Kansas’ forgettable 24-hour span in sports ended in predictable fashion with a football thumping at the hands of Oklahoma. Although the Jayhawks showed life early and late, the Sooners played up to their national championship aspirations and rolled to a 45-20 victory Saturday.
That outcome alone isn’t what made it a lost weekend in Lawrence. The previous night, stripper poles and money guns were put to use — not in a nightclub, but at KU’s annual Late Night in the Phog.
Historically, Kansas does the ceremonial opening of basketball practice as well as any program. It’s a recruiting extravaganza replete with skits, guests, a light practice and fun for everyone involved.
The recent development of NCAA trouble with the program alleged to have committed multiple Level 1 violations mostly for recruiting wasn’t an issue on a night of celebration.
Until it became one, in image, at least, with the entertainment provided by headliner Snoop Dogg, whose act included shooting dollar bills into the crowd at Allen Fieldhouse.
Stripper poles took the program to an inappropriate adult level that Kansas won’t soon live down. The firing of fake $100 bills mocked the NCAA process, intentionally or not. It was a bad look the Jayhawks, who two weeks ago came on strong in their intention to defend themselves.
“Innuendo, half-truths, mis-impresions and mis-characterizations,” is how Hall of Fame men’s basketball Bill Self described the allegations.
From KU chancellor Doug Girod: “(W)e take seriously any conduct that is antithetical to our values and mission.”
The answer from Snoop Dogg, wearing a KU jersey?
And the fake money flew.
Apologies were quickly issued Friday night. And the insistence from Self and KU athletic director Jeff Long that they were unaware of the show’s particulars ahead of time is plausible. In a statement, Long said he had expected a “cleaner version” of Snoop Dogg’s usually bawdy show. Self told reporters the same.
But closer pre-show vetting by someone in the athletic department was essential — and that it wasn’t done effectively is a major fail.
Late Saturday morning, it was apparent that KU had done a much better job of scouting Oklahoma football. The Jayhawks opened their second possession on the 2. Two false starts put them 99 yards form the end zone. The Sooners had flipped the field and were ready to seize the game.
Instead, the Jayhawks put together the drive of the season. Pooka Williams — if only he could line up against Oklahoma every game — got the Jayhawks out of the end zone with a pair of runs totaling 31 yards. Williams was on his way to a 137-yard rushing game, giving him 389 on the ground against the Sooners in two years.
Quarterback Carter Stanley did the rest, completing five straight passes, the final one a perfect strike to Daylon Charlot from 22 yards for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
At this point, the old Lee Corso story came to mind. Some four decades ago, Corso was coaching Indiana, and the Hoosiers took an early lead against heavily favored Ohio State. The future ESPN analyst called a timeout and had his team pose for a photo with the scoreboard in the background. Did it actually happen?
Probably not, but point taken.
For the Jayhawks, consecutive plays not made moments later turned the game decidedly in the Sooners’ favor. After Oklahoma scored the tying touchdown, KU drove to the OU 41 and faced fourth-and-2. A pass from Stanley later, tight end James Sosinski appeared to have enough for the first down. But Sosinski dropped the ball.
As if one deflating moment wasn’t enough, on Oklahoma’s first snap, Jayhawks safety Mike Lee jumped a short route and had the ball in his grasp and nothing but green in front of him. But he let Jalen Hurts and the Sooners off the hook with his drop. And Oklahoma went on to score 42 straight points.
Stanley and Stephon Robinson hooked up for a pair of fourth-down touchdowns to make the final score more respectable, and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley later tipped his cap to Les Miles’ Jayhawks, calling them an “improved football team from what we’ve seen in the last several years.”
But it’s difficult for Kansas to feel good about much of anything this weekend, which started with an embarrassment and finished in a scramble to prevent an even worse blowout.