For the second straight week, the Kansas defense showed up on Saturday and put forth an extremely respectable effort - something which, for the most part, couldn't be said about the first eight weeks of the season.
On Nov. 5, the defense held Iowa State to just 13 points and a single touchdown in a losing effort, and Saturday they shut down Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears for three quarters, before letting the game get away from them in the fourth.
"We definitely had a lot of areas we needed to improve upon, and probably the biggest one we've improved on is getting turnovers," said Head Coach Turner Gill. "We've talked about it all year long. It's just great how we continue to emphasize and continue to work on it, and then see it come to fruition."
Up 24-3 heading into the fourth, the Jayhawks ultimately lost in heartbreaking fashion when a two-point conversion pass from Jordan Webb to Tim Biere fell short in overtime, giving the Bears a 31-30 victory.
With the demeanor around the team somber in the wake of the loss, getting them fired up and ready to go to face Texas A&M this weekend may take some work.
"That's going to be our challenge," Gill said. "But we know these 18 to 22, 23-year old men, in most cases they're pretty resilient. Probably more of us adults may hold onto it a little bit longer than the young men."
It's not for nothing Griffin is known as one of the most dynamic and dangerous quarterbacks in the country, so that Kansas kept him under wraps for three quarters was nothing short of impressive.
Unfortunately, the Jayhawks were only able hold him for so long before the dam finally broke. By the time Baylor rushed the field to celebrate their overtime victory, Griffin had racked up 121 yards rushing with one touchdown, and 312 yards passing with three touchdowns.
"He showcased his skills," Gill said. "What an outstanding quarterback, you want him to do? That's what he did. He is very much all of what you hear about him, and we saw it in person."
Misery loves company
The Jayhawks weren't the only team to suffer a heartbreaking loss Saturday. The Texas A&M Aggies - Kansas' next opponent, as fate would have it - dropped a four-overtime contest to Kansas State on Saturday.
As the contest is in College Station, Texas, despite the emotional baggage both teams carry Gill still expects home field advantage to come into play.
"Again, after a tough loss you never know how your team is going to respond," he said. "I don't care what team you're coaching. You've just got to hope you get your guys to rally back and be able to play well. That's what we're going to do ourselves."
Going for the win
In Gill's mind, the decision to go for two and the victory after the Jayhawks scored a touchdown on the first play of their overtime possession came down to one thing:
"Once we got a quick score like we did, the momentum changed our way," Gill said. "And I wanted to keep that momentum going. We thought we had a solid couple of plays in our mind we were going to run."
Gill took a timeout to discuss things, however, and prior to the snap Baylor coach Art Briles took one of his own. By that point, Gill admitted, some of that emotional surge may have cooled - though the players and coaches were still gung ho to take a stab at the win rather than kick the extra point and draw things out.
"It maybe did a little bit," he explained. "But I still felt confident in what we were doing. We discussed it just a little bit and said 'Hey, let's go. It's time to go win this thing.'"
McDougald stepping up
For most of the season, Steven Johnson has been the one Kansas defender who could be counted on to make an impact game in and game out.
Lately, junior Bradley McDougald has stepped up as well. As he is a safety, Gill said he's well positioned to fuel the increase in turnovers the defense has been able to create in recent weeks.
"They're kind of multi-dimensional," he said. "They've got to be very, very good in the run and they've got to be very, very good in the pass. So they have a better chance to be more instrumental in making plays for you and making a big difference in your defense, creating turnovers."
"We talk about guys that are playmakers, guys that go out and make plays," Gill added. "And Bradley McDougald definitely has done that here lately."