Ames, Iowa First-year head coach David Beaty had four options from which to choose Saturday early in the second quarter of Kansas University’s 38-13 loss to Iowa State in packed Jack Trice Stadium.
Kansas had the ball at the ISU 35 on fourth and 3, trailing 3-0.
Technically, punting counted as an option, but since executing a punt that doesn’t roll into the end zone for a touchback that would bring the ball out to the 20 requires excellent skill, it seemed likely no coach would pick that option.
Beaty sent the field-goal unit onto the field, but later hinted that he did so only to see if the defensive alignment was such that it was vulnerable to first down via a fake kick. Since it was not the right defensive look, Beaty scotched that plan, called timeout and discussed the remaining options.
Images from Saturday's game between the Jayhawks and Cyclones in Ames, Iowa.
Toward the end of the timeout, Beaty said after the game, the decision was reached to send the punt team onto the field.
“It was a little too far for us in that third-down situation to think about staying and going for it,” he said, his recollection telling him it was more like four or five yards for a first down. Officially, it was three yards.
Kansas wasn’t getting any push up front, so three yards might as well have been five on a running play. Not a great option, but better than choosing to give the ball to the other team.
Predictably, Eric Kahn’s punt rolled into the end zone for a touchback, meaning KU willingly surrendered possession to gain a mere 15 yards of field position.
The situation called for an aggressive play, not a passive one.
Attempting a 52-yard field goal counts as aggressive. Beaty repeatedly has praised the strength of Matthew Wyman’s foot. Wyman’s chance to show it off in the season-opening loss to South Dakota State died with Montell Cozart’s botched snap. This time, Beaty denied Wyman the chance.
“There was a little bit of wind coming into his face on that end, and that was the only thing that kind of really held me from letting him try it,” Beaty said.
Actually, when Beaty sent the field-goal unit onto the field, I checked the orange flags at the tops of the uprights and they showed that the wind was at the kicker’s back.
Letting Wyman try to tie the score seemed the best risk-rewards play.
Once Kahn’s punt rolled into the end zone, the air went out of KU quicker than any Tom Brady football.
Had Wyman made a 52-yarder, Kanas gets a charge of confidence and maybe the game stays close for a while longer. Beaty said the emotional lift of three points there was among the things running through his head.
“Absolutely,” he said. “There are some things you always go back and forth on at that point. I felt like it was better to give them good field position, rather than have them that close to the 50-yard line.”
Obviously, the issues up front that have prevented Kansas from stopping the run or running the football with any success the past weeks, don’t vanish with a long field goal. Iowa State wins the game regardless, but that’s not the point.
Once Kansas can recruit its way to playing a number of close games, Beaty will be presented with make-or-break decisions and will need to show better judgment than he did Saturday with a chance to tie the score early in the game.
—Tom Keegan can be seen on The Drive, Sunday nights on WIBW TV.
— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.