Harsh realities starting to surface for struggling Kansas football team

photo by: Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

MORGANTOWN, WV - OCTOBER 17: Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Miles Kendrick (3) throws a pass during the first quarter of the college football game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the West Virginia Mountaineers on October 17, 2020, at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV.

For nearly three full quarters of Saturday’s 38-17 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va., the Kansas football team did all that its disgruntled fan base has ever asked it to do.

It competed.

Before Leddie Brown’s 87-yard touchdown run put the Mountaineers up 24-10 with 3:37 to play in the third quarter, the Jayhawks had managed to hang around.

Credit for that goes to D.J. Eliot and the KU defense, which did everything they could to keep Kansas in it, from turnovers and big hits to snapping their chin straps up and running back out there all afternoon.

But the Jayhawks got absolutely no help from their offense and therefore never really had a chance once the Mountaineers (3-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) took the lead after gifting Kansas a 10-0 head-start to open the game.

Maybe you were surprised that the Jayhawks (0-4, 0-3) were able to hang around as long as they did. Fair.

Maybe you were even encouraged by some of the individual efforts. Good for you.

Or maybe you stopped watching a long time ago. Hard to blame ya.

Either way, as the season continues to deliver disappointing results for the Jayhawks, those of us still watching continue to try to learn about this team.

Most of it leads to questions for which there are just no answers.

Here’s what we learned this week.

• Miles Kendrick is not the solution at quarterback. The junior who coaches and teammates laud as a great leader, made his first start of the season and got a full game to show what he could do. The KU offense responded with one of its worst showings of the past two seasons. The blame for that does not fall entirely on Miles. Not by a long shot. But this team needs a quarterback that can spark something when there’s absolutely nothing there. When freshman Jalon Daniels is back from injury, the job should be his. Until then, if needed, Thomas MacVittie can have one more chance.

• KU’s coaching staff and players had two weeks to figure out some kind of fix or fancy new approach for the offensive line and came up with nothing. Guys are trying. Coaches are working. They just do not have the horses. Nothing but time will change that. Moving the pieces around won’t help, and shoddy O-line play means no shot on Saturdays.

• Because of those first two realities, there really is very little hope for Pooka Williams Jr., this season. Give him the ball on every play or don’t. Put him in space or don’t. Let him return kicks or don’t. It doesn’t look like it’s going to matter. Even Williams’ lone highlight on Saturday — a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the final two minutes — came long after the damage had been done. Outside of that, Williams touched the ball 14 times and gained 28 yards.

In his postgame meeting with the media, acting head coach Joshua Eargle — a bundle of positive energy if ever there was one — talked a lot about how close Kansas was in a lot of areas.

That’s all well and good, but at some point the Jayhawks either have to stop doing the little things that are hurting them or admit that the things plaguing this program are bigger.

Even with that positive spin to another rough Saturday, Eargle correctly noted that until the Jayhawks get things down in practice and carry that over to game days, it’s going to take time to get over the hump.

“You can play as hard as you want to, and you can want it really, really bad,” he said. “But it’s going to come down to execution.”

And it’s not going to get any easier to execute in the next month. Next week, the Jayhawks are slated to play at No. 22 Kansas State and they follow that up with a home matchup with No. 20 Iowa State, a road trip to unranked Oklahoma and a home game against unranked Texas in three of the four weeks that follow.


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