LAWRENCE, Kan. – After it was over, Northern Illinois cornerback Sean Evans could only shake his head.
"We had a perfect, I mean, we schemed up," Evans said. "From where I was, it looked like we had everybody covered up. I guess, inches. This game is a game of inches."
Those inches didn't go Northern Illinois' way in an offensive shootout Saturday night.
The Huskies lost at Kansas, 45-42, after allowing a six-yard touchdown pass from Jayhawks quarterback Jordan Webb to receiver D.J. Beshears with nine seconds left. NIU coach Dave Doeren called a blitz on the deciding play, with one-on-one coverage. Like most of the night, the Huskies' defense was in position to make a play.
But those inches wouldn't allow it.
"It doesn't feel good, I'll tell you that," said Doeren, a Kansas City-area native who was a defensive assistant at Kansas from 2002-05. "I think our guys played extremely hard, and so did theirs. My hat goes off to KU and their players. They executed and made one more play than we did.
"We've got to do a better job of getting off the field on third down, and tackling and getting off blocks."
Those weaknesses led to 534 yards allowed for Kansas' (2-0) offense. NIU's (1-1) offense gained 462 of its own, led by senior quarterback Chandler Harnish's 404 yards of total offense and five touchdowns.
"Any time we give up that many yards, we're always going to feel like we let our offense down," senior middle linebacker Pat Schiller said. "It's probably the worst thing ever. We're going out there, giving 100 percent, and they were just able to make plays."
While the Jayhawks' final play rightfully stands out as the difference, NIU felt it should've never gotten to that point.
The Huskies were driving near the first half's end before coming up on a fourth-and-6 at Kansas' 30-yard line. Harnish lobbed a pin-point pass to Martel Moore, who was called down with the reception at the Jayhawks' 1.
But after a booth review, the referee overturned his call. Kansas got the football back with 1:46 left and finished the drive with Webb's 36-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kale Pick with just seconds left in the first half. The Huskies, who got the football to start the third quarter, possibly could have put the game away early.
"It all went down to that review," Moore said. "I know for sure I caught the ball. I took two complete steps and stretched out for the touchdown, all I had to do was cross (the goal line). It's just what (the referee) picked, and we'll have to go for it."
NIU plays another BCS program when the Huskies host Wisconsin at Soldier Field next Saturday. The quick turnaround forces a short memory, even if it won't be easy.
"One game is not going to make or break our season," Doeren said. "Our goals are all intact. We can still win the MAC West, that's our goal. Obviously winning today would've helped us as far as national exposure, but this game won't make or break our season.
"We've just got to go back and regroup."