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November 11, 2007

Kansas drops Oklahoma State to stay perfect

• Box score

STILLWATER, Okla. — Before he made it to the bleachers – before he began celebrating with the fans – Kansas running back Brandon McAnderson stood nose-to-lens with a television camera in the middle of Boone Pickens Stadium and began to shout.

"We keep talking, but they ain't listenin'," McAnderson screamed into living rooms across America. "We keep talkin' but they … ain't … listenin'."

Uh, Brandon. Who exactly is "they?"

Kansas' 43-28 victory at Oklahoma State on Saturday was broadcast nationally by Brent Musburger and ABC. The Jayhawks are ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll and fourth in the BCS, and more than 80,000 fans have purchased tickets for KU's season finale against Missouri.

So people are definitely listenin' – and watchin' and, more than, anything, wonderin'. Could this Kansas team – this team filled with unheralded recruits and overachievers – actually win the national title? Quarterback Todd Reesing doesn't see why not.

"We're just a bunch of regular guys that love to play football," Reesing said. "That's how we like it. We'd rather have 22 guys that no one's ever heard of that will win every ball game than a few superstars that everyone focuses on.

"A lot of these guys may have been overlooked in high school, but they're great players. I wouldn't trade one of them for anyone in the world."

With Ohio State losing to Illinois earlier in the day, Kansas became the nation's lone undefeated BCS conference team, improving to 10-0.

Kansas is expected catapult to No. 3 in this week's BCS poll. To leapfrog frontrunners LSU and Oregon, the Jayhawks would have to win their remaining regular-season games against Iowa State and Missouri and then defeat the Big 12 South champion – probably Oklahoma – in the league title game Dec.1 in San Antonio.

"We're not caught up in polls and all that stuff," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "Our team is 10-0 right now because we've focused each week on the task at hand."

KANSAS 43, OKLAHOMA STATE 28
Offensive player of the game
Kansas receiver Marcus Henry continues to make the most of his senior season. Playing in his native Oklahoma, Henry hauled in eight passes Saturday for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Henry's team-high 885 receiving yards are the fourth-most in school history.
Defensive player of the game
All-American candidateAqib Talib went four games without an interception before picking off Zac Robinson Saturday. "The drought is over," Talib said. Talib's biggest contribution, though, may have come when he knocked Cowboys receiver Adarius Bowman out of the game in the second quarter.
Turning point
Offensive coordinator Ed Warriner continues to be the unsung hero of this Kansas team. Late in the first quarter, Warriner called for quarterback Todd Reesing to pitch the ball to backup quarterback Kerry Meier, who was lined up as a receiver. Meier then heaved a strike to Marcus Henry for a 44-yard gain to the Oklahoma State 6 yard line. Kansas capitalized a few plays later with a Scott Webb field goal that made it 10-7.
Surprise performance
With James McClinton's workload reduced because of an ankle injury, redshirt freshman Jamal Greene was forced to play extensively for Kansas. Greene turned in an admirable performance with three key tackles.
Best hit
Oklahoma State's Terrance Anderson assured himself a spot on the season highlight reel when he punished KU punt returner Anthony Webb midway through the third quarter. Running full speed, Anderson timed his hit perfectly, spearing Webb to the ground just seconds after he caught the ball. Webb writhed on the field in pain for a few minutes before eventually returning to the sideline under his own power.
What this means for Kansas
Forget about the national title – at least for now. The Jayhawks just want to win the Big 12 North. What looked like a gimme game against Iowa State next week has suddenly become more interesting thanks to the Cyclones' back-to-back victories over Kansas State and Colorado. Still, don't count on KU losing on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium.
What this means for Oklahoma State
What a disappointing year for Mike Gundy. As if his press conference tirade wasn't embarrassing enough, it now appears Gundy will produce a 6-6 record for the second consecutive year. Not the kind of progress folks in Stillwater were hoping for – especially considering the talent on this Oklahoma State squad.
Etc...
Kansas is 10-0 for the first time since 1899 … Mark Mangino improved his career record at KU to 35-35 … The Jayhawks have four road wins in the same season for the first time since 1968 … Marcus Henry's 885 receiving yards rank fourth on Kansas' single season list … Representatives from the Sugar Bowl attended Saturday's game … Todd Reesing's 2,647 passing yards rank third on KU's single-season list … Kansas has won 13 of its last 14 games dating back to last season … Zac Robinson has 2,215 passing yards this season, making him just the fourth Cowboy signal caller to surpass the 2,000-yard mark … Dez Bryant set an Oklahoma State freshman record with 155 receiving yards.
Being the country's only undefeated BCS team doesn't necessarily make Kansas the country's best team. Admirable as their run has been, the Jayhawks only tout one win against a school ranked in the Top 25. LSU and Oregon, meanwhile, have proven themselves against week after week against the likes of Florida, Alabama, USC, Michigan and Arizona State.

Still, if Kansas does reach the title game, however, no one will be able to argue that it doesn't belong.

"To be at this point in the season and be undefeated and get some recognition for the program … it's awesome," Reesing said. "We're enjoying and loving every second of it. But we know what's at stake. That's why we prepare and practice so hard all week … to keep this thing rolling."

While Kansas' road to the national title game seems rugged, LSU and Oregon have a slightly easier path. LSU should be heavily favored in its final two regular-season games against Mississippi and Arkansas, but the Tigers will be tested in the SEC title game.

Oregon, meanwhile, has games remaining against Arizona (4-7), UCLA (5-5) and Oregon State (6-4). The Pac-10 doesn't have a conference championship game, so the Ducks should be in good shape if they win out and Kansas or LSU loses.

"Coach won't let us talk about it," linebacker Joe Mortensen said. "He gives us humble pie. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. There are still games to play before we can think about BCS."

Kansas doesn't have the size or athleticism of LSU or the speed of Oregon. Then again, on paper, the Jayhawks might not be as gifted as some of their Big 12 brethren, either. But under Mangino, their blue-collar persona has kept them in almost every game they've played.

And not just this season.

Since 2004 Kansas has lost 18 games by an average of 12.8 points. Twelve of those setbacks were decided by single digits. Last year Kansas dropped two games in overtime and two more in the final minute of regulation.

Three key factors have helped get Kansas over the hump this season: experience, the hiring of offensive coordinator Ed Warriner, and the presence of Reesing, who is beginning to garner mention as a Heisman candidate.

Reesing has thrown 26 touchdowns this fall and only four interceptions. Reesing's last pick came Oct. 6 at Kansas State. Since then he’s thrown 179 passes without a blemish.

A sophomore, Reesing was at his best against Oklahoma State on Saturday. On one play he scrambled and eluded defenders in the backfield for 10 seconds before finally heaving a long strike to Dexton Fields down the left sideline.

When Oklahoma State rallied to pull within 33-28 early in the fourth quarter, Reesing responded by leading KU on an 89-yard drive that culminated with his 5-yard touchdown heave to Marcus Henry that made it 40-28.

The Cowboys, 5-5, never threatened again against a KU squad that did not commit a turnover.

"Oklahoma State tried to get back into the game," Mangino said. "But we kept finding ways to shut the door."

All three of Reesing's scoring passes were to Henry, an Oklahoma native who tallied 199 receiving yards before his hometown fans. Reesing finished with 308 passing yards while McAnderson rushed for 142.

Cornerback Aqib Talib, an All-American candidate, chipped in with a fourth-quarter interception that helped seal the win. Talib's biggest contribution, though, might have been the second quarter hit he put on Adarius Bowman that knocked the Cowboys' star receiver out of the game. Bowman had 300 receiving yards against Kansas last season.

Talib was asked after the game if Kansas … which didn't even play in a bowl last season … could handle the national spotlight that continues to shine brighter in Lawrence with each win.

"There's no way around it," Talib said. "We're going to have to deal with it, so I guess we'll see."

Defensive tackle James McClinton was too busy relishing Saturday's victory to look toward the future.

"The nation … they doubted us, man," McClinton said. "Just look at us now."



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