Tom Keegan: Same starting quarterback still could mean livelier offense

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) rolls out to pass as he is pressured by West Virginia safety Derrek Pitts (1) during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017 at Memorial Stadium.

A same old, same old malaise overcame a segment of the Kansas football fan base after Peyton Bender was announced as the starter for the Sept. 1 season opener against Nicholls State.

Does this mean nothing has changed with the approach KU will take to trying to score enough points to remain competitive into the fourth quarter of games?

Well, maybe not.

It’s only same old, same old if the Kansas offensive game plan again calls for excessive passing and quick snaps, instead of a run-based attack with snaps coming near the end of the play clock, snap after snap.

Some took the naming of Bender as evidence that talk of a shift to an emphasis on running was just that, talk, and nothing more. Miles Kendrick and Carter Stanley can run, Bender can’t.

Again, maybe it doesn’t mean that at all.

Sure, a running quarterback gives the defense an extra helmet to track, but a passing game that earns a defense’s respect also can help to make it easier to run.

Bender’s a better passer than Stanley and Kendrick, and that’s the primary reason he won the job.

Bender’s the one with the greatest chance to give the defense reason to be leery about loading up against the run.

Don’t forget, Bender averaged 343.3 yards per game during the nonconference portion of the 2017 schedule.

Those were the only game films West Virginia had to draw on when crafting a defensive game plan for the 2017 Big 12 opener. The Mountaineers respected Bender’s ability to beat them with his arm and Khalil Herbert ran for 291 yards. Kansas lost, 56-34, but had its biggest offensive output of the season vs. an FBS foe.

Bender’s the best passer on the roster, won the job and has a chance to make disappointed fans happy that head coach David Beaty selected him to make the ninth start of his KU career and 10th overall. The first came in 2015 for Washington State against Washington, when he filled in for Luke Falk.

Bender knows he needs to perform better this season.

“The main focus is costing (fewer) turnovers, getting more crisp with the execution, knowing where to go with the play,” Bender said.

Upgrades on the offensive line should give him more time to throw, which will make him more accurate and give receivers who dropped way too many balls last season a chance to look better this season.

Beaty’s job isn’t to choose the quarterback who would land the coach the most praise for picking him and generate the most excitement. It’s choosing the one who gives KU the best chance to win.


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