Posts tagged with Ku Football
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.
Any time an offensive line can get the view that Bryan Peters (76), De'Andre Banks (62) and Keyon Haughton (70) have in the picture above, things are are going well.
That was absolutely the case for the Kansas offensive line in last week's season opener, which went down as a 41-38 loss for the team but should be considered a win for the offensive line, which included the three guys mentioned above along with tackles Jordan Shelley-Smith and Larry Mazyck in the starting lineup.
It's been a number of games, and years, really, since we've watched a Kansas football game and not noticed the offensive line in some way, shape or form. That's a good thing, by the way. Because, the way things typically go, the more that O-Lines are noticed, the bigger the concern.
Don't get me wrong, there were a few offensive linemen called for holding and there was even one false start, but those things happen. Nobody likes it when they do, but they do.
Three of the seven penalties enforced against KU in last Saturday's opener were called on the offensive line, with Banks and Haughton each whistled for a hold and Mazyck flagged for a false start. Again, these things do happen. And the best part about the previous sentence was that it did not show any repeat offenders.
Outside of the penalties, which I'm guessing was a fairly acceptable number in O-Line coach Zach Yenser's meeting room this week, the line was terrific.
It took care of junior quarterback Montell Cozart and kept him upright and able to move around and find receivers when required.
It blew open holes for Ke'aun Kinner and allowed him to rumble for 157 yards and 2 TDs in his Kansas debut.
And, as we had been told it would, the O-Line did a great job keeping up with KU's tempo and allowing the Kansas offense to play as fast as possible. KU ripped off 90 plays in last week's loss — good for seventh most in the country during Week 1 — and not one time do I remember seeing Cozart or the offense having to wait for the linemen to get set before getting a play off.
Generally speaking, offensive lines are like umpires and referees. When they do their job, nobody really talks about them and everything is right in the world. When they don't, all hell breaks loose and people have been known to pick on them for days.
The fact that no one in the local media asked KU coach David Beaty a single question about KU's offensive line following Saturday's loss or during this week's press conference shows you all you need to know about that group that spent much of the spring and almost all of preseason camp working together to develop the necessary chemistry to succeed up front.
In fact, the only thing we really heard about this group this week was an unsolicited tip of the cap by Beaty, who mentioned the big boys up front when asked on Saturday who stood out during KU's opener.
One of the groups that I'm really proud of is our O-line," Beaty said. "I'll be honest with you, in spring that group struggled pretty badly. So the fact that they're getting better, that gives me some hope moving forward that we've got a chance to get a little bit better even than that. So Zach Yenser and those guys have done a really good job with them."
As Beaty and company have said all along, "you're only as good as your next," so even with its solid Week 1 performance the Kansas O-Line must back that performance again in Week 2 if it hopes to continue receiving love from the KU coaches and fans.
If not... Well, you all know how umpires and referees are treated.
Saturday, in his first start of his junior season, quarterback Montell Cozart threw an interception early in the game that looked about as bad as an interception can look.
As he dropped back and looked left, Cozart did not even seem to hesitate and fired the ball right to South Dakota State defender Dallas Brown, who caught it and raced 53 yards to set up another SDSU score.
As these things go, the general perception was that it was a horrible throw by Cozart.
But a further look at the play reveals that it might not have been. Perhaps more importantly, a further look at the situation during the postgame press conferences reveals that Cozart may truly have morphed into that leader we've all heard he has become.
Here's a look.
Presented below are Cozart's words about the interception following the game:
"It was a screen play, an inside zone play with a screen out there and we were trying to go so fast. We had 'em. We had 'em. The nickel was lined up all the way in the boundary and he was running over to the trips (side with 3 receivers) and our receivers, when they see someone like that, they don't account for him in their blocking and so the guy just ran right over and ran in front of the screen, but that's on me. I've gotta see right through him and throw the ball out of bounds or just hand the ball off.”
Monday, on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference, first-year KU coach David Beaty offered a different view:
“He obviously had a couple of key errors in the game that we'd love to have back," Beaty said of his junior QB. "But the thing of it is, it's never one guy's fault. Boy, it sure looks like it is on the surface but the guy that caught that interception, he was supposed to have been blocked and we missed him. It looks like it's Montell's fault but ball security is not just a quarterback and a skill player's job. It's the offensive line's job, it's the center's job, everybody has a role in it. And when we don't execute correctly, things can go awry.”
It's just one play. And even though it turned out to be a pretty big one, both in terms of the momentum of the game and in the final score, the most important part of the interception and the lessons learned from it might have been the leadership and accountability that Cozart showed when asked about it.
It would've been very easy for him to explain the breakdown and, even without throwing any of his teammates under the bus, pass the blame onto someone else. But he didn't. Instead, he owned up to his part in it and even went as far as to imply that he should've been good enough to overcome the mistake and adjust into a better decision.
He wasn't, the ball was intercepted and Kansas lost the game.
But you can bet that Cozart won some serious points with his receivers and coaches for the way he handled it like a true leader when asked about it.
That might not get you points or win you games, but it can go a long way toward helping turn a program around.
Trailing 31-7 with an eternity remaining in the second quarter of Saturday's 41-38 loss to South Dakota State, the Kansas University football team regrouped, restarted and waged a comeback that pulled them within three points twice during the second half.
Big deal, right? I mean, this was South Dakota State. It was at home. And losing is downright embarrassing.
That's certainly the national perception and one that many KU fans share.
No matter how you want to paint this one, there were definitely too many mistakes and plenty of areas to point to that are in need of drastic improvement.
The defense struggled early and missed far too many tackles. The offense, though much improved from recent seasons, still has room to grow. And whether it was penalties or missed assignments, KU still had far too many moments when it hurt itself and helped South Dakota State maintain the upper hand.
Nobody expected much from the Jayhawks this season anyway, but now, after Saturday's loss, it's even more clear just what we can expect and what areas Kansas needs to work on most.
With that said, let's jump right into the first “Day After” of the new season.
A loss is a loss and when it comes to an FCS opponent at home, it hurts a little more than most other losses. Nobody will deny that. And nobody will argue the fact that the Jayhawks should not feel good about Saturday's loss to the Jackrabbits. But the vibe coming out of the locker room following Saturday's setback was different than most any vibe I've felt coming from the program during the past five rough seasons. These guys — players and coaches — seem to understand clearly how difficult the task in front of them is. More importantly, they're not feeling sorry for themselves and seem more than willing to put in the work and battle through the rough times together. Together is the key there. And even though today it seems like a long time before this program turns the corner, there's an argument to be made that, in some ways, it already has.
Three reasons to smile
1 – The Kansas offense threw up 38 points an 576 yards of total offense. Anyone that says that's a disappointment is crazy. Yeah, it might have come against an FCS foe but at least it came. And it's been a long time since anyone has seen anything like that in Memorial Stadium. Although he was responsible for three of the game's most gut-wrenching plays, junior quarterback Montell Cozart backed up all of the talk about him being a different player this season and looked both more accurate and efficient throwing the ball and more willing and able running the ball. Plenty of room to improve, but Rob Likens and the offense definitely got off to a good start with KU's version of the Air Raid offense.
2 – Call them out for losing the game but give these guys credit for fighting back and not folding at the first sign of trouble. Plenty of KU players and teams in the recent past have done just that in situations like the one the Jayhawks faced on Saturday and I'm not sure there was a single coach or player who doubted that they could get back in that game, which they did. That's a great characteristic to have when facing any rebuilding project, but especially one as big as the one facing the Jayhawks.
3 – Nearly two dozen players who had no college football experience heading into Week 1 now have at least a taste of college football. That can only help going forward and given the fact that so many of those young dudes actually made a real impact vs. the Jackrabbits, that experience should have a solid affect on their confidence for the weeks ahead, as well.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – SDSU quarterback Zach Lujan played well enough to deliver a victory for his team, but KU's defensive backs definitely helped him out at times. There were at least half a dozen throws that featured fantastic coverage from the KU DBs but when the ball arrived they struggled to get their heads around in time to make a play. I'll definitely ask about the issue this week, as I'm very curious to see if the coaches thought it was as big of a problem as I did.
2 – Missed tackles, missed tackles, missed tackles. There were a ton of them in the first quarter and a half and, I have to admit that surprised the heck out of me. It's one thing to be lacking numbers or depth, it's another thing to be missing in the area of fundamentals. It was just the first week and things were much better during the next two-plus quarters. So we'll reserve final judgement and see how things look in the next week or two. But this has to be a huge area of emphasis during the early days of Memphis week and I'm sure it will be.
3 – First-year KU coach David Beaty owned up to them in the postgame press conference and did not make any excuses or apologies for the way things played out, but I thought there were a couple of questionable calls that, had they decided to go the other direction with them, might have helped KU pull out the victory. The first came before halftime when KU not only chose to pass on a 42-yard field goal try that, if made, would've cut the lead to two scores (31-17) heading into the locker room. Even if going for it was the right call there, it was just fourth-and-three and a deep pass to the end zone might not have been the best play call. Another memorable instance came in the second half, when KU trailed 34-28 and had third-and-goal inside the 5 yard line. Same thing here: Not only did they not go for the touchdown on fourth down, but the play call on third down was not ideal, as Cozart was asked to run an option play to the short side of the field. Cozart's not a great option QB to begin with and the play went nowhere. KU settled for the field goal, which did pull the Jayhawks to within three, but going for it on fourth-and-goal might have been a better call. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20 so it was good to see Beaty call say he'd like to have a couple of those back. But the calls themselves could speak to the inexperience of this coaching staff. Just something to watch in future weeks.
One for the road
The Jayhawks' loss to the Jackrabbits on Saturday:
• Dropped KU’s all-time record to 579-599-58
• Pushed the Jayhawks to 71-48-7 all-time in season openers.
• The loss marked just the fourth non-conference home loss in 31 tries dating back to the 2003 season.
• KU's 576 yards of total offense are the most since racking up 615 yards on Florida International in 2007. The Jayhawks posted 576 yards of total offense against UTEP in 2009.
KU will play host to Memphis at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Memphis, which enters as a double-digit favorite, kicked off its season last week with a 63-7 victory over Missouri State.
Well, it looks like I can cross off one thing from my list of pre-game duties for tomorrow's Kansas University football opener against South Dakota State, 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.
Instead of trying to get the earliest glimpse of what uniform combination the Jayhawks will be wearing when the specialists trot onto the field 90 minutes ahead of kickoff to get the warm-ups started, I'll be able to take one last look at the depth chart or make sure all of my devices are charged and ready.
That's because KU officially revealed its uniform of choice for the 2015 season opener today.
Here's a look:
It's #KUBlueFriday and we will be wearing BLUE on Saturday too! Check out our uniforms for Game 1 vs. South Dakota State!Posted by Kansas Football on Friday, September 4, 2015