Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Following consecutive blowout losses to Iowa State and Texas Tech, Kansas football head coach Lance Leipold got the sense that some outside the program wondered if the Jayhawks were contemplating a change at quarterback.
Leipold and his staff weren’t. But they did challenge No. 1 QB Jason Bean in the days leading up to KU’s formidable matchup with unbeaten Oklahoma.
“And, you know, he goes out and he plays his best game yet,” Leipold said of Bean’s answer.
The junior quarterback’s play helped the Jayhawks (1-6 overall, 0-4 Big 12) threaten one of the best teams in the country before OU rallied for a 35-23 win. After Bean and the offense struggled against ISU and Tech, with Bean completing roughly 50% of his throws, the 6-foot-3, 189-pound QB connected on a season-best 73.9% of his passes against the Sooners. Bean went 17-for-23, posting 246 passing yards and one touchdown, with no interceptions.
Plus, Bean once again became a running threat — a dynamic that ISU and Tech took away — and he picked up 59 rushing yards on 14 carries.
“We challenged him,” Leipold said. “And he he knew he needed to play better for us and for himself. I’m really proud the way he responded.”
Bean said KU’s coaches wanted him mentally prepared for a strong performance and kept reminding him all week through conversations and reps. Part of the challenge also had to do with him being more of a vocal leader than ever, too.
“I think I kind of had to answer the call — them challenging me — wanting to not prove them wrong, but proving them right in a sense,” Bean said of the coaches helping him play at a higher level.
Super-senior receiver Kwamie Lassiter II said when he went back and watched the broadcast of the OU game, what stood out to him was how comfortable Bean looked at QB, both on passing and running plays for the offense, which totaled 412 yards (the most for KU in a Big 12 game so far this year).
“He approaches every game like he wants to be the best on the field, and I respect that a lot about him,” Lassiter said of Bean.
In the months that Lassiter has spent around Bean since the QB joined the program this past summer as a transfer from North Texas, the veteran receiver said he has seen Bean put a lot of effort into his preparation. Lassiter said he can tell Bean wants to improve.
“I feel like when you’re comfortable in football, I feel like it’s over with,” Lassiter added of what Bean is trying to achieve through his preparation and growth this year.
KU junior center Mike Novitsky said Bean’s approach this past week versus Oklahoma helped the QB and the offense.
“He's a great quarterback. He has great ability and we've seen that throughout the season. He's a great talent and he's a great leader too, and we want to be around him,” Novitsky said.
“We want to lift him up, and we want to have everybody lift each other up, and I thought he just played with great confidence,” the starting center continued. “He commanded the huddle as usual, and we believed in him and he believed in us, and we just played very confident (football).”
Though Bean obviously wasn’t happy with how he or the KU offense performed in the weeks leading up to the OU game, he thought being challenged and finding ways to respond positively were steps in the right direction.
“It was kind of good for me,” Bean said.
Jason Bean’s passing stats — first 7 games
• South Dakota: 17-for-26 (65.4%), 163 yards, 2 TDs
• at Coastal Carolina: 12-for-24 (50%), 189 yards
• Baylor: 8-for-17 (47.1%), 57 yards, 1 TD
• at Duke: 19-for-32 (59.4%), 323 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
• at Iowa State: 10-for-20 (50%), 120 yards, 1 INT
• Texas Tech: 11-for-21 (52.4%), 80 yards, 1 INT
• Oklahoma: 17-for-23 (73.9%), 246 yards, 1 TD
— Totals: 94-for-163 (55%), 1,718 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs
Jason Bean’s rushing stats — first 7 games
• South Dakota: 15 runs, 51 yards
• at Coastal Carolina: 13 runs, 100 yards, 2 TDs
• Baylor: 12 runs, 62 yards
• at Duke: 15 runs, 54 yards
• at Iowa State: 5 runs, 19 yards
• Texas Tech: 5 runs, 14 yards
• Oklahoma: 14 runs, 59 yards
— Totals: 79 runs, 362 yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 2 TDs