Kansas State team, the Jayhawks will have to improve many aspects of their performance but none more than their inability to keep momentum going after halftime on both sides of the ball.
KU has lost the third quarter 86-28 this season — 59-7 during this four-game losing streak. Games against Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Oklahoma were competitive in the first half but became blowouts because the Jayhawks looked like a different team after the break. K-State has played its opponents to a 38-38 tie in the third quarter this season.
So how does a team fix a disturbing third-quarter trend? The Jayhawks are attacking the issue head on. According to wide receiver Kale Pick, KU is trying to simulate halftime in practice by taking extended breaks.
"The coaching staff has done a great job, getting game-like situations in practice," Pick said. "We take breaks right before we go at it again and act like it's the third quarter. That may help us in the future."
It may be an unorthodox idea — practicing less in an attempt to play better on Saturdays — but the Jayhawks have been backed into a corner by their lack of execution in the second half. Against Georgia Tech and Texas Tech, the offense and defense were dominated 28-0 and 21-0, respectively, in the third quarter. Last week against Oklahoma, KU's defense played well in holding OU to just three points, but the offense stalled on the way to a half in which it compiled 6 yards on 27 plays.
"We just need to make some adjustments and keep doing what we're doing in the first half," KU tight end Tim Biere said. "I just can't really put a finger on it. I've never been a part of something like that."
Kansas offensive coordinator Chuck Long doesn't see the problem as baffling at all. He says most teams have a quarter that isn't as good as the others.
"The positive with this, if you look at our point totals, we're about equal in the first, second and fourth quarters," Long said. "If you look at it from a different standpoint, yes, we do need to work on our third quarter, coming out of halftime. We are finishing games pretty well. If you look at each team, they're all gonna have one of those quarters they gotta work on. Ours is the third quarter."
KU coach Turner Gill said that he and his staff have talked about the issue as a group "for a few hours." He was encouraged by how the defense played against the Sooners in the third quarter, keeping the offense within striking distance.
Gill was asked this week about whether his team's conditioning could be a culprit.
"That has nothing to do with it," Gill said. "I think it's more execution. We've looked at all that, but I don't think you go back and say we could've done this more in the offseason or the preseason camp or what we do in practice. I haven't seen on film where some of our guys have been fatigued."