The Kansas University football team’s defense might have surrendered 114 points during the past two games, but the offense is not free from blame when searching for answers for the Jayhawks’ recent struggles.
One week after watching Nebraska torch Kansas State for 48 points and nearly 600 yards, KU’s young offense mustered barely half of that total (331), including just 103 rushing yards during a 59-7 setback Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
Kansas (2-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12) has scored just three touchdowns in its last nine quarters, dating back to the victory against New Mexico State.
“We’ll try to change up a few things,” KU coach Turner Gill said following Thursday’s loss. “You can’t continue to do what you’re doing because that’s not working.”
Perhaps the most disappointing part of Thursday’s loss, at least from an offensive perspective, was KU’s inability to hit on big plays. Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Roy Helu Jr. whipped the Wildcats for five scoring plays of 35 yards or longer. KU’s longest gainer on Thursday was a 33-yard pass from Jordan Webb to Bradley McDougald on the final play of the first half. Other than that, the Jayhawks did not have a play longer than 20 yards.
“I really wasn’t surprised we didn’t have many explosive plays (because) we kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” junior receiver Daymond Patterson said. “We had plenty of times where it was third-and-15, and we’d get a first down, and we’d have a penalty that would bring it back. You can’t have too many big plays when you do that.”
Many of KU’s most critical mistakes came early, long before the Wildcats had established their dominance. Remember, this was a 3-0 game heading into the second quarter. After the game, several Jayhawks, including Gill, said the early miscues proved fatal.
“That’s crucial,” Gill said. “You have to move the ball on offense, and you have to score points. We didn’t capitalize early, and that caused us to have a tremendous uphill battle as the game went along.”
In each of the last two losses, moving the ball has not been the problem for Kansas. However, maintaining possession, sustaining drives and finishing in the red zone have seemed to be like asking a kindergartner to solve calculus problems.
Like it or not, a lot of it falls on Webb.
“In the offense that we’re running, you are relying on the quarterback a lot,” Gill said. “He has to make the right throws, the right reads, and if he’s not making those, it doesn’t look quite as (good).”
Despite being frustrated by “everything,” Webb was not looking to point fingers.
“We’re not pressing,” he said. “We had some good drives. We just didn’t finish. That’s all it is. We played hard. Everybody played hard. That’s one thing nobody can question. If you do, you’re wrong. We played hard.”
No quarterback controversy
Sophomore quarterback Kale Pick, out since Week 4 due to a leg injury, was available Thursday night. However, Gill said he chose to leave Pick on the bench because he was not yet fully healed. Pick’s status for next week’s game against Texas A&M remains up in the air, but Gill said KU was not looking for a new starter.
“I’d say right now we’re gonna probably stay where we’re at,” Gill said. “We’re gonna stick with Jordan Webb as our starting quarterback next week.”
Gill said Friday starting offensive lineman Sal Capra was questionable for next week’s game because of a sprained ankle he suffered midway through the third quarter of Thursday’s loss.
In addition, Gill said senior cornerback Chris Harris was injured briefly during the first defensive series of the game, but that he had not heard that the injury was a concussion, as Harris posted on his Twitter page following the game.
“He went back in and played,” Gill said. “I know they wouldn’t have put him out there if they were using that strong of a word.”