In the wake of a mortifying offensive outing at TCU, head coach David Beaty and his Kansas football staff are taxed with doing everything within their power to make the Jayhawks competitive.
While areas of concern exist across the board following back-to-back shutout blowouts on the road, a reinvigorated KU rushing attack could be as good a starting point as any.
Without starting running back Khalil Herbert at Iowa State on Oct. 14, Kansas managed just 62 rushing yards. When Herbert returned at TCU from a hamstring injury he suffered two weeks earlier, he only attempted six runs, netting eight yards.
During its nightmarish trip to Fort Worth, Texas, KU as a team was credited with 31 rushing attempts for minus-25 yards.
On this episode of the KU Sports Hour, hosted by KU football beat writer Benton Smith, the KUsports.com staff discusses KU’s 43-0 loss to TCU. Topics include: Ten horrible KU football statistics (open), comparing the teams of the post-Mangino era (starting at 19:25) and the KUsports.com football mailbag — cage ...
Such ill-fated results didn’t seem plausible just a month ago, when Kansas — bolstered by a 36-carry, 291-yard, two-touchdown show by Herbert — gained 367 rushing yards on 50 attempts. It’s that game that boosts KU’s season average to 120.6 rushing yards a game, which still ranks last in the Big 12 and 110th among FBS teams.
Taking the rushing success versus WVU out of the equation, Kansas averaged 79.5 ground yards in other games.
“We’ve got to continue to improve up front. We’ve got to be able to run the football in this conference,” Beaty said Monday, during his weekly time slot on the Big 12 media teleconference.
As Beaty pointed out, Kansas State, which visits Memorial Stadium for the Sunflower Showdown on Saturday (2 p.m. kickoff, FOX Sports 1), is one of the better rushing teams in the conference, averaging 199.1 yards a game, second by fractions of a yard to Oklahoma’s 199.4.
“One of the best run teams that I’ve had to play year in and year out,” Beaty said of Bill Snyder’s Wildcats (3-4 overall, 1-3 Big 12). “So we’re going to have to be able to match that, be able to run the ball offensively.”
In theory, both KU’s rushing and passing plays would benefit from the return of starting center Mesa Ribordy, who missed both the ISU and TCU losses due to an undisclosed injury.
While discussing the offensive woes for Kansas (1-6, 0-4), Beaty said opponents get the credit.
“Those guys are doing better than we are. And we’ve got to change that,” Beaty said. “No doubt about it.”
But the third-year KU coach soon turned to the impact Ribordy’s absence has on production, calling the 6-foot-4, 305-pound sophomore center from Louisburg “a guy that kind of keeps it all together up there.”
“But we’ve got to be able to plug in the next guy and continue moving,” Beaty added. “We don’t know when we’re going to get Mesa back. Might be this week, might be three weeks, we’ll see how it goes. It doesn’t matter. There can’t be one guy that changes things that much.”
Considering Kansas hasn’t scored a point in nine consecutive quarters and the two previous games have netted a combined 127 yards of total offense, things appear bleak for the Jayhawks headed into their rivalry game with K-State.
Veteran reporter and columnist Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman posed this question to Beaty on the Big 12 teleconference: “Obviously you knew this wasn’t going to be a breakout year necessarily, but did you see this type of futility coming? Did you know that struggles were ahead to this magnitude?”
Beaty replied: “We knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but we do obviously hold ourself to a high standard and we need to be improving from week to week.”
As he has in the past, the third-year KU coach went on to say his team has to play complementary football and that the program has “the right type of guys.”
“We’ve got to get the pieces in the right place, continue working as coaches to do that, and then we’ve got to get them all playing at their highest level at the same time. And that’s going to help us solve the problems that we have,” Beaty said. “The good thing is our guys are committed to doing that. And we’ve got another opportunity this week and a great, great opportunity in that rivalry game.”
KU will return to an 11 a.m. time slot for its Nov. 4 home game versus Baylor, the Big 12 announced Monday.
The Jayhawks also got started on Saturday mornings this season in games against Ohio, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
Kansas-Baylor will air on FOX Sports Net.