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Saturday, October 18, 2008
Kansas still in good position after loss to Oklahoma


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

NORMAN, Okla. -- There was a natural tendency for Kansas players to beat themselves up after being steamrolled by Oklahoma on Saturday.

The Jayhawks will wake up Sunday morning sore from the after effects of the loss but still sitting in first place.

The Jayhawks control their destiny to their first North Division title even after becoming the Sooners' 22nd consecutive home victim in a 45-31 loss to the nation's No. 4 team.

"We've rebounded from losses time after time and 22 teams in a row have lost in Norman," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "I think we're in pretty good company, don't you think?"

And maybe even better. The Jayhawks failed in their first test against a South Division power. They have tough games against South Division elite teams Texas and Texas Tech approaching, but both will be played in Lawrence. Their game against Oklahoma was their toughest road game of the season.

"There's disappointment in here for sure," said Kansas running back Jake Sharp, who rushed for 103 yards and scored a touchdown. "Everybody gave everything we could, but we just made too many mistakes. We played a great ball club and made some plays, but just didn't make enough to come out on top."

Mangino's group showed this wouldn't be a typical Kansas team that might have come into Owen Field intimidated. The Jayhawks picked up a first down on its first three plays of the game and eventually rolled up 26 first downs. They produced 491 yards which was the most that Oklahoma had yielded this season.

Mangino knew his team would have to turn the game into a shootout to win. The Jayhawks were able to do that deep into the third quarter as Sharp's running and the passing of Todd Reesing kept the Sooners off-balance.

Kansas was trailing by only seven points midway through the third quarter before the Sooners blew the game open, taking advantage of a tiring Kansas defense that had to play 97 snaps in the game.

"We came in expecting to have to score a lot of points to win," Mangino said. "We had some mistakes and penalties that slowed drives and ended up costing us in the long run."

Kansas' biggest problem was in converting third-down plays. The Jayhawks came in to the game ranking third in the nation in third-down conversions, but misfired on their first 10 third-down plays before finally converting one.

By then, the game was safely in hand. It left the Jayhawks trying to put the best spin on the loss, even sitting in first place.

"A loss is always going to be disappointment, now matter how it happens," Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey said. "We just have to be optimistic and realize that we're going to learn from today. You always learn more from a loss than you do from a win. So we'll go from there."