Kansas receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez buried his helmet into the turf, and 50 yards away, quarterback Montell Cozart squatted in a crouch, clasping his hands in front of him.
Forty-point underdogs can’t make mistakes and be competitive. So when Gonzalez dropped the well-placed pass down the sideline — the one that would have been a touchdown had he caught it — both players could sense the importance of the moment.
No, this first-quarter pass wasn’t the difference in KU’s 56-3 loss to No. 16 Oklahoma on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
It still was a good snapshot of KU’s biggest issue: a team making far too many mental and physical errors to be competitive against the Big 12’s best.
The miscues started on special teams. On Kansas’ second punt, the Jayhawks failed to surround Heisman candidate Dede Westbrook, who cut straight up the field for a 71-yard punt return and score.
That was just the start. Cozart added two more interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown after Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans ran backwards 10 yards before weaving his way 33 yards forward for a score.
There were other signs of regression as well. KU’s defense, after a promising start, couldn’t stop Oklahoma from converting on separate third-and-10, third-and-11 and third-and-16 plays in the first half. At one point, the Sooners scored touchdowns on six consecutive offensive drives.
KU also never found a solution for Westbrook, who once again solidified himself as a Heisman contender. In addition to the punt return for touchdown, he had five catches for 105 yards and a score, many times using his speed to create separation in the secondary.
After showing promising drives last week, KU’s offense was ineffective once again. The Jayhawks’ offensive line went from its best game last week to one of its worst, as KU mustered 37 rushing yards on 22 carries through the first three quarters.
Cozart had 120 yards passing, and his two interceptions continued the Jayhawks’ streak of having at least two turnovers each game this season. Also, after averaging 6.2 yards per play against Oklahoma State last week, KU was down to 2.6 Saturday. Keep in mind, this was against the same Oklahoma team that had allowed 854 yards to Texas Tech in its previous game.
The reality is that even if the Jayhawks played well, they were unlikely to win Saturday’s game. Same goes for next week, as KU goes on the road to face No. 10 West Virginia.
The true litmus test for how far this team has come in KU coach David Beaty’s second year will come after that. KU, now 1-7 and 0-5 in the Big 12, will have home games against Iowa State and Texas before the finale at Kansas State, as the schedule lightens up a bit for a team looking for its first FBS victory since 2014.
Jesse Newell: @jessenewell