Tom Keegan: Kansas football defense better, still not good

Texas Tech running back Justin Stockton (4) is tackled by Kansas safety Mike Lee (11) during the half on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017 at Memorial Stadium.

The center of the ineptitude of the Kansas football team has shifted from a disappointing defense to an offense that hasn’t scored in nine-plus quarters.

Injuries to center Mesa Ribordy and running back Khalil Herbert have exposed the lack of depth on an offense that repeatedly has put the defense in bad spots.

Kansas has been outscored 118-0 in the past 9 1/2 quarters. That’s a ton of points to surrender, although punt returns and turnovers share the blame.

So is the defense improving?

“There’s no doubt,” defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said. “It’s not near as fast as anyone wants it. I’m not saying we’re any good because we’re not. We still have our struggles.”

Then Bowen spoke to examples of young players learning.

“If you would hear our kids Central Michigan week and Ohio week coming off the field: ‘Osaze, how’d they block you on that lead play?’ ‘Oh, the guard climbed and the center hit me and I think the fullback did.’ No, Osaze, three guys didn’t block you. One guy climbed up and blocked you and obviously you don’t know who that is. And that’s what happens to inexperienced players,” Bowen said.

And now?

Bowen: “Now they come to the sideline and it’s, ‘Hey guys, they ran the power. What happened?’ And Osaze will say, ‘They comboed the three and got me, coach.’ And it’s across the board. ‘Hey, what route did they run there, Mike (Lee)?’ Early in the year he’d say, ‘Coach, I don’t know. I don’t know. I saw the QB.’ ‘Mike, we’re supposed to be looking at a guy here.'”

And now?

Bowen: “Now he comes off and says, ‘Oh, coach, they did a smash concept on my side.’ So nobody sees those things, but for me, and where we are, I mean, there are huge signs of progress that we see on a day-to-day basis.”

It will be interesting to see how much of that progress shows today against a Kansas State offense that doesn’t resemble typical Big 12 Air Raid attacks.

“They’re kind of the Georgia Tech of the Big 12 in that they’re the offense that does things different than just about anyone else,” Bowen said. “It’s the game that you see less looks of that during the course of the year.”

He called it “old-school option principles in terms of making you be assignment-sound in all facets of the game. They’ve twisted it and done it their own way. … There’s a lot of little magic in their sauce. It appears to be very simple, but there’s really some kind of hidden genius in the way they do it.”

It’s Bill Snyder, the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle of college football coaches, to try to solve.