Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Despite dominating the game for three quarters Saturday, the Kansas Jayhawks fell apart down the stretch, falling to the visiting Baylor Bears in overtime, 31-30.

For the Kansas Jayhawks, this is just the way things have gone this season.

Four three quarters, Head Coach Turner Gill's squad dominated the visiting Baylor Bears in every facet of the game. They forced turnovers - multiple fumbles and interceptions - owned the time of possession battle, ran the football with authority and amassed a 24-3 lead heading into the final stanza.

It all seemed a little too perfect. On Senior Day, with emotions running high, the defense absolutely shutting down Bears star quarterback Robert Griffin III and the speculation mounting regarding Gill's future in Lawrence, the Jayhawks were playing with a confidence and energy on both sides of the ball they hadn't displayed all season long.

But Griffin needed less than four total minutes of game clock to erase all of that, leading a trio of explosive fourth-quarter scoring drives to tie the game and, ultimately, force overtime.

Baylor struck first in the extra frame, needing just two plays for Griffin to hit Tevin Reese from 14 yards out - an Aaron Jones kick giving the Bears a 31-24 advantage.

But Kansas struck back just as quickly. Jordan Webb - largely ineffective in the passing game throughout the day - hit Tim Biere on a seam route just a few yards past the line of scrimmage, and the senior tight end rumbled untouched into the end zone.

After a timeout to think things through, Gill opted to go for the win. Rather than run the ball, however – and Kansas had amassed 296 yards on the ground during the game – offensive coordinator Chuck Long dialed up a corner fade route. Mired in double coverage, the pass to Biere fell incomplete as the announced crowd of 35,000 and change sat in stunned silence.

"It hurts," Gill said. Our coaches did a great job of game planning against Baylor. The players for the most part executed the things we wanted to do to give us a chance to be successful. We just came up a little bit short. It is tough, and it's hard for us."

The game got started on an unusual note, as the Jayhawks won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, only to have Baylor opt to kickoff anyway.

Kansas took advantage of the gift, chewing up five minutes of clock and driving to the opposing 20-yard line before stalling, and a Ron Doherty 37-yard field goal gave them an early 3-0 lead.

As good as the offense was during the first three quarters - and it was very good for the most part - the defense was the real story.

Of Baylor's six first-half drives, five ended in either punts or turnovers. The Bears didn't get on the scoreboard until a costly facemask penalty with no time left on the clock in the half allowed them to move into field goal range, and Jones cashed in with a 37-yarder of his own.

Kansas, meanwhile, utilized its ground attack to great effect. Darrian Miller rushed for 93 first half yards on 13 carries, and Christian Matthews and James Sims both logged touchdown runs to give the Jayhawks a two touchdown lead at half, 17-3.

Plagued by issues with third quarter adjustments throughout the season, Kansas appeared to take positive steps after intermission. Once again riding a combination of Miller and Sims, they muscled their way to the Baylor 16, before Webb - in an attempt to throw the ball away - tossed a costly interception to the Bears' Mike Hicks.

But the Jayhawks defense stiffened, forcing another three-and-out deep in opposing territory, and this time the offense responded. On first and 10 from the Baylor 34, Tony Pierson juked a linebacker and exploded through the secondary untouched to paydirt.

Just like that, Kansas had a commanding 24-3 lead and every shred of the momentum.

When the fourth quarter arrived - on the heels of yet another stop by the Jayhawks defense, when Anthony Davis grabbed an interception - the victory that had eluded Kansas for almost two months was almost tangible.

That's when Griffin and the Baylor offense roared to life, putting up 21 unanswered points on scoring plays of 49, 36 and 67 yards.

Following the tying score, the Jayhawks still had a chance to win the game in regulation. Taking over possession with 3:25 remaining, they stayed calm and once again moved the ball downfield.

However, what appeared to be a clear pass interference against intended receiver JaCorey Shepherd went uncalled, causing the ball to ricochet into the arms of Bears defender Elliot Coffey at the Baylor 25-yard line. Had the penalty been called, Kansas would likely have been within Doherty's range with plenty of time to center the ball for a game-winning kick.

Instead, the result was overtime and, eventually, another tough Jayhawks loss.

"The referee makes the call, and that's the way it is," Gill said. "I see it one way, but they had to make the call. That's the way it goes."

Miller capped a career day with 147 yards rushing on 24 carries, a 6.1 yards per carry average. Pierson added 70 yards of his own, and Sims tacked on 64.

Webb finished the day 17-of-27 for 108 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Kansas next travels to College Station, Texas next Saturday to take on Texas A&M in the penultimate game of the 2011 season.

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