While the blowout margins from the Kansas football team’s losses in Big 12 play routinely lead to questions about the Jayhawks’ defense, head coach Les Miles thinks it’s difficult to excessively criticize what’s happening on that side of the ball, considering how the offense is performing.
In conference play, KU opponents are averaging 50.2 points per game, and five of those six foes scored at least 47 points.
After Oklahoma flattened the Jayhawks, 62-9, Miles said “you can’t succeed” if one aspect of the game breaks down. The way he described it, KU’s offense was “really malfunctioning” in its latest defeat.
KU narrowly avoided its first game without an offensive touchdown in the Miles era, when freshman tight end Will Huggins scored on a pass from Miles Kendrick on the final play of the game at OU.
But that type of output is hardly an aberration. It marked the third time in Big 12 play this year that KU scored just one offensive TD. In the other three league losses, the Jayhawks’ offense crossed the goal line just twice each game.
The Jayhawks’ passing game — averaging a league-worst 145.2 yards per game in Big 12 action — has proven to be a consistent issue, behind a struggling offensive line. Kendrick’s pass to Huggins as time expired at OU finally put an end to a stretch in which KU went close to four full games without a passing TD.
Kendrick threw a TD pass to Andrew Parchment with 9:21 left in the first quarter at West Virginia on Oct. 17. Then the Jayhawks went without a passing TD for the remainder of that game, all of the defeat at Kansas State and the entirety of the loss to Iowa State, before scoring another TD through the air with 0:00 showing on the fourth quarter clock at OU. It added up to more than 234 minutes of football in 2020 without a KU passing TD.
The two Kendrick TD passes — he was only in the lineup on both occasions because true freshman QB Jalon Daniels was injured at the time — are the only TD throws for the Jayhawks in Big 12 play so far.
“If we can put that offense on a more active mode,” Miles said, “and if we can protect that passer, we feel like a lot of the things we want to do and get accomplished will be done.”
KU (0-7 overall, 0-6 Big 12) up to this point has scored only 12 offensive touchdowns through seven games, and three of the scores came in a nonconference home loss to Coastal Carolina (currently 7-0 and ranked No. 15 in the country) in the season opener.
Headed into this weekend’s college football slate, the Jayhawks are averaging 264.4 yards per game (120th out of 123 FBS teams that have played) — 113 rushing yards per game (109th) and 151.4 passing yards per game (112th). They’re punting 7.3 times a game (second most nationally, behind only Utah State, which punted 24 times during its 0-3 start).
The Jayhawks have Saturday off this week for their third and final bye of the pandemic impacted season. Miles was asked on Monday what could be done during practices to improve the offense for the home stretch, with just three games to go.
“That’s certainly what we’re kind of wrapping our heads around — what we can actually get accomplished here,” Miles said.
Without giving any specifics, KU’s coach said the bye week would include spending some time addressing offensive weaknesses.
“We’re going to shore them up and see that they’re ready to play come (against) this Texas team,” Miles said, referencing a Nov. 21 home date with the Longhorns (5-2, 4-2).
38-23 L vs. Coastal Carolina:
• Andrew Parchment 14-yard pass from Miles Kendrick (3Q, made it a 28-11 CCU lead)
• Velton Gardner 61-yard run (3Q, made it a 28-17 CCU lead)
• Kwamie Lassiter II 5-yard pass from Kendrick (4Q, made it a 35-23 CCU lead)
47-14 L at Baylor:
• Pooka Williams 21-yard run (1Q, made it a 7-0 KU lead)
• Williams 16-yard run (4Q, made it a 40-14 BU lead)
47-7 L vs. Oklahoma State:
• Gardner 1-yard run (4Q, made it a 44-7 OSU lead)
38-17 L at West Virginia:
• Parchment 43-yard pass from Kendrick (1Q, made it a 10-0 KU lead)
55-14 L at Kansas State:
• Jalon Daniels 8-yard run (2Q, made it a 20-7 K-State lead)
• Daniels 4-yard run (4Q, made it a 55-14 K-State lead)
52-22 L vs. Iowa State:
• Daniel Hishaw Jr. 5-yard run (2Q, made it a 13-7 ISU lead)
• Daniels 12-yard run (4Q, made it a 38-22 ISU lead)
62-9 L at Oklahoma:
• Amauri Pesek-Hickson 20-yard pass form Kendrick (4Q, made it a 62-9 OU lead)