Kansas, Baylor miss chances to start strong

Updated: August 31, 2003, 11:22 PM ET

NORMAN, Okla. -- Kansas and Baylor were in good shape. Opening at home against very beatable teams gave the Big 12's two most downtrodden programs the chance to start 1-0 and provide players and fans with some much-needed excitement and encouragement.

Now the Jayhawks and Bears are staring at the flip side.

Kansas lost 28-20 to Northwestern and Baylor went down 24-19 to Alabama-Birmingham, both in agonizing ways. That makes the misery of starting 0-1 even worse. A pounding by a powerful team probably would have done more for their confidence than what happened Saturday.

The good news? Both probably feel better about their chances Oct. 18, when they play each other.

Kansas had won its last four home openers and was playing a Northwestern team whose defense was 116th out of 117 teams in Division I-A last season, allowing 515 yards per game.

Although the game was played in a strong rainstorm, that was no excuse for the Jayhawks' offense to score just one touchdown -- and even that took a broken play late in the third quarter.

KU had five turnovers, allowing the Wildcats to control the ball nearly twice as long. That's one way for Northwestern to improve its defense: keep it off the field.

At least Kansas showed some fight. The Jayhawks went from down 14-0 to tied at 14, then got within 21-20. Still, they've now lost eight straight and are 2-11 under second-year coach Mark Mangino.

"This shows our competitiveness," quarterback Bill Whittemore said. "We're not going to have any setbacks."

Baylor was also talking about moral victories.

After turning a 10-point deficit in the third quarter into a two-point lead in the fourth, the Bears saw UAB's hobbling quarterback throw a 50-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds left.

It was more like the end of the Kevin Steele coaching era than the way new leader Guy Morriss hoped to start. There was progress, though, in the sense that Baylor wasn't blown out. This was the Bears' narrowest margin of defeat since Steele's first two games in 1999, a 30-29 overtime loss at Boston College and a three-point loss the next week.

Steele, who went 9-36 in four seasons, had only one other loss by fewer than 10 points, and 30 of his losses -- including all nine last year -- were by at least 20 points.

"We didn't quit and we didn't throw in the towel," Morriss said. "I'm proud of them for that."

Next up for Baylor is North Texas, which lost 37-3 to No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday. The Mean Green could provide an interesting litmus test.

If the two-time defending Sun Belt champs aren't even close against the Sooners, then holds it own -- or even wins -- against Baylor, the Bears could really have a long season ahead.


^THAT COULD'VE BEEN US!"@ Iowa State avoided an ugly start by holding off Division I-AA Northern Iowa. It wasn't easy.

The Cyclones, who closed last season 1-6 after peaking at 6-1 and reaching the top 10 for the first time, broke a tie late in the third quarter then needed a big defensive stand in the final minutes for a 17-10 victory.

"We weren't fancy or flashy, and we sure weren't a fantastic offense by any means," ISU coach Dan McCarney said.


^THE REAL DUSTIN McNEAL:@ New Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione joked last week that his starting quarterback would be Dustin McNeal, his way of merging incumbent Dustin Long and Reggie McNeal.

After one game, the edge goes to McNeal, a sophomore best known for beating No. 1 Oklahoma last season.

McNeal played the first and third quarters. Long had the second and fourth -- until a late touchdown by Arkansas State trimmed the Aggies' lead to eight. Then McNeal returned and led a drive that resulted in a touchdown that sealed a 26-11 victory.

Why the switch?

"It was just my gut, pretty much," Franchione said. "I felt maybe we might need Reggie's scrambling ability there at the end and he did scramble. It's not anything Dustin didn't do or anything like that."


^LOOKING UP:@ Kudos to the North division, which went into the weekend seen as the weaker half. Of the four ranked Big 12 teams, three were from the South.

Nebraska took out one, beating No. 24 Oklahoma State 17-7, then Colorado made a bid to move into the rankings by knocking off No. 23 Colorado State 42-35. OSU and CSU were the only ranked teams that lost to unranked foes.

The Cornhuskers unveiled what's supposed to be a new offense, although it didn't seem too different. In fact, the key touchdown came from the defense. That unit also shut down the Cowboys' supposedly high-powered offense, allowing an early TD, then holding Rashaun Woods to three catches for 15 yards.

"Nebraska blitzed more as the game went on and did not give us any time to throw, which led me to rush my passes," OSU quarterback Josh Fields said.

Colorado QB Joel Klatt threw for 402 yards and four TDs, plus setting up the game-winning score in the final minute. Not bad for a guy with one career pass.

Missouri also won, beating Illinois 22-15, although the Tigers were sloppy. The defense allowed 422 yards and Brad Smith threw for 101 and ran for 66, not huge numbers for the QB billed as one of the conference's most exciting players.

"We wanted to go and try to keep him in the pocket," Illini coach Ron Turner said. "Nothing tricky, (we) just tried to mix up the looks a little bit on him."


^QUICK HITS:@ Kansas State's offense rolled even in the rain, gaining 392 yards in a 41-5 victory over Troy State. It could be costly, though, if RB Darren Sproles is hurt badly. He left favoring his left leg. ... B.J. Symons picked up where Kliff Kingsbury left off at Texas Tech, going 23-for-38 for 297 yards and three touchdowns in a 58-10 victory over SMU. ... The Oklahoma defense is incredibly fast, especially up front. QB Jason White held up fine in his first start, but showed little mobility on his two rebuilt knees; then again, he didn't have to run much in a 37-3 victory over North Texas. .... Mizzou QB Brad Smith scored a 2-point conversion on the swinging gate formation. It started from the 8-yard line because of a false start penalty. "We thought if we caught them off-guard, with Brad's speed he'd get on the corner," coach Gary Pinkel said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index