Interim head coach Clint Bowen’s decision to promote wide-receivers coach Eric Kiesau to co-offensive coordinator prior to Saturday’s 60-14 loss at Baylor was done with the idea of helping the Kansas University offense get moving.
But after a loss in which the Jayhawks finished with 304 yards of total offense, Bowen said he was not ready to judge Kiesau’s ability based on one loss to a top-15 team and tough defense.
“Not right now, to be fair,” Bowen said. “(Baylor defensive coordinator) Coach (Phil) Bennett obviously got after him pretty good and created some problems. We were struggling to block their front four, and that created a lot of problems for us.”
While the move to put Kiesau in a play-calling role in place of John Reagan, who now will serve as a co-offensive coordinator and continue to have input in the offense while spending more time coaching the Jayhawks’ struggling offensive line, left a little to be desired in that Kansas ran for just 16 yards on 27 carries, converted just six of 15 third-down opportunities and fumbled five times — losing three — several Jayhawks said they liked the way Kiesau called the game.
“Yeah, he looks for the wide receivers a lot,” said senior receiver Nick Harwell, who finished with 79 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. “But he’s a really enthusiastic person, a great motivator, and I trust him off the field a lot, so on the field I pretty much trust what he calls.”
Outside of Harwell, freshman running back Corey Avery (four receptions for 92 yards) and quarterback Michael Cummings (21-of-30 passing for 288 yards and two TDs), KU’s offensive production was flat. But the offense’s communication did not suffer because of the change.
“Everything went smooth as far as the play-calling,” Avery said.
The Jayhawks had nearly two full weeks to get used to the new set-up and also benefited from some new signage on the sideline that KU’s players and coaches on the bench used to signal in the plays.
“The signs were new,” said Cummings of the white boards that featured a variety of photographs that represented different calls. “Just a way to communicate things a little bit faster.”
Cummings said KU’s attack was not much different on Saturday against Baylor than it had been throughout the season.
“It hasn’t heavily changed,” he said. “A few wrinkles here and there.”
The Jayhawks made available to the media after the game made it clear that improved execution and focus remained the most important part of the equation.
“You just gotta play every play one play at a time, six seconds at a time and try to play every six seconds perfect,” Cummings said. “You’re not gonna be perfect all the time, but you’ve gotta strive for that.”
Freshman cornerback Derrick Neal and senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers, who suffered injuries Saturday and were taken to the hospital for further evaluation, returned to Lawrence and participated in team activities Sunday, KU announced Sunday evening.