Entries from blogs tagged with “KU football”
Thanks to a pair of blowouts in the opening rounds and a hard-fought 70-63 victory over 19th-ranked Vanderbilt in Wednesday's title game, the Kansas University men's basketball team hoisted some hardware in paradise.
Taking the Maui Invitational was the first step in what fifth-ranked Kansas (4-1) hopes will be a handful of celebrations like it during the 2015-16 season.
Here's a quick look at some of the fun on the floor following KU's Maui Invitational triumph.
During Friday's long flight over the Pacific Ocean, I spent some time looking over the stats for the Chaminade Silverswords, KU's first opponent at the 2015 Maui Invitational — 8 p.m. central Monday night — and a couple of things jumped out immediately.
The biggest, by far, had to do with Chaminade's scoring.
Despite dropping their first two games of the season, the Silverswords have averaged 96 points per game. Six Chaminade players have averaged double digits in scoring to start the season, with Oscar Pedroso (20), Kuany Kuany (16) and James Harper (15) leading the way.
A closer look at how those points have come created a bit of a head-scratching moment until I got to one key statistic.
Chaminade has scored the exact same number of field goals as its opponents — 61-of-122 shooting vs. 61-of-133 shooting — and even outshot opponents, 28-21, behind the three-point line.
Those numbers, especially this early in the season, likely would lead one to believe that the Silverswords had won both of their games instead of losing them.
But that's where that key stat comes in. During losses to Alaska Anchorage (92-90) and at Alaska (112-102), Chaminade surrendered 75 trips to the free throw line and got to the line just 55 times. Those numbers led to a 61-42 free-throw-shooting advantage for the two Alaska schools and ultimately led to both losses.
Chaminade has out-fouled its opponents 55-46 and had three players foul out, including junior guard Kiran Shastri, who started one of the two games and fouled out of both of them.
Without having seen the Silverswords play, it's hard to know exactly what kind of team they field and how they run offense and play — or don't play — defense. But based on the stats, it looks like they're a fast team that likes to chuck up three-pointers and doesn't worry too much about defending.
It will be interesting to see if the Jayhawks get caught up in that style and try to run up and down with the Silverswords or if KU coach Bill Self elects to make this more of a half-court game, perhaps in response to KU's struggles in the half-court in last week's loss to Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Chicago, where KU senior Perry Ellis led Kansas with 21 points but did not get nearly enough touches in the paint, especially in the second half.
The nice thing about Ellis' game and the Wichita native's versatility is that it allows KU to play just about any style necessary without having to worry about him being taken out of the game. Ellis seems to be equally comfortable doing work inside, both on the block and out of the high post, or running the floor, leading the break and knocking down outside jumpers.
Either way, you can bet that he'll be a huge point of emphasis for Kansas (1-1) in Maui, against Chaminade in the opener, simply because it's the next game after Michigan State, and as the Jayhawks try to run past the rest of the field to deliver Self his first Maui title in four tries.
The Kansas University men's basketball team had a golden opportunity to start the season with a statement victory in a prime-time event that would have served notice that this season was going to be different.
It still might, but the Jayhawks blew that opportunity by collapsing down the stretch against a scrappy, hard-charging Michigan State team that made all of the plays on offense and defense in Tuesday night's 79-73 victory over Kansas in the Champions Classic in Chicago.
By all accounts, this was a bad loss. And not because Michigan State (2-0) is a bad team or because the Jayhawks no-showed. Worse. Because Michigan State is a good team, Kansas (1-1) had 'em beat and still could not close the deal.
After building an 11-point lead midway through the second half and looking like they were about to turn the lights out on the Spartans' chances, Kansas forgot how to run offense, gave up too many easy buckets on defense and, despite never quitting, never could regain the upper hand. Kansas played catch-up basketball down the stretch and Michigan State never blinked.
The loss dropped KU to 1-1 this season and 1-4 all-time in the Champions Classic.
Like our sports editor Tom Keegan wrote in today's paper, the Jayhawks blew this one by not understanding the importance of Perry Ellis. And I'm not just talking late or in the second half. From the very start of the game on, the Jayhawks far too often failed to give Ellis a touch on the offensive end, instead allowing for crazy driving shots at the rim that, in all reality, weren't even close. Even if he's not scoring, Ellis is the man that nearly every possession should run through night in and night out. Doing that makes Kansas a better team. Not doing that makes Kansas lose to Michigan State in a game they had no business losing. Ellis easily should've gone for 30 points in this one but the KU perimeter players — veteran guys who should know better — did not emphasize getting him the ball and KU came away empty. It's not an end-of-the-world type of loss for Kansas. But it definitely should not have happened and it will be interesting to see what this team learned and/or gained from the defeat.
Three reasons to smile
1 – There's not a single player on KU's roster that can score and impact the game in as many different ways as Perry Ellis. And that was on full display in this one. He scored in the post, finished through contact and hit from the outside. Because of the loss, several KU fans already have jumped on the “Perry's soft” bandwagon. They're missing the point. He's not soft. He's KU's best player. By far. And he needs to be the focal point of everything the Jayhawks do on a more consistent basis.
2 – The Jayhawks were solid from the free throw line, shooting 24-of-30 for 80 percent, and got there nearly twice as much as the Spartans. With guys like Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden and Frank Mason in the starting lineup, getting easy points at the line should be a point of emphasis for the Jayhawks all season. Five different Jayhawks were perfect at the free throw line in Tuesday's loss.
3 – KU won the turnover battle in a big way on Tuesday night, coughing up just six turnovers and forcing 16. It could be argued that poor shot selection at times actually accounted for more turnovers, but on the stat sheet it went down as six give-aways. That's the product of a veteran team understanding the importance of each possession and being locked in enough to avoid careless mistakes.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Sophomore guard Devonte' Graham was sped up all night and tried to play beyond his ability. Graham's a great athlete, a good shooter and has a knack for finding the open man and running good offense. Last night he displayed none of that. He fired hard-driving shot after hard-driving shot off the backboard, missed his three-point tries and appeared to be a little overwhelmed by trying to put on a show on the big stage. That's not what Kansas needs from Graham and he knows that. Don't expect to see anything similar the rest of the year.
2 – Big man Landen Lucas may have tied for the team lead with seven rebounds but he had next to no impact on this game. He struggled mightily in the post on offense — why KU still throws it in there to him is beyond me — and he had defensive lapses that just can't happen. Give him credit for grabbing seven boards, but his size advantage alone in this one said that number should've been attainable. There will be games down the road when Lucas' size and rebounding ability can help this team, but he needs to improve significantly in a few other areas to warrant big minutes. After the performance Hunter Mickelson put up in Korea this summer, I'm shocked that he played just three minutes on a night when neither Lucas nor Jamari Traylor really had it going.
3 – Smaller Michigan State out-rebounded Kansas by 10 on the boards and dominated stretches of the second half by getting second and third chances off of pure heart. KU had the size and depth advantage and you could not have paid me to believe that they would get out-rebounded in this one.
One for the road
Here's a quick look at the updated all-time win totals in NCAA history.
• Kentucky – 2,180
• Kansas – 2,154
• North Carolina – 2,142
• Duke – 2,064
• Syracuse – 1,922
The Jayhawks head to paradise next week to open play in the Maui Invitational against Chaminade at 8 p.m. (central) on Monday. Win or lose, KU will play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in Hawaii.
There's just something about Kansas and TCU on the football field that tends to create entertaining and competitive games.
But who would've thought that would be the case this year, when the winless Jayhawks traveled to No. 13 TCU on Saturday?
Not me. I picked a TCU blowout, both because of the strength of that TCU offense and the fact that KU was on the road. But the Jayhawks played what was without question their best defensive game of the season — even when Trevone Boykin was in the game — and almost did enough offensively to pull off the upset.
KU's latest loss, a 23-17 setback at TCU, provided Kansas fans, players and coaches with plenty of reasons to be encouraged, excited, optimistic and hopeful. And this team should feel good about its most recent effort. But the bottom line remains the same — KU is still making too many mistakes to expect to win games. From false starts and other silly penalties to not converting at key times and struggling to score points, David Beaty's team continues to shoot itself in the foot too often and that's costing them a chance to both be in and win games.
Three reasons to smile
1 – The defense looked sensational and played with a ton of fire, passion and toughness. Credit defensive coordinator Clint Bowen for coming up with another solid game plan against the Horned Frogs and credit the KU players for executing that game plan and not giving a damn about who they were playing, what the records of the teams were or where the game was played. This kind of defensive effort in the next two games could make things very interesting.
2 – Led by Ben Goodman, KU's much-maligned defensive line was darn good in this one. There was a reason linebackers Marcquis Roberts and Joe Dineen made so many tackles in this one — because the D-Line got good push and allowed those guys to clean up the mess. But KU's D-Line was not just in a complementary role. Goodman, Corey King, Damani Mosby, Dorance Armstrong and Anthony Olobia also made a bunch of tackles. KU's defense finished with three sacks and eight tackles for loss.
3 – Kansas did a good job on dynamic freshman KaVontae Turpin. In fact, had it not been for Turpin's 49-yard punt return for a TD that got the scoring started, KU would have received an A-plus here. Turpin finished with just 21 yards on four receptions and -8 yards on the three other punts he got his hands on. He also carried once for seven yards, but, for the most part, KU did a great job of keeping him from hurting them.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Wanted: More points. Sure, KU is dealing with a bunch of young guys playing on the offensive side of the ball, but this was the 10th week of the season and the excuses about youth don't carry as much weight. Bottom line: This team is not going to win any time soon if it can't find a way to put up more points. I really thought we'd see more razzle-dazzle out of this offense than we have and it looks like the offensive line's inconsistent play has taken a portion of the playbook out of the equation. After outgaining TCU in the first half, Kansas had just 18 yards of offense on nine plays — three three-and-outs — in the third quarter.
2 – This is pretty specific, but it was a perfect indication of exactly what's keeping this team from breaking through. Early in the game, with Kansas driving into TCU territory, the Jayhawks faced a fourth-and-seven and, believe it or not, head coach David Beaty called to go for it. Before the fourth-down snap, however, Jacob Bragg was called for a false start. That turned a manageable fourth-and-seven into a fourth-and-12, yet Beaty waved to his offense and said go for it anyway. It seemed as if the same play they called to gain seven yards was available to gain 12. One problem. Before the fourth-down snap could come a second time, right tackle Larry Holmes was whistled for a false start, as well. That turned it into a fourth-and-17 and forced Beaty's hand. The punt team trotted onto the field and an opportunity was lost.
3 – Freshman QB Ryan Willis took another beating. Already playing at less than 100 percent, Willis was beat up in this one and that significantly impacted his effectiveness. Last week, we talked about giving Willis major credit for his toughness. And that still applies. But at some point KU is going to have to do a better job of keeping him clean or else the exciting young quarterback is not going to be able to finish the season.
One for the road
KU's close call at TCU...
• Dropped Kansas’ all-time record dropped to 579-608-58.
• Meant the Jayhawks now have lost 38-straight games played outside of Lawrence. Kansas has also lost 32 straight league games away from Lawrence. A Kansas team hasn’t won a true conference road game in 28 tries. The last Big 12 road win occurred Oct. 4, 2008, in Ames, Iowa.
• Made Kansas 0 for its last 24 against opponents ranked in the top 25. The last time KU won a game against a Top-25 team, the Jayhawks defeated No. 15 Georgia Tech on Sept. 11, 2010. The last time KU beat a Top 25 opponent in a true road contest occurred on Oct. 6, 2007, when the Jayhawks beat No. 24 Kansas State 30-24 in Manhattan.
• Featured the first time in the David Beaty era that the Jayhawks were tied with an opponent after the first 30 minutes. In fact, the last time a Kansas team didn’t trail at halftime was in 2014 when the Jayhawks held a 13-10 lead against TCU in Lawrence.
KU will return home to Memorial Stadium to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, before closing the 2015 season with a home game on Nov. 28 against Kansas State.
The scoreboard shows another beating suffered by the overmatched and outmanned Kansas University football team. But those who witnessed Saturday's 59-20 loss at Texas — including the 90,000 UT fans in attendance — know that things got pretty intense there for the Longhorns in the second quarter.
After racing out to a 17-0 lead, UT hit cruise control and KU hit back. Had it not been for a couple of bad mistakes and two empty trips that ended inside the Texas 10 yard line, Kansas might have been winning at halftime.
Had that been the case, I talked to plenty of Texas media folks who said the Longhorns very well might have folded. And wouldn't THAT have been interesting.
As it turned out, KU fell short, made far too many mistakes and the Longhorns easily ran away from the Jayhawks with a strong second half.
KU continues to stay the course. And, at this point, it's really all they can do. The players prepare hard and play harder. Head coach David Beaty has stayed consistent with regard to the expectations in the program and the opponents, like Texas did Saturday, have continued to find areas to exploit the Kansas defense and make life tough for the young KU offense. Many wondered if KU's match-up with the Longhorns would give the Jayhawks a better chance to compete, given the fact that UT did not feature one of those nasty, break-neck offenses like Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. And, for a little more than a half, compete they did. Maybe that gives reasonable cause for KU backers to think the same thing can happen against West Virginia and K-State. Then again, maybe not.
Three reasons to smile
1 – It's worth something to point out that the KU defense did respond to that awful start. For a group that has been brutalized most of the season, it would've been real easy for those guys to lay down after Texas got up 17-0. But they didn't. They stayed strong against the run, got good pressure on UT QB Jerrod Heard and forced a huge turnover, all of which gave the offense time to crawl back into the game. The D wore down severely in the second half, but that first-half bounce-back is notable.
2 – Forget about Ryan Willis' skills and ability to throw the football. It's time we applaud the young man for his toughness. Willis, making his fifth consecutive start, took big hit after big hit and kept getting up. Beaty pointed out after the loss that a lot of the punishment was Willis' fault, but he also said he admired the heck out of the young man's toughness. It's that kind of showing, especially from a quarterback, that can get a whole team playing harder.
3 – It's debatable whether this is good news or bad, but I'm going to side with good news because of the message it sends. Wideouts Tre' Parmalee and Steven Sims Jr., were suspended for this game and did not travel to Austin after violating a team rule. Beaty did not disclose the violation and, from the sound of things, it was pretty minor. But the first-year KU coach realizes that when you're in Year 1 of a major rebuilding project, nothing can be considered minor and he clearly is willing to take advantage of every opportunity to send a message, prove a point and make it clear what is expected of the players in this program.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – I'm sure he's a great dude but I think we've reached the point where David Beaty can't trot place kicker Nick Bartolotta onto the field any more. The missed 26-yard field goal was a devastating blow to this team's momentum and chances on Saturday and Bartolotta, after starting the season strong, has been woeful for the past several games. His confidence appears shot and even though it's a lot to put on Matthew Wyman, he's the guy that should be handling all of KU's kicking duties right now.
2 – Texas did not enter the game known as a passing team, but the UT coaching staff clearly saw enough holes in KU's secondary on film to design their game plan around exploiting the Jayhawks' pass D. It worked. Both Texas QBs who played hit the KU defense with big passes and the KU cornerbacks struggled to both stay on top of UT's wide receivers in coverage and to offer much help in the running game.
3 – With Sims and Parmalee sitting in Lawrence, the Jayhawks needed a couple of wide receivers to step up. No one really did. Darious Crawley led the team with 63 yards and a TD on three catches, but the touchdown catch, a 19-yarder, came with 1:07 to play. Parmalee has been by far KU's most reliable receiver this season and Sims also has stood out as one of the top options. Without them, the KU passing game struggled. Tight end Kent Taylor was more involved — and should be the rest of the way — but KU's version of the Air Raid offense is far less potent with Parmalee and Sims sitting in street clothes.
One for the road
KU's loss at Texas on Saturday night:
•Kansas’ all-time record dropped to 579-607-58.
•The Jayhawks have lost 37-straight games played outside of Lawrence, the last win occurring Sept. 12, 2009 at UTEP. Kansas has also lost 31-straight league games away from Lawrence. A Kansas team hasn’t won a true conference road game in 28 tries. The last occurred Oct. 4, 2008, a 35-33, win in Ames, Iowa.
•After a rushing touchdown with 8:49 to play in the second quarter, bringing the score to, 24-14, in favor of Texas, Kansas tied its season-high for points scored in the first half of a game. The Jayhawks also scored 14 points against South Dakota State in the season opener.
•KU’s 236 yards of total offense, compared to Texas’ 190, marked the first time Kansas out gained an opponent in the opening half of play since putting up 333 yards and allowing Iowa State just 89 yards in the opening 30 minutes in 2014.
•KU’s four fumbles in the first half were the most in an opening period since putting the ball on the ground a total of five times against Texas A&M in the first portion of the game in 2011.
Falling under the category of awful timing, the way KU's meeting with Oklahoma came one week after OU lost to Texas, the Jayhawks next week will have to travel to TCU to take on the Horned Frogs who likely just saw their national title and Trevone Boykin's Heisman Trophy hopes go out the window with a loss at Oklahoma State.
Before leaving Austin, Texas, I spoke with one of the Big 12 officials who worked Saturday's KU-Texas game to see if I could get a clarification on the situation surrounding the punt that was muffed by Derrick Neal in the first half of KU's 59-20 loss.
The ruling on the field was that Neal touched the ball and a Texas player recovered it at the KU 17. Replay during the game confirmed as much — according to the official, the camera angle showed Neal's fingers bend back after making contact with the ball — but KU coach David Beaty continued to have discussions with the referees for several minutes after the replay confirmation.
Beaty said after the game that he was arguing that the UT player who recovered the ball "clearly went out of bounds" and was the first one to touch it after returning to the field of play. By rule, that would be deemed illegal touching and possession would be given to Kansas.
The official this morning told me that the refs on the field missed the call during live action and that replay could not get involved after the fact. It falls in the same category as a play in which a team challenges the spot of the football and on replay officials see a facemask penalty. Because the penalty was missed on the field — and penalties are not reviewable — the infraction cannot be flagged after being discovered by replay.
In short, the missed call on the field cost Kansas because the rules were on the Jayhawks' side.
These things happen, though, and the officials had nothing to do with Neal's poor decision and inability to execute the fielding of the punt.
The official, who said he was impressed with how hard the Jayhawks played, added that Beaty was very calm and respectful during his discussions and "asked his questions in the right way."
The first thing I saw when I woke up Monday morning was a text from a friend informing me that someone had quite literally broken into Memorial Stadium, torn the goalpost down in the south end zone and dumped the broken metal in Potter Lake, as is the custom when the KU football team pulls off a victory that sets off a rockin' celebration.
I get the whole kids-will-be-kids narrative and the lighten-up-what's-wrong-with-having-a-little-fun mindset. But I gotta tell ya: The whole schtick did not sit right with me from Minute 1.
I'm not going to judge you or even call you crazy if you choose to applaud the way a few dozen fans — whether they're Royals fans, KU fans, both or neither remains unknown — celebrated Kansas City's first major sports title in 30 years.
But can we at least agree on one thing? You have to admit it looks a little foolish.
I mean, did supporters of Stanford tear into the school's football stadium and do more than $10,000 worth of damage to celebrate the Golden State Warriors NBA title last summer?
Did anybody hear about a bunch of UMass students breaking into the gymnasium and cutting down the nets last winter when the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl?
Of course not. And if they had, it would have made each of those schools look stupid the way this made KU look lame.
And that's to say nothing of the automatic and unnecessary shots that people across the country since have fired at KU football over this whole mess. What do those guys do? All they're trying to do is find a way to climb out from underneath one hell of a mess created by the past two football coaches and going about it rather quietly and respectably.
Kansas football has got enough problems without the rest of the country being given a gift-wrapped reason to make fun of the struggling program.
Look, I'm not so old that I can't remember what it was like to be a kid, to celebrate with wild abandon or even to do dumb things that I now look back on and scratch my head about. I'm not sure you ever actually get old enough to lose sight of those things. But you do grow up. And I'm pretty sure I never thought it would be OK to represent my school or town by damaging property, trespassing and putting myself and a bunch of others in harm's way while celebrating the accomplishments of a team in another city.
Sure, a huge chunk of KU's enrollment is made up of Kansas City kids. And good for them. Whether they've been pulling for the Royals since their mothers and fathers first introduced them to baseball at age 5 or just jumped on the bandwagon and only have been Royals fans for the past 18 months, their team winning the World Series is good reason for a great celebration.
And to the credit of hundreds of KU students and Lawrence residents, celebrate is what they did. Downtown, with chants and screams, high-fives and hugs. Not vandalism. Thousands more did the same thing across Kansas City.
So to let the action of a few hardcore party people — many of whom might actually be decent people — ruin what otherwise was a pretty cool scene, would be unfair. That's not what this is. Instead, this is the voice of logic and reason, something that was clearly missing when these guys and gals blew their own minds by deciding to wreck Memorial Stadium because a baseball team from a city 40 miles away won the World Series.
It was another rough day for the overmatched Kansas football team, which was drubbed, on Homecoming weekend no less, 62-7 by an Oklahoma team that probably could have scored a lot more.
OU's Baker Mayfield and Sterling Shepard did all kinds of damage through the air and the three-headed monster of Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Alex Ross bullied the Jayhawks on the ground.
Saturday's 52-point spread was the second worst of the season, trailing only Baylor's 66-7 beating earlier this year.
At this point, we're kind of facing the old it-is-what-it-is deal with this football team. The Jayhawks are overmatched every week and despite preparing hard and playing to the final whistle, there really isn't much you can point to that, if done right or better, would make that much of a difference. Of course this team still wants to get a win this season. And, yeah, three of KU's final four opponents combine to be four games under .500. So maybe there is an outside shot at finding a little hope. But I wouldn't bet on it. This season has taken on the feel of one that KU will close out with the goal being to get as many young guys as much positive experience as they can get so there's at least some reason for optimism heading into 2016.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Matthew Wyman continues to make a difference in the punting game and appears to have solved KU's issues there. Beaty said the kicking game was one of the few highlights from Saturday and Wyman's 42.8-yard average, with two downed inside the OU 20, has definitely made a noticeable difference for this team. If nothing else, it's at least forcing KU opponents to have to put together longer drives to pile up the points.
2 – It doesn't matter much on the scoreboard or in the stats, but it's pretty impressive to watch these guys never get down. Now, I'm not saying that the Jayhawks enjoy these beatings, but you really don't see guys hanging their heads or sulking on the sideline any longer. They stay up and they keep playing. That's not easy. And they should be applauded for that if nothing else.
3 – Let's be honest. It was Halloween and I was surprised there were as many people there as there were. With that in mind, KU made sure everyone got out of there in plenty of time to get ready for Halloween and trick-or-treating. Can you imagine the conflict if this game had gone down to the wire?
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Oklahoma was not forced to punt one time during Saturday's victory over Kansas, and the defense that, just a couple of weeks ago appeared to be making significant strides, struggled big-time against a pretty dominant offense.
2 – In-game coaching issues still seem to be popping up at a regular rate. Whether you're talking about strange timeouts, slow adjustments or general uncertainty, it still seems that this group of players and coaches working together for the first time are figuring things out on the fly a little bit. That's to be expected in the first year of a new coaching regime, but it makes for a few head scratchers.
3 – KU's running game continues to struggle big time. In this one, Kansas managed just 35 yards on 36 carries. Seniors De'Andre Mann and Taylor Cox run hard when they get the ball and usually gain every yard available. That's the problem. There just isn't much there. Instead of getting better, it seems to be getting worse. But KU has faced two of the Big 12's best defenses during the past couple of weeks. So maybe there's hope that the tough sledding the Jayhawks have experienced in the past couple of weeks will lighten up in the final month of the season.
One for the road
KU's 55-point loss to the Sooners on Saturday:
• Dropped KU's all-time record to 579-606-58.
• Prolonged a streak of 21-straight losses to ranked opponents and extended a streak of 10-consecutive losses to a top-25 opponent in Memorial Stadium.
• Featured Kansas starting five true freshman on offense against the Sooners. The total number of freshmen who started offensively can be increased to six with the addition of red-shirt frosh Jacob Bragg.
• Pushed OU's all-time edge in the series to 73-27-6 and 35-15-4 in Lawrence. In the Big 12 Conference era, the Sooners hold a 21-1 advantage (6-1 in Lawrence). KU’s two Big 12 wins over OU came in 1996 and 1997, the first two years of the league. OU is now 6-0 on the road against the Jayhawks under Bob Stoops.
Kansas heads south to Austin, Texas, to take on 3-5 Texas at 7 p.m. Saturday. After back-to-back wins over OU and K-State seemed to right the ship, the Longhorns were blanked by Iowa State on Saturday, 24-0, in Ames, Iowa.
They banged into walls, tangled for loose balls and committed fouls without the whistle blowing to stop the action.
There is no denying the insane amount of depth and talent on the 2015-16 Kansas University men's basketball team. A legit argument could be made that KU's second five could finish in the top half of the Big 12 Conference, while the first five — which, at this point, we presume to be Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis and, at least to start the season, Jamari Traylor — works toward winning a 12th consecutive conference title.
But there's one thing about this year's team that might be a getting overlooked. Sure, you've heard, written and read about the skills, returning experience and chip-on-their-shoulder mindset this team possesses. But for the first time in a long time, this year's squad seems to have a little more physicality behind it.
That was obvious during a recent practice, when guys not only looked bigger and badder, but also played like it. And that's the beauty of these practices. Bumps and shoves that almost certainly would get called during games are ignored completely. You either handle it and execute anyway or get exposed and lose reps because of it.
Whether the gains made from the physical practices — where teammates even have been known to get under each other's skin a little from time to time — carry over to game days and show up at Allen Fieldhouse remains to be seen. But Traylor, a senior who has been in Lawrence for five years and, because of his brawn, drawn comparisons to former KU standout Thomas Robinson, said he believed this year's team was more physical, throughout the roster, than the past couple of Kansas teams.
Asked to size up the guys who made the biggest jump in terms of their willingness to mix it up and play a more physical brand of basketball, Traylor focused on his fellow big men and a couple of perimeter players.
“Since Cheick (Diallo) has been here, he's gotten more physical,” Traylor said. “He's really been working hard. And Perry's a lot (emphasis on a lot) more physical. Carlton (Bragg is) getting better physically, and Svi, too. Just how they play and looks-wise. Guys are out there flying around, guys checking you all the time. They're getting you ready.”
Speaking of Ellis, he looks a lot leaner and a lot more athletic than in the past. Almost like a different player altogether. It should be fun to see what that does for his game.
Traylor said the trip to Korea, where the Jayhawks won gold in the World University Games and spent a couple of weeks battling with grown men, along with extra work in the weight room with Andrea Hudy — especially by Svi, who did not make the trip to Korea — has added an extra edge to the Kansas roster.
When that edge shows up in practice and teammates are battling each other like sworn enemies, it doesn't take long to realize how much that could help this team during the season.
This is nothing new, of course. When you battle the same guys day after day, week after week, and teammates begin to learn and understand each others' tendencies, frustrations can boil over from time to time. That happens at KU every year and, in many ways, is a good thing.
With the first exhibition game of the season a week away, Traylor said the Jayhawks were still feeling each other out and trying to fall into proper form for the upcoming season. Korea helped that, too, according to Traylor, who said the young guys appear to be ahead of the game because of their experience this summer, when freshmen Carlton Bragg and Lagerald Vick got regular minutes in KU's run to the gold medal.
Diallo, who hails from Mali, Africa, was not eligible to play for Team USA, but Traylor said he, too, has shown the ability to pick things up quickly.
“These young guys right here, they listen and they're coachable, so that's about the best thing,” he said. They have high accolades and stuff, they're McDonald's All-Americans, Jordan Brand guys, but they still listen. That's the main thing. And that's a good thing.”
Every year, no matter the identity of the players, it takes KU's freshmen and newcomers a little bit of time to adjust to the college game. Sometimes that lasts for a few weeks of practice and other times it can last until conference play begins. Traylor said this group has had its share of growing pains during the past couple of weeks, but added that most of those were from Diallo because Bragg and Vick gained such a head start by playing in Korea.
But whether you're a fifth-year guy like Traylor or a raw freshman like Diallo, basketball is still basketball. It's just getting comfortable with the demands of playing at Kansas and for Bill Self that can take time.
“The hardest thing to get is just all of the plays,” Traylor said. “It could be one play but there's like six variations to it and there could be 10 things to one play that you have to do and know. There's a lot going on in your head. I feel like your head's going 100 miles an hour. But you've just gotta slow down and just work on it.”
That's where Traylor, the veteran leader, has tried to impact this team the most during the preseason portion of the current season.
“I've been here for so long, I know about everything. I'm like another set of eyes out there for the coaches out there so I pretty much know when guys are doing something wrong. When I know they're gonna mess up, I try to step up before they mess up.”
Monday marked a day full of big news for the Big 12 Conference, which learned about a key injury to one of the conference's best players, heard a head coach laugh at the mention that he's a candidate for another high-profile job that came open suddenly and saw the dismissal, at another school, of a former consensus coach of the year.
Here's the scoop:
• Baylor learned over the weekend that starting quarterback Seth Russell, who was putting together a masterful season, would miss the rest of the Bears' run toward a berth in the College Football Playoff because of damage to the cervical vertebra in his neck. Russell will have surgery in the near future and recovery time is expected to be in the six-month range.
The injury leaves the Bears with true freshman Jarrett Stidham under center, but that might not be as scary as it sounds. Stidham has played in every game this season and completed 85.7 percent of his passes for 331 yards and six touchdowns. As you might expect, he was a five-star recruit, and KU coach David Beaty remembered recruiting him to Texas A&M before he took the job at Kansas.
"Jarrett and (A&M freshman) Kyler Murray were two of the best high school quarterback evaluations I've ever seen," Beaty said. "Both of those kids, we've seen throw since they were young guys, and this kid, Stidham, from a fundamental standpoint and a quarterback mechanics standpoint, man, he's as good as I've seen. He's very efficient, I love his motion and the guy makes great decisions. You can tell he's a bright kid. Baylor is in really good hands."
• Speaking of Kansas head coaches, one former KU boss got his walking papers on Monday, when it was revealed that Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads had fired offensive coordinator Mark Mangino in his second year with the Cyclones. Mangino's firing, which Rhoads said was the result of the two not being able to "get on the same page on a couple of important items," created an abrupt end to Mangino's return to the Big 12.
"We tried to talk that through again this morning in an effort to get us moving in a different direction," Rhoads said during a news conference. "In the end, Mark was not interested in that. I wish that wasn't the case, but I respect and understand his conviction."
ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, citing sources, reported that the differences between Rhoads and Mangino had been building for some time over play selection and personnel usage, and that the parting wasn't related to a single or isolated incident.
It will be interesting to see where Mangino lands from here, but don't expect it to be at Kansas in any capacity. If KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger had any interest in bringing Mangino back to Lawrence — even in a supporting role — he has had a couple of opportunities in the recent past to do it and passed both times.
• Isn't it funny how quickly things can turn. Just a few weeks after feeling his seat catch fire, Texas coach Charlie Strong is now laughing off rumors of his name being tossed around as the replacement for Al Golden at the University of Miami, Florida. Golden was fired this week, creating the opening, and Strong, whose Longhorns have won back-to-back games — including a huge upset over Red River rival Oklahoma — after starting the season losing four of five, suddenly looks like he has things rolling in Austin. If that's the case, you can bet the second-year UT coach is going to stay right there. "I have the best job in the country," Strong said on Monday morning's teleconference.
Call it false hope, fool's gold or the this is why we can't have nice things syndrome.
Whatever you dub it, it has become a heck of a pattern for Kansas University football during the past five-plus seasons.
Despite KU's dismal 12-53 record in the post-Mark Mangino era (2010-present), there have been a few memorable victories and even more close calls against some of the Big 12's best.
But while it's easy to remember last year's near upset of TCU or the Texas game at home that KU lost in the final 17 seconds a couple of years earlier, it's much harder to remember what happened in the week's that followed those close calls. The reason? Most of those results are ones the Jayhawks would rather forget.
Here's a quick look at the 10 most notable face plants since the start of the 2010 season, which, you could argue, actually began with KU following up a 5-0 start to the 2009 season with an 0-7 finish.
• Sept. 17, 2010 — Southern Miss 31, Kansas 16: After upsetting 15th-ranked Georgia Tech, following a disappointing loss to North Dakota State in the season opener, the Jayhawks traveled to Southern Miss and were outclassed from start to finish. Turner Gill's first road game featured a handful of clock management issues and penalties that all but guaranteed a Kansas loss. Just before halftime, the Eagles returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and took a 21-3 into halftime. KU never recovered and never threatened in the second half.
• Nov. 13, 2010 — Nebraska 20, Kansas 3: One week after a ridiculous fourth-quarter comeback at home beat Colorado, 52-45, the Jayhawks' suddenly-high-powered offense went to Gill's alma mater to face an offensively-challenged NU team playing with an injured quarterback. It didn't matter. The Kansas offense, led by QB Quinn Mecham, managed just 87 yards on 47 plays, and the defense, though tough all night, just did not get enough rest to hold the Huskers down.
• Sept. 17, 2011 — Georgia Tech 66, Kansas 24: One Saturday, the Jayhawks picked up a huge victory over bowl-bound Northern Illinois on their final offensive play of the game. The next, the Kansas defense was trounced by a Georgia Tech team that shattered several school records and wound up printing T-Shirts to commemorate the occasion. Kansas' offense did a decent job in the first quarter in Atlanta, but, with the defense looking like swiss cheese, KU simply could not keep up on the scoreboard.
• Nov. 19, 2011 — Texas A&M 61, Kansas 7: For three quarters at home against Baylor, the Kansas defense had future Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III completely bottled up. But then someone tapped RGIII on the shoulder and he led a fourth-quarter comeback that led to a 31-30 overtime victory for the Bears. Perhaps deflated by coming so close to such a huge upset, the Jayhawks barely even showed up the following week in College Station, where Ryan Tannehill torched the KU defense and the KU offense did not crack the scoreboard until the game's final minute.
• Oct. 20, 2012 — Oklahoma 52, Kansas 7: After a hard-fought 20-14 loss to Oklahoma State in miserably wet conditions, which featured James Sims unofficially laying claim to the title of the Big 12's best running back, the Jayhawks traveled to the Sooner State to take on OU the following week and never had a chance. Led by Landry Jones and an unstoppable aerial attack, OU ran the Jayhawks out of the building early. KU had a chance to keep things interesting early, but a simple pass to the flat by QB Dayne Crist that might have been an easy touchdown was woefully behind Tre' Parmalee and Crist did not throw another pass all game.
• Nov. 3, 2012 — Baylor 41, Kansas 14: One week after coming within a couple of plays of knocking off Texas — the UT comeback included a must-have fourth-down conversion and the winning TD in the final 20 seconds — Kansas no-showed against Baylor, yet again, in Waco, Texas. The Bears didn't even play all that well in this one, they just steamrolled their way to a 21-0 second half that left Kansas looking for answers as both Michael Cummings and Dayne Crist played under center for the struggling Jayhawks in this one.
• Nov. 17, 2012 — Iowa State 51, Kansas 23: One week after nearly ending their Big 12 AND road losing streak in the form of a double-overtime loss at Texas Tech, the Jayhawks returned home for what was supposed to be a huge opportunity at a win on Senior Night in front of a fired up home crowd. Just before the game started, the Jayhawks changed out of their traditional blue uniforms and came back out wearing all black. It might as well have been all white, as in “we surrender.” Third-string ISU QB Sam Richardson, whom KU did not even have film on heading into the game, torched the Jayhawks to the tune of 23-of-27 passing for 250 yards, four touchdowns, another on the ground and an easy ISU victory. The game went down as Richardson's coming-out party and yet another huge disappointment for Kansas.
• Oct. 5, 2013 — Texas Tech 54, Kansas 16: It probably should've been looked at as a sign of trouble at the time, but there was no disputing the excitement that came after Matthew Wyman drilled a 52-yard field goal to beat Louisiana Tech (13-10) after an improbable stop by the KU defense in the game's final minutes. Rather than capitalizing on the momentum of that big kick and a 2-1 start, the Jayhawks returned to the very same field the next week and let Texas Tech have its way with them. This one was made worse by the fact that the Jayhawks raced out to a 10-0 first quarter lead and then, in a little over a half, were outscored 47-0 to set the final margin.
• Nov. 23, 2013 — Iowa State 34, Kansas 0: Behind the hard running of James Sims and the spark ignited by the play of true-freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, the Jayhawks ended their Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 home victory over West Virginia on Nov. 16. The win, in which KU thoroughly dominated, was supposed to be the springboard for a strong finish and some momentum heading into 2014. But instead, the very next week, on a bitterly cold night in Ames, Iowa, the Jayhawks were blanked by one-win Iowa State, which embarrassed the Jayhawks by running wild on an icy field.
• Nov. 22, 2014 — Oklahoma 44, Kansas 7: After nearly shocking the college football world by putting a heck of a scare into national-title-contending TCU, the Jayhawks traveled south to take on an average Oklahoma team and walked away a part of history. OU running back Samaje Perine ran over, through and around the Kansas defense all afternoon on his way to an NCAA record 427 rushing yards that came against little resistance. The Jayhawks never put up a fight in this one and appeared to miss more tackles than they made.
To be fair, during that same time frame, there have been a handful of positive responses to close calls or KU victories. And those, which have been few and far between, include: KU responding to a season-opening loss to North Dakota State in 2010 with win over Georgia Tech; KU responding to its Iowa State win in 2014 with a near-upset of TCU; KU responding to a season-opening 42-24 victory over McNeese State in 2011 with a 45-42 win over Northern Illinois the following week. Those back-to-back wins still are the only consecutive victories at Kansas in the post-Mangino era.
On the heels of last week's close call against Texas Tech and with KU headed to Oklahoma State on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Boone Pickens Stadium, the Jayhawks now have their next opportunity to add a game to one of the two categories above.
The Kansas University players and coaches said they sensed something a little different in the hours leading up to Saturday's loss to Texas Tech.
And, judging by the way things looked on the field, they certainly were on to something.
The winless Jayhawks and their outmanned and overmatched defense entered Saturday as a 32-point underdog against one of the nation's most potent offenses.
But instead of being steamrolled for the second week in a row, the Jayhawks battled. Led by true freshman QB Ryan Willis, the offense clicked like rarely had been seen in recent years and the defense played its heart out to keep the Red Raiders to less than half of their season scoring average.
One of the most common phrases in sports is the one that says “there are no moral victories.” But for a team like Kansas, which is undersized, understaffed and in a serious rebuilding mode, I don't think there's anything wrong with latching on to every moral victory you can find. And Saturday certainly was one, perhaps even two or three.
It's easy to look at Saturday's outcome and feel pretty encouraged. Kansas played with a lot of heart and some of the youngest, most inexperienced guys on the team looked awfully sharp and played beyond their years. But there were still a ton of mistakes — silly mistakes that might have cost KU the chance to win — and this game, perhaps better than any other to this point, illustrated exactly where this program is right now. There will be progress. It will show up at unexpected times and in unexpected places, but the talent gap and lack of quality depth means the Jayhawks are going to have to play a nearly flawless game to have a shot at a victory. Had they done that against Texas Tech, the first win of the season might have been the result. But they didn't. And now it's on to the next one, with new lessons learned and more growing pains ahead.
Three reasons to smile
1 – KU's postgame notes featured 12 different entries regarding true freshman quarterback Ryan Willis, who set freshman records for completions (35), attempts (50) and yards (330) during Saturday's loss. It was not just Willis' numbers that were impressive, though. For the second week in a row, the Bishop Miege High grad led the offense, played with a perfect blend of poise and confidence and, this time, led the offense to 20 points and a near upset. Willis has a strong arm, makes quick decisions and can put the ball wherever he needs to and right where his receivers like it. It's early in his career, but Willis definitely appears to be KU's QB of the future. And, what's more, that doesn't look or sound all that bad.
2 – This offense is a lot of fun. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens and head coach David Beaty sure have put in an entertaining and exciting offense. The Jayhawks rolled to 475 yards, put the ball in the air 50 times and did it while not completely abandoning the running game. The passes get out quickly and allow the KU play-makers to make moves in space. When the line holds up and Willis gets time to set and read, a four- or five-yard gain is almost automatic. The best part about this offense is I think we've only scratched the surface on what it can do and what these coaches want to do with it.
3 – The Jayhawks may have fixed their punting issues. It seems like a small thing, but not being able to kick the ball well and flip the field puts the Kansas defense at an even greater disadvantage on a weekly basis. Give Matthew Wyman a little more time to fine-tune his approach and I think the Jayhawks will realize they have found their punter. Wyman has a big leg, he's a heck of a competitor and he's a perfectionist. He'll work at it and only get better from here.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Wide receiver drops were a problem again. Willis completed 70 percent of his throws and that number could have been and should have been closer to 80 percent if the KU receivers had caught everything thrown to them. We're not talking about tough drops, either. We're talking about easy catches that hit wide open guys in the hands. Can't have that when you're already at a huge disadvantage in every game you play.
2 – Matthew Wyman may have saved the punt team, but there appears to be a significant issue with the kicking game. Both Wyman and Nick Bartolotta missed a pair of kicks — one was even an extra point — and KU is in no position to be worried about a 22- or 34-yard field goal should it ever find itself in a game where a field goal of that length, particularly late in a game, perhaps to tie or win, could mean the difference between a win or a loss.
3 – I guess it's always better to be safe than sorry, but in each of the past few games — and a couple of times in this one — there have been some interesting timeouts called from the KU sideline. This goes in line with some of Beaty's curious fourth-down decisions and makes you wonder if the first-year head coach still has a ways to go in the area of game management. As is the case with his young team, the only way to improve in that area is to log games and go through it.
One for the road
KU's 30-20 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday...
• Dropped the Jayhawks' all-time record to 579-604-58.
• Included 475 yards of total offense by the Jayhawks. KU's season-high was 576 against South Dakota State on Sept. 5.
• Featured the most passing yards (330) by the Jayhawks this season. Kansas last threw for more yards in a 342-yard performance against TCU in 2014.
The Jayhawks head back out on the road next weekend, when they'll look to snap their 35-game losing streak away from Lawrence with a 2:30 p.m. meeting with Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The game will end a stretch of four straight 11 a.m. games for Kansas.
It wasn't the worst beating in school history, it wasn't anything unexpected and it wasn't particularly ugly.
It was just a little taste of reality setting in for the Kansas football team, which was walloped, 66-7, by No. 3 Baylor on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Bears, favored by as many as 46 points in some places, jumped out quickly and wasted little time getting their high-powered offensive machine rolling.
QB Seth Russell looked smooth and poised all afternoon and may not have broken a sweat. Shock Linwood and that Baylor rushing attack faced very little resistance and the KU offense, after a fast start, never really looked in sync for most of the afternoon.
Until the talent and experience level of Kansas football is upgraded dramatically, these types of games — especially against these types of opponents — are going to remain the norm around here.
Good thing KU coach David Beaty is friendly with the Baylor coaching staff. Because if he had not been, the Bears could have really embarrassed the Jayhawks on Saturday. Not that losing 66-7 is anything to be proud of, but we're talking triple digits here. And if Baylor had wanted to get there, I'm not sure the Jayhawks would have been able to do anything to stop it. The best thing about Saturday's game against Baylor is that it came early in the schedule and it's now over.
Three reasons to smile
1 – For his first start and coming against the No. 3 team in the country, true freshman quarterback Ryan Willis looked pretty good. He wasn't amazing and he did not play mistake-free football, but he definitely showed some things that surely had KU fans and coaches looking forward to seeing more.
2 – Saturday was our first look at true freshman Jeremiah Booker and you can color me impressed. He finished with 39 yards on 3 receptions but looked strong and explosive every time he caught the ball and appears to be a real bright spot for this offense as you peer into the future. He's a big, physical kid who snatches the ball out of the air with both hands and then has enough athleticism to get out and go after the grab. No wonder the KU coaching staff was raving about this guy all summer.
3 – The game is over and KU got out of there without being the butt of another national joke. Sure Baylor lit the Jayhawks up, but (a) it was about what people expected and (b) the Jayhawks actually held Baylor to a season-low 644 yards of offense. Incredible.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – For the second week in a row KU coach David Beaty chose to punt on fourth-and-short early in the game instead of taking the more aggressive approach and going for it. This trend is a bit alarming because, with its current roster against the teams it is facing, Kansas needs to find a way to create as many breaks as possible each game and, really, has nothing to lose if it were to elect to go for fourth downs and/or trick plays.
2 – These injuries are really starting to get ridiculous. Already without its top two quarterbacks (Montell Cozart and Deondre Ford), Kansas played Saturday's game without its top cornerback (Brandon Stewart, groin) and its leading receiver (Tre' Parmalee, concussion). Having any or all of those guys probably would not have done much to change the score or the outcome but it sure makes it difficult for the Jayhawks to even compete.
3 – KU's once strong and stacked running game is limping along. Ke'aun Kinner, who is dealing with some type of injury, turned in his third consecutive sub-par game after back-to-back 100-yard outings to open the season and De'Andre Mann (also injured), Taylor Cox (45 yards on 19 carries) and Taylor Martin (24 yards on 7 carries) are just not giving the Jayhawks much on the ground. As Beaty has said, this is on more than the running backs and offensive line, but until KU can find a way to run the ball with success again, the offense is going to continue to struggle.
One for the road
KU's home loss to third-ranked Baylor:
• Dropped Kansas’ all-time record to 579-603-58.
• Marked KU’s 18th consecutive loss to opponents ranked in the Top 25.
• Featured the first time that KU scored points on its first offensive series this season.
Kansas (0-5) will return to Memorial Stadium to face another high-powered conference foe at 11 a.m. Saturday, when Texas Tech comes to town. The Red Raiders (4-2) have given up the most points and are four points shy of being the Big 12's best in points for during conference play so far this season.
Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen had a unique way to describe Baylor tight end LaQuan McGowan, who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs a whopping 410 pounds.
“There's a couple of plays (on Baylor's game film) that looks like the end of the movie when a team has to score a touchdown and one guy knocks 11 people over and they run behind him and score,” Bowen said of the Baylor senior who primarily is used as another blocker.
“There's actually a couple clips in there that resemble that, where he knocks a guy down, knocks another guy down and keeps running. He's a big fella.”
While the senior from Amarillo, Texas, does not necessarily fit the make-up of the rest of the Baylor offense — fast, explosive, athletic guys who like to do their damage in space — he does operate as the perfect complement to those other receivers and offers a perfect option for when BU coach Art Briles and his son and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles want to mix things up.
“Kind of a unique situation with what they do with him,” Bowen said of the tight end who does not yet have a reception this season but gained national fame by snagging an 18-yard TD reception during the 2015 Cotton Bowl. “They will throw him the ball, but, obviously he's in there to be a lead blocker and he's a big human that gets a lot of movement.”
McGowan, who wears a size 20 shoe, red-shirted his first season at Baylor and dressed for four games but did not play as a red-shirt freshman in 2012.
A year later, McGowan played in all 13 games on special teams and as a reserve offensive lineman. He filled the same role in 2014, when he again played in all 13 games, and was moved to tight end for the final third of the Bears' schedule.
Asked how to handle him if he does catch the ball during Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff against Kansas at Memorial Stadium, Bowen had one simple rule for his defense to remember.
“We gotta make sure we don't take him on real high,” Bowen said with a grin.
As for which Jayhawk has filled McGowan's role during practice with the scout team this week, Bowen did not provide a specific name but did offer some feedback.
“We don't have that guy,” he joked. “The guy playing him does not look like him.”
Many believed Saturday's showdown at Iowa State looked to be a winnable game on paper. And, for a little more than a quarter, the Jayhawks hung in there and appeared ready to compete with the Cyclones, whom they defeated 34-14 a year ago.
But a couple of costly mistakes and curious decisions cost the Jayhawks and, just like that, they found themselves down 17-0 at halftime and facing a major uphill climb to get back into the game.
Kansas (0-4) did not play particularly well in any aspects of Saturday's loss. The offense, though efficient at times, never really threatened the ISU defense and the KU defense continued to struggle in the run game, giving up 243 yards on the ground and more than 500 yards of total offense yet again.
Games like these have become all too familiar for KU fans — and the players and a number of different coaches — during recent years, and, although many believed the Iowa State game could be different, the reality of KU's current situation is that games like this are going to continue to be a part of the fall for some time to come.
And many of them could be much, much uglier than Saturday was.
This thing is starting to look a little scary. Nobody expected KU to win many games this season and a good chunk of those of follow the program knew that a winless season could be in the cards. But within that framework, the hope and, really, the expectation, was that the Jayhawks would look a little better each week and put a product on the field that was (a) disciplined, (b) played hard and (c) one fans could be proud of. That was during the first week or week and a half, but in the past few games things seem to have gone in the wrong direction. That's not to say there have not been improvements in a few areas. There have. But for the most part
Three reasons to smile
1 – OC Rob Likens and the Kansas offense took a few shots down the field. That has to happen in the coming weeks if the Jayhawks hope to get Ke'aun Kinner and that running game going again, and it was good to see it happen in this week's game. Starting QB Montell Cozart took a few shots early on — missing on them all — and freshman Ryan Willis, who filled in after Cozart left with a shoulder injury, threw a few nice looking deep balls later in the game. The O-Line has to hold up long enough for this to work, but as long as it does, the deep ball has to be a part of KU's passing game from here on out.
2 – The Jayhawks are able to move the ball between the 20s. Getting into the red zone and finishing drives is another story, but Cozart and the offense looked pretty good moving it up and down the field before breaking down. Cozart finished 15 of 21 passing for 150 yards and Willis was 8 of 16 for 100 yards. Most of the throws by Cozart were short outs that were both safe and effective and that allowed KU to use the tempo it wants to use to keep pressure on the defense. It's good to see, but it will not matter much if KU continues to stall after putting together good starts to their drives.
3 – After committing seven penalties in each of the past two games, the Jayhawks were flagged just four times in this one. Unfortunately, two of those flags — a false start on a fourth-and-one early and an offsides penalty on a third-and-four for ISU — came at huge times and the Jayhawks made plenty of other non-penalty-flag-drawing mistakes that cost them. Still, it's important for huge underdogs like Kansas to limit their penalties as much as possible and four is certainly a respectable number.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Tom Keegan wrote about it in today's column and I Tweeted about it during the game. KU coach David Beaty's decision to punt from the 35 yard line on fourth-and-three early in the game seemed like a terrible decision. Beaty said the wind and the down-and-distance factored into his decision to punt instead of kicking the field goal or going for it. But, to me, that sounds too much like a coach coaching with a College Football Playoff berth on the line not a guy trying to inject some confidence into a program in a major rebuilding mode. Teams like Kansas need to be more aggressive, not less, because they really don't have much to lose.
2 – The offensive line and KU running game struggled big time for the second week in a row — 38 yards on 33 carries. If they don't get that right in a hurry, this new-look Air Raid offense is going to be hard-pressed to reach 20 points in any game and, in a hurry, could start to look an awful lot like the offenses we've seen around here in recent years.
3 – KU quarterbacks are dropping like flies. Through four weeks, the Jayhawks are now down two quarterbacks, with Week 3 starter Deondre Ford out for an unknown amount of time with a thumb injury and now No. 1 QB Montell Cozart dealing with a shoulder sprain. Cozart has yet to play a complete game this season and if he's out for any amount of time, you're looking at two true freshmen (Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley) handling the top two spots on the depth chart and forgotten man T.J. Millweard quickly moving up from fifth string to third. None of that is good news.
One for the road
KU's 25-point loss at Iowa State on Saturday:
• Dropped KU's all-time record to 579-602-58.
• Prolonged a streak of 32 consecutive losses in true road games and 35 total games played away from Lawrence. Kansas’ last road win came at UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009.
• Also extended KU’s Big 12 Conference road losing streak to 28-straight league road games and 31 conference matches played away from Lawrence. KU’s last Big 12 road victory occurred in Ames, Iowa on Oct. 4, 2008.
After two weeks on the road, the Jayhawks return home for yet another 11 a.m. kickoff, this one against third-ranked Baylor, which enters the week as a 38-point favorite.
If you look only at the score, you might think to yourself, 'Huh, it looks like the Jayhawks had a chance.'
However, if you watched Saturday's 27-14 loss at Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey — be it on television or as one of the brave souls sitting in the High Point Solutions Stadium stands — you probably understand that the Jayhawks never really threatened to win this game.
Falling behind by scores of 13-0 and 27-7 put Kansas in holes too big to crawl out of, and the Jayhawks' defense continued to struggle — especially against the run — in what went down as the program's 34th consecutive loss away from Lawrence.
The facts of the final outcome don't do the Jayhawks any justice in terms of how they competed, what they overcame or the handful of good moments they did have. But those things, especially at this point, mean very little to anyone associated with the program, be them fans, players, coaches or administrators.
Kansas lost. Again. And that narrative is not only all too common these days but also, more times than not, expected.
There's no way — or reason — to sugar coat things at this point, nor has anyone I know been doing that throughout the offseason and first few games of the 2015 schedule. This Kansas team is severely overmatched at just about every position and all of the hard work and hard and effort and determination is not going to make up for that. If it could, Kansas would have won Saturday's game against a bad Rutgers team that gave the Jayhawks every opportunity to not only hang around but also steal momentum and find a way to win the game. It never happened. Call it inexperience — on the sideline and on the field — call it poor execution or call it reality. Either way, this team, though continuing to fight and work every day, is in for some rough weeks now that Big 12 play has arrived.
Three reasons to smile
1 – After surrendering a touchdown to the Scarlet Knights on their opening drive of the second half, the Jayhawks' defense held RU scorless for the final 24:24 of Saturday's loss. That left the door cracked for the KU offense to climb back into the game, but, after answering that Rutgers scoring drive with one of its own, Kansas could not find the end zone again and never crawled closer than the final margin of defeat. Rutgers' final four offensive drives of the game ended like this: turnover, missed field goal, punt, kneel down.
2 – You don't have to love him, you don't have to think he's a great QB or even the guy the Jayhawks should be playing with at the position this season... But you have to respect Montell Cozart for doing what he did on Saturday. Legitimately sick (yeah, I've heard plenty of people question it), Cozart completed passes with poise and ease, moved around well and brought calm and leadership to the Kansas offense. His numbers were good — 13 of 18 for 193 yards and no turnovers — but his heart was better. Very impressive showing by the junior, who fought through a lot just to be out there and, no doubt, proved a lot to his teammates. Not that they needed him to prove anything.
3 – If you're looking for rising stars on this team, and you're no such a cynic that you actually believe they exist, I've got one on each side of the ball for you. The first is wide receiver Tyler Patrick, a red-shirt freshman from The Woodlands, Texas, who now has put together back-to-back solid games. After catching six balls for 38 yards in KU's loss to Memphis on Sept. 12, Patrick got even more involved on Saturday against Rutgers. He finished with 70 yards on three grabs, but all three were big plays and he nearly scored on one of them. Gifted with great wheels, sticky hands and enough shiftiness to make guys miss in the open field, Patrick, who made the first start of his career on Saturday, appears to be working his way into a big time role and already has the complete trust of Cozart. On defense, another freshman, true freshman Tyrone Miller Jr., continues to show up in a big way. The Michigan native turned in a career-high 11 tackles, which led Kansas, and many of those came in run support, where Miller showed he's not afraid to stick his helmet in there and make a hit. He already has good coverage skills (though he can certainly get better) and has shown that he's tough enough and competitive enough to play a major role on this defense for years to come. His 26 tackles through three games lead the Kansas defense.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – The KU run D continued to struggle mightily. For the third straight game KU's opponent had its way with the Jayhawks on the ground, pushing around the smaller Kansas defense and taking advantage of the Jayhawks' inexperience and mistakes. Several KU players talked about the issues in the run game simply being a matter of all 11 guys doing their jobs. That, they say, will take care of it. I'm not so sure. It will definitely help, but teams with bigger offensive lines likely will continue to blow Kansas off the ball and pick up big yardage totals — both on individual plays and in entire games. There's not much defensive coordinator Clint Bowen can do about the defense's lack of size, so in order to overcome this, he's going to have to get even more creative than he's been and hope his young dudes can execute what he's asking them to do to stand up against the run.
2 – For the most part this season, KU's play-calling has been spot on. But there were a couple of moments in this one when it looked a little curious to say the least. Most notable was a drive late in the game, where the Jayhawks were marching down the field with the pass looking to cut the Rutgers lead to one score. After three straight passes moved KU solidly into Rutgers territory, Rob Likens called for first- and second-down runs. Neither went anywhere and that put the Jayhawks in a hole on third, and ultimately, fourth down. I'm no offensive coordinator and I understand that sometimes you gotta play the odds and call what you think fits the defenses you're seeing. Rutgers no doubt adjusted to what KU was doing, but sometimes you also gotta go with what's working until they stop it. That was a missed opportunity and a score on that drive would've made things really interesting and put the pressure on Rutgers and the momentum in KU's corner.
3 – KU's offensive line struggled mightily in run blocking in this one, paving the way for a 2.2 yards-per-carry average and giving junior tailback Ke'aun Kinner next to nowhere to run on the 15 times he was handed the ball. Kinner, who had gone over 100 yards in each of KU's first two games, finished with just 23 yards on 15 carries, a 1.2 ypc average. The Scarlet Knights certainly deserve some of the credit for stacking the box and daring Kansas to beat them with the pass, but KU got no push up front and too often allowed multiple RU defenders to crowd the Kansas backfield. As a team, KU finished with just 64 yards rushing on 29 carries. That number is made even worse when you remember that De'Andre Mann had the game's longest individual run of 41 yards. Take that away and you're looking at 23 yards on 28 carries. Look, yet again, for some more tweaks to the the lineup up front during the coming week.
One for the road
KU's first road loss of the 2015 season:
• Dropped the Jayhawks to 0-1 all-time against Rutgers
• Moved Kansas’ all-time record to 579-601-58.
• Prolonged a streak of 31-consecutive losses in true road games and overall 34 total games played away from Lawrence. Kansas’ last road win came at UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009 and the somber streak also includes three losses to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Jayhawks will jump into Big 12 play for the first of nine consecutive weeks against conference foes with a road game at Iowa State on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at Jack Trice Stadium, where the Jayhawks have not won since snagging a 35-33 victory in 2008.
Their bond comes because they occasionally feel like fish out of water, East Coast dudes living smack dab in the middle of the country.
But Kansas University football players Chevy Graham and Tevin Shaw want everyone to know that there is a different between New York, where Graham calls home, and New Jersey, Shaw's home state.
“New Jersey is more like New York City than New York state,” said Shaw earlier this week as he Jayhawks prepared for Saturday's 11 a.m. showdown with Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey. “The state is more city-like as a whole. It's a tough place. Driving, it's always traffic. People aren't too nice all the time.”
Despite coming from slightly different worlds, Graham, a junior safety who has worked his way onto the two-deep depth chart despite arriving in Lawrence as a walk-on, said both guys are plenty proud of their small part of the world.
“Tevin's very Jersey strong,” said Graham, a native of Uniondale, New York. “So there won't be a problem there, but both places are definitely more up-tempo than here. It's kind of nice being able to go back for a little bit. Obviously, the football game is the main focus but it's going to be a great experience.”
For Shaw, Saturday's experience will be a true homecoming, with the game taking place just minutes from where he grew up.
For Graham, who will be making his first ever trip to Piscataway, just being back close to home is enough to make this trip stand out.
“It's great being able to go back to the East Coast and see some familiar faces,” he said.
As for how, or perhaps why, he ended up in Kansas in the first place, Graham said the reason was simple.
“I came out here just for a different opportunity,” he said. “I was on the East Coast for the majority of my life and Kansas offered me the best opportunity for me to come out here and play ball so I took that chance and it's paid off.”
So much so that Graham has worked his way into the regular rotation in KU's secondary. Shaw, who was recruited to Kansas as a running back, has been a mainstay there since early in his career, but that's not the only bond these two players share.
“I mean, we joke a lot about it,” Graham said of the automatic New York-New Jersey rivalry that exists between the two. “But there's a lot of things that we can relate to because we're both from the East Coast. So in a way we do have that little East Coast bond and it's definitely nice to have another guy on the team from there.”
Added Shaw of living life in the Midwest: “I've definitely adjusted to it, but my first year here it was really strange just talking to people. We generally just don't have conversations with people we don't know.”
Luckily for Shaw, that was not an issue for him and Graham, who said his full name is Chevrick, something his mother “threw together.”
“A lot of people had problems with that,” Graham said. “And in eighth grade, my football coach just started calling me Chevy and it just stuck.”
That begs the question, what kind of car does Graham drive?
“An Isuzu, actually,” he said. “But people joke around and call me Ford and all that stuff. Maybe eventually I'll switch over and match up my name with my car.”
They used to say these sorts of things about the annual KU-K-State battles but then Kansas State up and got good and now it's the Jayhawks holding down the fort for Sunflower State futility.
The Toilet Bowl they called those games. But now it might have gotten worse.
This weekend, when KU plays at Rutgers, two of the worst programs in the so-called Power 5 conferences will be squaring off in a game that both sides have to be looking at as a winnable and welcomed vision.
One problem: The rest of the nation has caught on to just how bad these two programs are at the moment and they're not afraid to poke a little fun.
Earlier this week, ESPN.com put both KU and Rutgers in the weekly Bottom 10 rankings, with KU coming in at No. 2 (just behind, or is it ahead of, New Mexico) and Rutgers sitting at No. 8. The outcome of this game could easily have a major impact on those standings no matter which way it goes.
And then Thursday, on the front page of ESPN.com, a feature titled, "Kansas vs. Rutgers is the game you have not been waiting for," ran near the top of the home page, bringing attention to the current struggles facing Kansas football.
Anyone who has followed this program at all during the past five or so years knows exactly what's going on. And, although it might seem like piling on to some of the KU fans who hold all things Jayhawks near and dear to their hearts, this kind of attention is definitely fair, even though it might not be a whole lot of fun for the Jayhawks.
Heck, even CigarAficianado.com has a Top 10 worst college football teams feature, with the Jayhawks ranking first and Rutgers in the "others receiving votes" category.
The good news about these two teams squaring off this week is that one of them has to win. And whichever one does will likely buy at least a couple of weeks of avoiding such negative publicity. Who knows? Maybe a win will even springboard some confidence and get things going in the right direction a little more quickly.
Again, who knows?
For now, all we do know is that these rankings and this kind of attention, though cruel, is absolutely justified until further notice.
Let the game begin!
Throughout preseason camp and the start of the 2015 season, I've mentioned on multiple occasions how the Kansas University football coaching staff — and, because of them, the KU players — seems like a group that is willing to embrace the hard work required to rebuild things at Kansas.
What's more, they all appear to be unfazed by bad results, tough times and the outside perception of the program.
A lot of little things have led me to believe this, from a glimpse of how things are run at practice to the way things are said during press conferences and some behind-the-scenes nuggets that I've heard about life in the KU football complex these days.
However, Monday morning, on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference, I heard one of the more concrete examples of this idea during KU coach David Beaty's five-minute phone call with the media.
Asked, after back-to-back home losses dropped KU to 0-2 in Beaty's first season as a Division I head coach, how he was handling the reality of the situation he had gotten himself into, Beaty as a beacon of positivity shined through.
The question: “About you, I'm just wondering how you're holding up. Obviously this has been a career goal, to be a college coach, for a long time. After you finally got the opportunity, what are the biggest changes you've seen in your routine and what you've had to do to prepare over the first two weeks of the season?”
Beaty's answer: “First of all, I'm holding up great,” he said with plenty of pep in his voice. “I'm still very, very excited about our football team. There's a lot of things that we learned about our team in the last two weeks that are gonna help us moving forward. You know, our goal, from the very beginning, has been to get just a little bit better every week. Even though the score doesn't show it, being 55-23, there was some things that we improved on in this football game.”
Beaty then went on to list a few of those areas of improvement, which included success in the turnover battle, on special teams and in the running game.
But, really, the specifics of his answer were irrelevant.
See, even though we're just two weeks into the 2015 season, the whole thing has come down to this for Kansas football. And, really, it's probably been about this all along: Success during the 2015 season will not be determined by wins and losses or point differential or anything like that. It's about survival.
At this point, even with Rutgers in two weeks seeming like a potentially winnable game on paper, it's unlikely that KU will win a game this season. That's not to say it can't happen. And that's not to say this team won't get better. I'm sure it will. But so will the other teams. And with KU starting from so far behind to begin with, that makes catching any of the other guys an almost impossible task.
Given that such thoughts seem to be universally accepted and are basically common knowledge on and around the KU campus, Beaty's positivity looks all the more impressive.
Like many of you, I've seen this whole thing unfold before. But I've never seen it look or feel quite like this.
I remember Turner Gill talking, after almost every loss, about how it was “just one game.” The problem with that logic after a certain point was that it wasn't just one game. It was an entire season. And then another one. And things never seemed to get better.
Enter Charlie Weis, whose loud personality and big bravado may have changed the sound of things but not the outcome. Weis, who rarely ever showed anything but extreme calm in the press conferences following losses, often sat there and said the same sorts of things as Gill, albeit in a different way — We just have to keep working and try to get better.
Both men did their best to remain poised and put forward a positive vibe. But neither were all that believable. Gill always looked to be in over his head and Weis always looked like he was trying to master the art of spin, therein making things sound, look and feel better than they truly were.
You won't get any of that with Beaty. And, frankly, I've been incredibly impressed by that.
It's not easy to remain positive — heck, it's not even easy to start from a position of positivity — when you're the one calling the shots and steering the ship for a program in as bad of shape as Kansas football.
But Beaty has. He's been honest and open and realistic and forthright from the very beginning and continues to be that way today, even after a couple of bad losses, one to an FCS team that pushed KU around and the other in blowout fashion to a team with which KU absolutely should expect to be competitive.
0-2 but no boo hoo. Just more of the same from Mr. Enthusiasm.
Don't get me wrong, Beaty's demeanor is not one of acceptance. He's not happy KU is 0-2 and he does not believe it's acceptable. But he definitely projects that he understands why they are, that he might even have been prepared for it to begin with and that he and the rest of his crew are willing to do whatever they have to do to keep working through it, good, bad or ugly.
“There's some things that we can build on,” Beaty said Monday morning. “But there's obviously some things that are giving us problems. The good news is, all of those things we saw on tape, those are all fixable. We just gotta be willing to step up and do 'em.”
This kind of attitude will not win games in 2015. But it could be the reason these kids stick around long enough and work hard enough to win games in 2016, 2017, 2018 and beyond.
Time will tell if that's the case, but while we wait, one black and white aspect of the program that will be easy to track is Beaty's disposition.
If he remains the same man and coach that he is today, I'll have no problem saying that this coach and this staff have a real chance of finally being the bunch that gets KU going again. If he doesn't and even he cracks under the weight and heavy load of lopsided losses piling up, it could be yet another bad sign for a program in desperate need of some positivity that Beaty tries to bring day in and day out.
Let the watch begin.
A little more than five minutes into Saturday's game, the Kansas University football team held a 10-0 lead, had picked up a couple of stops on defense, forced a turnover and looked sharp on offense.
For a brief period of time, Kansas actually looked like the better, more prepared team.
But things evened out dramatically during the next quarter and a half and ultimately tipped heavily in Memphis' favor before the fourth quarter even arrived. At that point, it was just another long night for a program that has seen so many of them during the past five seasons.
Yes, the Jayhawks kept fighting and, yes, believe it or not, there were some signs of progress and improvement. But those were small and hard to see and KU, now more than ever, is staring at the very real possibility of finishing a season winless for just the second time in 126 seasons of KU football.
There's a lot of football left to play and there's no doubt that anything can happen. So it may be way too early to jump to those kinds of conclusions. But the opponents are only going to get harder and this team clearly has a ton of work to do to get to the point where it's competing with anybody.
The biggest silver lining for the Jayhawks right now, however, is that these guys understand that and seem unafraid of going through it.
Two things are now clear about this Kansas football team — the defense needs some serious work and the success of the offense, though improved and certainly more exciting, depends so heavily on the play of the quarterback, which, on Saturday, was less than stellar. Memphis was a solid team in 2014 and appears to have another strong team this season. But there's no reason that the Jayhawks could not have been more competitive against a team of that caliber, particularly after starting with a 10-0 lead. The fact that they weren't is one of the strongest signs yet of just how deep of a hole the program is in and just how difficult it's going to be to climb out of it.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Ke'aun Kinner can flat-out play and KU's going to need him to be great to have any chance during the rest of the season. The junior-college transfer who emerged as KU's best back after a solid spring and quality camp became the first Jayhawk since James Sims in 2013 to run for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games. Early on, it looked as if Kinner might wind up with 50 carries, as the Jayhawks handed it to him on five of the first six plays from scrimmage and 10 times by the 9:48 mark of the first quarter. KU backed off of that pace, largely because the deficit grew so quickly, but, even with the lopsided loss, Kinner, who finished with 113 yards and a TD on 16 carries, further established himself as a real talent.
2 – Although it didn't matter much toward the outcome, it was definitely a good sign that the Jayhawks improved in a couple of areas in which they struggled mightily in the opener. The tackling, as a whole, was better and KU came out of the gates much better, carving out a 10-0 lead and forcing an early turnover instead of falling behind 31-7 as it did last week. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the games are four quarters long and those gains, though encouraging, were not big enough to help deliver a victory.
3 – This two-kicker system seems like it just might work. Credit Nick “Yoda” Bartolotta for staying perfect this season on the “short” kicks. Bartolotta knocked in two more field goals and two extra points in Saturday's loss. But long-range bomber Matthew Wyman, who had another good day as the kickoff specialist, finally got a chance to show off his leg, hitting from 51 yards midway through the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach. Given the struggles of the defense and the potent nature of the rest of their opponents, field goals probably aren't going to be that important for the Jayhawks this season. But should there come a time where the three-point try is crucial, it's good to see Kansas has it covered, short or long.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – As good as he was in the opener at times, junior QB Montell Cozart was equally that bad in this one. It wasn't all his fault, though. Cozart was running for his life for much of the game, as the protection in front of him consistently broke down. That forced him to make some bad throws or throw some balls away and also kept him from getting comfortable enough to make good throws when he did have time. Cozart completed just 46 percent of his passes (one week after completing 66 percent) and threw for 118 yards. Week 1 was a fantastic step forward for the junior QB, but it was against FCS competition. Week 2 was a step backwards and there's no telling where things will go from here.
2 – Even if Cozart had been Cam Newton, it might not have mattered given the way the defense played. For the second week in a row, the defense gave up big plays, big chunks of yards and a big point total, creating legit concern that this group is a long, long way from being anywhere close to ready to compete in the Big 12. Memphis racked up 651 yards on just 79 plays and averaged 8.2 yards per play. The 55 points came even with the Tigers giving up three turnovers. There were far fewer missed tackles, but the secondary played way too passive and the guys up front got pushed around by Memphis' bigger and more experienced offensive line.
3 – While the “earn it” philosophy is solid in theory, I'm not sure it's doing KU any favors at the quarterback position. In Week 1, Cozart was sent to the bench for two plays after getting banged up and freshman Ryan Willis went in to replace him. Beaty said after the game that Willis had earned the right to be the Jayhawks' No. 2 QB, a promising sign given KU's struggles at the position during the past few years and Willis' long-term potential as an answer. But then Saturday, during the fourth quarter of a game that was already decided, junior-college transfer Deondre Ford went in as KU's No. 2 guy. Beaty said after the game that Ford had out-played Willis during the week and, therefore, earned the opportunity. But based both on what I've heard and seen, I don't think Ford is the answer, now or in the future, so it seems at least a little strange that Beaty and company would not have wanted to get Willis some more live reps in case he is needed sooner rather than later. For the record, freshman Carter Stanley did not suit up for Saturday's game.
One for the road
KU's loss to Memphis in Week 2...
• Dropped the Jayhawks' all-time record to 579-600-58.
• Marked just the fifth non-conference home loss in 32 tries dating back to the 2003 season.
• Included a Kansas defense forcing Memphis to lose three fumbles in the game, the most loose balls recovered by a Jayhawk defense since also pouncing on three mishandles at Oklahoma State, Nov. 10, 2007.
• Featured KU giving up the most total yards of offense since Baylor rolled to 669 yards in 2014.
The Jayhawks (0-2) will have their lone bye of the 2015 season this week and will not play again until they travel to Rutgers for a Sept. 26 kickoff in New Jersey. Rutgers dropped to 1-1 with a 37-34 home loss to Washington State last weekend and will play at Penn State on Saturday night before hosting the Jayhawks.