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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Does KU football have a QB controversy?

Starting role unclear after Miles Kendrick plays more in Week 3

Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick (8) throws behind his offensive line during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick (8) throws behind his offensive line during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

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As various Kansas football players made their way Saturday afternoon to media interviews inside the Chancellor’s Lounge at Anderson Family Football Complex, a horde of reporters and television cameras encircled the table where Miles Kendrick sat.

“All the lights on ol’ Miles,” KU redshirt senior linebacker Joe Dineen observed, as he sauntered past the backup quarterback.

Head coach David Beaty planned all along to use Kendrick in every game this season. Just three weeks in, though, the dual threat sophomore reserve played more than senior starter Peyton Bender in the Jayhawks’ 55-14 thumping of Rutgers.

Bender, who completed 8 of 12 passes in the first half for 73 yards, with no interceptions or sacks, watched the entire second half from the sideline. Kendrick handled all of the KU offense’s third-quarter snaps before the coaches emptied their bench with the game all but decided in the fourth quarter.

Beaty didn’t say it signaled a passing of the torch, but he wouldn’t say whether Bender will start KU’s next game, at Baylor, either.

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Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) scrambles to throw during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

Even though he seemed to have everyone’s attention, it wasn’t as if Kendrick, who completed 6 of 11 throws for 66 yards and a touchdown and ran the ball six times for 38 yards and a TD, thought he accomplished anything spectacular.

“I feel like I did all right,” the 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore from Morgan Hill, Calif., replied, when asked to grade his performance. “Of course there’s going to be a lot of things I could improve on, but I feel like that’s the best part — we can get much better. So it’s exciting.”

Same as his first two starts this season, Bender did not throw an interception versus Rutgers. When asked, the senior QB, who has completed 60.3 percent of his 73 passes this season for 390 yards and three touchdowns, said he wasn’t sure whether anything in particular he did in the first half Saturday led to KU turning to Kendrick to close out the win.

But Bender said two of his four incompletions in particular came to mind. The Jayhakws (2-1) already led 10-0 early in the first quarter when Bender, on the offense’s second possession, failed to score a touchdown in the red zone. On consecutive snaps from the RU 19-yard line, Bender missed on throws to open receivers Stephon Robinson and Steven Sims Jr.

“The one to Stephon was a little high and the one to Steven was a little high, as well. It just got away from me a little bit,” Bender said. “I don’t know if that inspired their decision or not. I thought I was playing a pretty clean game to that point, taking care of the football. It’s not in my control what (coaches are) going to do. I just have to be ready for anything. If my number’s going to be called then I’ve just got to be ready.”

Bender opened the next offensive series back at QB, but Kendrick made his first appearance of the nonconference finale on the same drive, once KU ventured inside Rutgers’ 10-yard line.

After a 3-yard rush and an incompletion on his first two snaps, Kendrick floated a TD pass over a defensive back and into the hands of KU senior receiver Jeremiah Booker near the back left corner of the north end zone inside David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

None by sweetness

“It was awesome. Unreal feeling,” Kendrick said of his first touchdown as a KU QB. “I remember as a kid dreaming of moments like this. Dreaming of being at a Division I college and contributing to team wins.”

Kendrick returned to his spot in the shotgun formation for KU’s fourth possession, which ended with Rutgers blocking a Gabriel Rui field goal attempt for the second time in the first quarter.

Bender played QB each of the next two series, both of which ended in punts, before Kendrick handled the offense for the next seven possessions, extending KU’s 10-point lead to 27 by the end of the third quarter.

Based on what KU’s coaches told Bender at halftime, he wasn’t sure whether he would play in the third quarter or not.

“My number wasn’t called but it was nice to see the offense still operate and continue to move the chains with Miles in there,” Bender said. “They did a great job taking care of the football and running offense.”

At halftime, Kendrick said, the coaches told him he would get a series to open the third quarter and then “see where it goes” from there.

KU possessed the ball for 10:43 of the third quarter, picked up five first downs and scored 10 points.

According to analysis from Pro Football Focus, Kendrick received a grade of 76.9 on his 40 snaps against RU (1-2), while Bender had a 51.4 grade on 23 snaps.

Beaty explained afterward why Kendrick, who played a clear backup role in the previous two games, became a much larger part of the game plan in Week 3.

“We knew that it was going to take us a little bit of time to get him ready from a procedural standpoint in a game. And it did. But I thought he really improved from last game to this game procedurally. He managed the clock well,” Beaty said.

Kendrick has completed 9 of 15 passes for 93 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions this season. He also has 12 carries for 43 yards and a TD.

Bender admitted at an earlier stage in his football career, he would have been irritated by a situation in which he was rotating back and forth out of the lineup. In fact, that was his reaction when he alternated starts and even series for his entire junior year at Cardinal Gibbons High, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But now, as a redshirt senior at KU, he said he wants to win more than anything.

“You want to be on the field, you want to be playing, you want to be the guy. But, you know, as long as we’re winning and everyone’s playing well then it’s a ton of fun,” Bender said of his mindset after spending the second half out of the action. “It’s just a great atmosphere around the facility all week when you’re winning. Any way we can get it done I’m all for it.”

Asked about Bender’s even keel approach to the QB situation, Kendrick said they bring the best out of each other.

“Whatever quarterback’s out there has to take care of the football, not turn it over, make the right reads to put the team in position,” Kendrick said. “That’s just the main goal.”

Through three weeks, KU’s offense has lost just one turnover, a close-call fumble lost by Bender against Nicholls State that wasn’t overturned by video review. On the strength of 13 KU takeaways (seven interceptions and six fumble recoveries), the Jayhawks lead all of FBS with a plus-12 turnover margin (plus-4.0 per game) headed into their Big 12 opener this coming Saturday at Baylor (2-1).

Whether Bender or Kendrick will start at QB in Waco, Texas, likely will remain private until the game kicks off at 2:30 p.m.

Comments

Kenny George 1 year, 2 months ago

The way I see it, Bender has hit his ceiling and Kendrick has a lot of room to get better. I think they are handling this pretty well and Kendrick will be the QB when they feel he is ready.

Kit Duncan 1 year, 2 months ago

Bender is the better passer at this point but is not a threat to run the football. If I recall correctly, every time Bender has run the run/keep option, he has handed off. Opposing schools see that on tape and, knowing he will not keep and run with the ball himself, will continue to key on the running back in those situations.

With Kendrick in the backfield, the defense will have to keep a defender on him at all times or risk the QB option run for big gains. Twice KU has subbed Kendrick in on a passing down, and each time the opposing coach has had to waste a timeout because of the threat of the quarterback draw. The first time against Nichols State, I felt that KU should have put Bender back in and passed for the first down (or score). Nichols stuffed Kendrick at the line. Against Rutgers, the O-line managed to open a hole for Kendrick to run through (I think Miles hesitated long enough for the hole to open), even though Rutgers put their run defense back in.

Kendrick is maturing, seems to be getting better at reading the defense and I would be surprised if he doesn't start against Baylor.

Jerry Ryan 1 year, 2 months ago

“Phans” and “journalists” are concerned with “QB Controversy”. This team has improved. Having 2 reasonably capable QB’s is a huge improvement. And many Power 5 coaches will use more than one QB so it’s not anything to be overly concerned about. I’m looking forward to seeing if the team & staff can co to us to show signs of improvement with his upcoming road test in Waco

Aaron Paisley 1 year, 2 months ago

Peyton Bender doesn't have great touch on his passes. Overthrows have been common with him as well as not hitting the receivers in the right spots on shorter routes to allow them to keep running.

Miles Kendrick has better touch than Bender on his throws, but he forced a few throws that he shouldn't have made yesterday that better defense would've intercepted.

There isn't an absolute answer to this, it really does depend on the match ups which QB will give KU a better chance to win.

Against teams that struggle to stop the run like Baylor, I think Kendrick gives KU tge better chance to win. Against someone like Texas Tech who will put up a lot of points, KU is going to have to pass the ball to have a chance at winning that game so I think Bender would give KU a better shot against Tech.

You get someone like OU and Inreally don't think it matter too much who plays because KU is only winning that game 1 out of 100 times.

Steve Corder 1 year, 2 months ago

There is no controversy. It is simple competition for a job, and the best player on game day, not practice, will play. August camp provides a glimpse of ability, but most coaches and even players never know for sure how well they might perform until game-time.....when it matters.

Obviously, whoever wins the job, or the vast majority of game minutes, will have only proved himself better than his competing teammate. It does not automatically signal a particular level of excellence against game competition.

By-the-way, does Rutgers have a quarterback controversy, and does it matter who the ultimate choice is?

Eric Eakins 1 year, 2 months ago

Bender has reeled his game in to limit mistakes and that has helped tremendously in the first quarter this year as compared to last year. Kendrick makes the defense spend time watching him as much as our RBs. That is a real advantage. Bender doesn't seem to have that "it" factor that makes the critical or surprise play. Kendrick hasn't shown great passing. That pass to Booker would've been intercepted by more than 1/2 the Big 12 defenses. I think it's going to have to be a coaches call based on opposing team defensive strengths. Rutgers showed they just couldn't stop the run and so I give coaches credit with adjusting game plan and focusing on Kendrick and company forcing Rutgers to stop them first (which they didn't). I suspect a lot more in game adjustments will have to be made going forward.

Aaron Paisley 1 year, 2 months ago

Booker positioned himself great on that TD. Only way any DB was picking that one off was pass interference.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 2 months ago

They are winning with Bender at qb. If it's not broke don't fix it.

Gerry Butler 1 year, 2 months ago

Both QB'S are playing decent. Now the real challenge begins , time to take that next step up , the team has looked better for sure- -now though it's against the big boys , I wanna see how the O-line can protect against Big 12 defense's if we can open a hole for our running backs. It feels so much better to have a W on a Saturday then losing time and time again. Looking forward to Saturday. Read off the Baylor site that there are a lot of Baylor fans that feel they are in trouble against us - -how long has it been since we have heard that. Really happy for the guys out busting their butt's in practice day after day and finally being able to see some results for their efforts.

My only REAL question is , where is all those haters at now? - Not saying were back BUT sure seems to me that if these haters can't Bash the team and Coaching staff the they can't say anything at all - that's sad. We all know their lurking back in the bushes just drooling all over themselves waiting. - -Sorry for the delay guys but hey HAVE A GREAT DAY

Jerry Walker 1 year, 2 months ago

Unimaginative boilerplate reporting.

As soon as more than one QB plays...sports reporters,like lemmings...breakout the QB controversy story line.

Kinda reminds me of the doltish weather reporters who stand in the pelting rain and wind to give their report...as if we didn't know there was a storm going on.

Doug Cramer 1 year, 2 months ago

Bender had one bad throw, where he overthrew Robinson in the in-zone.

The drive before that, play calling was mostly on the ground.

Bender then drove the ball to roughly the Rutgers 15 yard line with good command on his passes, then Beaty proceeded to take him out for good.

Given the QB shuffle and lack of loyalty over the past 4 years, if I were a high school QB, Beaty would be the last coach I'd consider committing to.

Bryson Stricker 1 year, 2 months ago

Bender was only on target on 3 of his passes all day....... he was removed from game in redzone bc the dude can't punch it in. Overthrew robinson and Sims/Fairs, can't remember off top of my head.

Joe Ross 1 year, 2 months ago

I like the use of a couple of different quarterbacks. I think it relieves some pressure. It also statistically reduces the likelihood of injury to a starter if some of the time is distributed to another quarterback. Having 2 quarterbacks disrupts timing and rhythm of the defense. It complicates preparation by opponents. Kendrick has been gaining D1 experience, which helps confidence. Bender has been "serviceable". I like the lack of interceptions, but he has missed on a few throws including wide-open touchdowns when a defender fell. I do have some worries about Kendrick though. The pass to Booker was lobbed a bit too much and Booker really helped out his quarterback on the touchdown catch with great concentration. Had the defender turned his head around the pass would likely have been picked. But I think Kendrick is more of an attack guy, though, and you need that when you go into conference play. Kendrick also makes the defense respect his run ability which opens up downfield passes more.

All things considered, I think Bender and Kendrick should both play, but their roles should be reversed. Kendrick, a dual-threat, should start and play most of the game, and Bender should be used for pro-style situations.

Randy Bombardier 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree, Joe. I think having Kendrick start increases the likelihood of early game drives not stalling. Kendrick needs to be working in the deep ball. Bender, the read option, and QB draw. When we put them in I would like to be in the position of using one or the other doing something the opponent least expects.

Randy Bombardier 1 year, 2 months ago

Or bring in Stanley and they won't know what to expect. Also, feel better about our QB situation than I have in years, course deviating from air raid helped thst a great deal.

Joe Ross 1 year, 2 months ago

RIGHT? You can't have an air raid with a porous offensive line for one thing. And now that we have Pooka, a couple of other good running backs, and a more stable line, the run game should be the focus.

Bring Stanley in to play with Kendrick in a wildcat situation, huh???

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