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Film room: Three things we learned about KU’s defense in 38-17 loss to West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, WV - OCTOBER 17: West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton (0) tumbles as he makes a 33-yard touchdown catch during the first quarter of the college football game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the West Virginia Mountaineers on October 17, 2020, at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV.

MORGANTOWN, WV - OCTOBER 17: West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton (0) tumbles as he makes a 33-yard touchdown catch during the first quarter of the college football game between the Kansas Jayhawks and the West Virginia Mountaineers on October 17, 2020, at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV. by Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

Kansas hung around for nearly three full quarters before West Virginia eventually pulled away for a 38-17 win Saturday afternoon in Morgantown. But, for the first time all year, it was a sign of progress for the Jayhawks.

This past weekend was the first time Kansas really was competitive in 2020. Sure, the final score for the season opener against Coastal Carolina might have been closer, but this was the first performance that should give some reason for optimism for KU fans.

All of that is really a credit to the Jayhawks’ effort on the defensive side of the ball. With many young players making plays, it provided a glimpse of the potential for the Kansas defense.

KU recorded its first two takeaways of the year, and managed to hold West Virginia to just one score on its opening six possessions of the contest.

Eventually the Mountaineers found some success, though that’s more on the Jayhawks’ offense for not being able to get into any sort of rhythm all afternoon. Because of that, let’s take a closer look at what the defense showed us — both good and bad — during KU’s latest defeat.

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How impressive a healthy Dru Prox can be

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It took just one play for junior linebacker Dru Prox to make his presence felt after missing the Oklahoma State game last time out.

Prox came on a blitz on the first offensive snap, as West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege took a deep shot. Within two seconds of the snap, Prox had already got around the edge of the left tackle. Prox ended up reaching the quarterback right as the ball was leaving Doege’s hand.

It was a sign of things to come for Prox, who found himself in the backfield on multiple occasions. He came through with a sack on another four-man rush on 3rd & 10 at the 3:49 mark in the first period.

Prox simply beat the left guard in a one-on-one situation to record the third sack of his career, which marked his first in 2020. Prox attacked the outside shoulder of the left guard, and ripped through the initial hand punch at the point of attack.

Prox did a great job of wasting little movement, too, attacking the quarterback with a purpose.

Prox ended up filling the stat sheet, something that was common before he was sidelined with a season-ending injury last year. Prox registered a career-high three TFLs on his way to an eight-tackle performance. He was also credited with two quarterback hurries.

Stats aside, the play that really illustrated Prox’s impact came with 1:05 left to play in the first half.

Running back Leddie Brown lined up to the left of the quarterback, but was motioned to the right of the signal caller just before the snap. It was by design, as the ball was going to Brown on a swing route to the right.

Prox followed Brown toward the sideline, while taking a few steps forward in the process, right after the snap. As soon as the quarterback threw the ball that direction, Prox charged completely upfield. Prox met Brown at the catch, stuffing him for a 4-yard loss on the play.

That instinct and sudden footwork have honestly been what KU is missing when Prox isn’t involved in the linebacker unit. In fact, WVU ran a HB swing to the right a few plays later, but the linebacker wasn’t as quick getting to the ball and it resulted in positive yardage.

Especially when healthy, Prox brings a certain level of stability in the middle of the Kansas defense. He might not be in the backfield as often as he was on Saturday, but Prox’s instincts are unmatched and it leads to him being around the ball on a consistent basis.

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KU’s defense struggled to stop screens

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While the defense played fairly well for the most part, Kansas really struggled to stop West Virginia’s screen game on Saturday.

According to NCAA Premium Stats over at Pro Football Focus, nine of Doege’s 26 completions came on passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage. He was 9-for-12 for 63 total yards on passes marked behind the LOS, which includes one that went for a touchdown and one that resulted in an interception.

For comparison, Doege finished the game by going 26-for-44 through the air to record 318 passing yards and three scores.

It just seemed like whenever Kansas sent a fourth or even a fifth rusher, West Virginia knew it was coming and had a screen pass called. The most notable play happened on 3rd-and-13 early in the second quarter, when Kyron Johnson came off the right edge as part of a four-man rush.

That play resulted in a 16-yard pickup for running back Alec Sinkfield, who actually did a nice job of letting his blocks set up to make it a bigger gain. It was one of three WVU screens that went for double-digit yardage in the first half alone.

Kansas must have made an adjustment at halftime, because West Virginia didn’t pick up double-digit yardage on a screen over the final two quarters. In fact, Malcolm Lee’s first-career interception happened because he read a screen perfectly.

Lee took a few steps forward before realizing that the offensive line was letting him through. But Lee made a nice adjustment, and was able to get in position to make a play when the ball was thrown. Lee stepped in front of the receiver to intercept the pass on a ball that was thrown toward his inside shoulder.

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Elijah Jones’ short-term memory was best part of strong game

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Cornerbacks, especially those playing in the Big 12, have to learn to forget the bad moments. Quarterbacks and receivers in this conference are going to make defensive backs look silly every now and then.

That’s what stood out about Elijah Jones’ performance on Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior cornerback delivered two of his best plays immediately after two of his bigger mistakes on the day.

Jones was in coverage on West Virginia’s first score of the game. Bryce Ford-Wheaton got behind Jones on a post route for a 33-yard touchdown pass at the 4:53 mark in the first quarter. Jones was late to the top of the route by just a step, and it made all the difference in man-to-man coverage on the outside receiver.

On the first play of West Virginia’s next drive, though, Jones responded with an impressive pass breakup.

The ball went to Ford-Wheaton’s hands on a deep shot down the sideline, but Jones did an excellent job of never giving up. Jones got his hands in there to poke the ball free to force the incomplete pass.

Two possessions later, Jones was called for pass interference trying to make a play on a ball intended for his man on 1st-and-10. The penalty gifted the Mountaineers 15 yards, advancing them to the Jayhawks’ 34-yard line.

West Virginia threw a screen to the receiver on the very next play, but Jones was there to make the stop. He made a remarkable open-field tackle, forcing West Virginia to lose one yard on the play.

The screen game is designed to get individual matchups like that, so credit to Jones for making the play when his team needed it.

For the game, Jones recorded a career-high three pass breakups and added four tackles (three solo) to his final stat line.

Jones received the highest defensive grade by PFF for KU in that game, earning an overall mark of 78.1 in the loss. Per PFF, Jones was targeted seven times and only allowed three receptions for 40 yards.

But those two plays stood out to me because Jones made a mistake right before each of those memorable moments. That is a necessary trait for any quality cornerback, but not one that every player has.

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Three takeaways from KU’s 38-17 loss to West Virginia

Oct 17, 2020; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Miles Kendrick (3) throws a pass during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Oct 17, 2020; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Miles Kendrick (3) throws a pass during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. by Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas remains winless on the year following a 38-17 road loss to West Virginia Saturday afternoon in Morgantown. The Jayhawks are now 0-4 on the year, which includes an 0-3 clip in Big 12 action.

But maybe the latest loss was a sign of progress for the Jayhawks? At least that might be the case when comparing this performance to their previous two conference defeats. KU finally covered the spread for the first time all year, as it was a 21.5-point underdog against WVU.

For nearly three full quarters, the game was at least competitive. Leddie Brown iced the game with an 87-yard touchdown run to put the Mountaineers up 24-10 at the 3:37 mark in the third quarter.

KU’s defense deserves a ton of credit for keeping the team within striking distance up until that point. Yet the offense did the Jayhawks no favors, failing to find any sort of rhythm all day.

That actually leads me to my first main takeaway from KU’s latest defeat.

Kansas offense struggles on 3rd down

The Jayhawks weren’t able to sustain many drives on offense, and that’s because they struggled to convert on third down. Kansas went 2-for-13 on third down in the loss to WVU, with one conversion happening on the first drive of the game.

Joshua Eargle, who served as the acting head coach for Les Miles this past weekend, acknowledged the team’s struggles on third down in his postgame interview. Eargle believes KU has to do a better job on first or second down to get in more manageable third-down opportunities. He might have a point, too.

Kansas faced 3rd-and-10 or longer on six of its 13 third-down plays. Put it another way, KU only had three plays where it faced 3rd-and-5 or shorter. In fact, the Jayhawks had an average of 9.31 yards to go on their 13 total third-down opportunities.

To make it worse, KU rarely had any semblance of success on these plays. Kansas averaged 1.69 yards per play on its 13 such snaps. A seven-yard pass to Pooka Williams on 3rd-and-16 in the second quarter and a seven-yard pass to Andrew Parchment on 3rd-and-6 in the fourth quarter were the two longest plays by Kansas on third down.

Quarterback Miles Kendrick was also sacked three different times on third down, all three of which were obvious passing situations. So, yes, the Jayhawks could do a better job of getting into more manageable situations on third down. But there also weren't many positive plays when they were able to do so.

Full list of KU's third-down opportunities:

1Q: 3rd & 6 — 12-yard pass to Stephon Robinson

1Q: 3rd & 8 — Incomplete pass intended for Pooka Williams

1Q: 3rd & 5 — Incomplete pass intended for Andrew Parchment

2Q: 3rd & 16 — 7-yard pass to Pooka Williams

2Q: 3rd & 11 — 4-yard pass to Takulve Williams

2Q: 3rd & 11 — 5-yard pass to Pooka Williams

3Q: 3rd & 2 — 1-yard run by Pooka Williams

3Q: 3rd & 7 — Miles Kendrick sacked for loss of 7 yards

3Q: 3rd & 15 — 3-yard pass to Velton Gardner

3Q: 3rd & 18 — Kendrick sacked for loss of 6 yards

4Q: 3rd & 14 — Kendrick sacked for loss of 2 yards

4Q: 3rd & 6 — 7-yard pass to Parchment

4Q: 3rd & 2 — Loss of 2 yards on Gardner run

KU’s play calling is called out on broadcast

With Kansas at West Virginia being the only Big 12 game on Saturday, we got the pleasure of listening to Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt on the call in a game nationally televised on Fox.

Klatt had made a few comments about KU's play calling throughout the game, but he certainly made his opinion known with an interesting point in the fourth quarter. On 3rd-and-2, Velton Gardner was denied a first down on a short run over the middle. That’s when Klatt turned his attention to the play call.

“This is one of those definitions of insanity for me watching a play call like that on third-and-short,” Klatt said on the Fox broadcast. “There is nothing — whether it’s on film all year or today — that would suggest you can get in the shotgun and just hand the ball up the middle if you are Kansas and get that first down. So why call that play?”

None by Mitchel Summers

Without being in the huddle, it is hard to know what exactly the play call was. It looks like it could have been an option, in which maybe Kendrick made the wrong read since the left end comes crashing down. There wasn't an unblocked player though, so maybe it wasn't a read after all.

That said, it was probably the first real sign of public criticism for offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon.

Dearmon took over as KU’s play caller midway through last year, and the team had a lot of success right away. The Jayhawks scored 48 points in a narrow loss at Texas in Dearmon’s first game calling plays. They then posted 37 points in a win over Texas Tech the following week.

Since then, Kansas has scored a total of 121 points over its previous eight games for an average of 15.1 points per contest. KU has only scored more than 17 points in a game in two of those eight outings, which includes a 23-point effort in the 2020 season opener against Coastal Carolina.

For comparison, seven Big 12 teams are averaging at least 30.0 points per game in 2020. Texas leads the conference with a mark of 49.5 points per contest, while TCU is ninth with an average of 27.0 points per game.

None of that is to suggest Dearmon deserves all the blame for KU’s offensive struggles.

This offseason was supposed to be Dearmon's chance to implement his offense, which was obviously impacted by a pandemic. The Jayhawks have played three different quarterbacks this year, and don’t seem to have an answer there. The offensive line has been abysmal in pass protection for much of the season.

Still, it does make me wonder if the hype got a bit out of control after Dearmon’s first two games. I know I was guilty of that too. At one point, I thought KU might lose Dearmon after the 2019 season.

I just think we all forgot that this is his first opportunity to be a play caller for a Power Five program. There will be growing pains, and a proper evaluation of Dearmon shouldn’t really take place until he has his quarterback behind a competent o-line.

But Dearmon shouldn't be able to avoid any criticism either, especially when the offense has played as poorly as it has. Klatt’s commentary late in Saturday's game was proof of that.

Jayhawks' decision to close the first half

It was a subtle sequence to end the first half, but one that I think is worth circling back to.

West Virginia took a 17-10 lead into the half following an 8-play, 53-yard drive in the final minute of the second quarter. The possession ended with a 33-yard field goal by Evan Staley with 16 seconds remaining in the first half.

Yet Kansas made an interesting decision on the play just before that field goal. On 3rd-and-10, quarterback Jarret Doege threw an incomplete pass while targeting Ali Jennings. WVU was called for holding on that play, but KU chose to decline the penalty.

It obviously didn’t end up mattering, but I thought Kansas might have considered accepting the penalty. After all, Staley had missed a 44-yard field goal earlier in the second period and there was a chance he would have ended up with another attempt in that range.

Because Kansas had surrendered a few big plays on screen passes already to that point, there is a good chance that the coaching staff made the right call. It is hard to argue with the Jayhawks being content with a one-score deficit at the intermission in a game where they were more than a three-touchdown underdog.

I just thought KU’s coaching staff would have considered accepting the penalty in the moment. Perhaps the Kansas staff will if a similar situation presents itself again down the road.

Reply 3 comments from Njjayhawk Keith Cahalen Brett McCabe Dale Rogers

Getting to know: West Virginia football

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown yells at a referee during the second half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown yells at a referee during the second half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson) by Associated Press

Playing without its head coach on the sideline, the Kansas football team will travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.

Les Miles, who is in his second year directing the program, will not make the trip as a precautionary move after testing positive for COVID-19. So if the Jayhawks (0-3, 0-2 Big 12) are going to get in the win column for the first time in 2020, they will have to do so without the captain of their ship.

West Virginia is off to a strong start in Neal Brown’s second year at the helm. The Mountaineers are 2-1 through their first three games, which includes a 1-1 clip in Big 12 action. WVU is coming off a 27-21 win over Baylor just two weeks ago. For comparison, KU suffered a 47-14 loss to BU in the league opener.

Statistically speaking, West Virginia has one of the better defensive units in the conference so far this season. The Mountaineers rank first in the Big 12 in total defense (268.0 yards per game), first in passing defense (166.3 yards per game) and fourth in run defense (101.7 yards per game) so far this season.

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Jarret Doege is also having a strong showing in his second year with the program. It all has led to West Virginia being considered a 22.5-point favorite on FanDuel’s Sportsbook.

To determine if Kansas can cover for the first time in 2020, let’s take a closer look at West Virginia ahead of this weekend. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m and it will be televised on FOX with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt on the call.

BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA:

OFFENSE

Quarterback — The transfer from Bowling Green could be on his way to a breakout season for WVU. Doege has completed 69-of-104 attempts through the air for 724 passing yards and five scores. He has thrown for at least 211 yards in each of his previous two outings. Doege is having more success when targeting the middle of the field, so it will be up to KU’s defense to figure out a game plan to take that away.

Running backs — Junior running back Leddie Brown already has 320 rushing yards through the first three games of the season. He’s getting a decent workload, too. Over the last two games, Brown has tallied 53 carries (26 at Oklahoma State, 27 against Baylor) and is the first WVU player to finish with 26 or more carries in back-to-back games since 2006.

Receivers — Four receivers tallied at least four receptions against Baylor, marking the fifth time in the last six games that three or more WVU players have hauled in four or more catches in the same game. Sam James leads the team with 17 catches for 160 yards, while Winston Wright has 15 receptions for 180 yards.

Offensive line — According to PFF’s NCAA Premium Stats, West Virginia’s offensive line has a pass-blocking grade of 60.7 this year, which ranks sixth out of 10 teams in the Big 12. WVU has been charged with 28 quarterback pressures allowed on the year. For comparison, KU’s offensive line has given up 43 total pressures.

DEFENSE

Defensive line — West Virginia is holding its opponents to 268 yards of offense per game this season, ranking No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 8 nationally. Senior defensive lineman Darius Stills is coming off a 2.5-sack performance against Baylor. WVU has only allowed seven quarterbacks to reach 300 yards passing in a game since 2017.

Linebackers — It was another strong outing for senior linebacker Tony Fields, who finished with 10 tackles (five solo stops) against Baylor. It marked his second 10-plus tackle performance of the season. But these linebackers as a unit have helped stop opposing run games this season. According to PFF, West Virginia has the top run defense in the league with a grade of 85.6 on the year.

Secondary — The Mountaineers are just as good on the back end, posting a coverage grade of 87.1 on the year to lead the Big 12 in that category as well. Cornerback Dreshun Miller, in particular, has been targeted just eight times on his 89 coverage snaps. He’s allowed four receptions for 29 yards. West Virginia’s secondary has averaged 1.14 interceptions per game over the last six seasons.

SPECIAL TEAMS — Kicker Evan Staley is back to lead the special teams department after going 11-for-17 in field goals last year, including a long of 44 yards. Transfer punter Tyler Sumpter joined WVU this past offseason from Troy, where he played for WVU coach Neal Brown from 2016-18.

VEGAS SAYS… West Virginia is a 22.5-point favorite, and somehow that still might not be enough based on what Kansas has shown the last two Big 12 games. Until I see KU cover a large spread, or show any signs of being competitive in this league, it is going to be tough to pick Kansas to cover any number. Give me the Mountaineers in this one.

Prediction: West Virginia 42, Kansas 17

Reply 1 comment from Njjayhawk Dane Pratt

Lack of deep passes limiting KU’s offense during 0-3 start

Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick passes to a teammate during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.

Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick passes to a teammate during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. by AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

It is no secret that the Kansas offense has had a slow start to the 2020 season. The Jayhawks have averaged just over 14 points per game during their 0-3 start, which includes a total of 21 points in two Big 12 defeats.

There probably isn’t one obvious solution to help get this offense back on track, but I don’t believe Kansas is attempting enough deep passes this year. That could be why the Jayhawks haven’t looked as explosive in Brent Dearmon’s second season as the play caller.

Shortly after Dearmon took over as offensive coordinator midway through the 2019 season, Kansas scored a total of 85 points in back-to-back games against Texas and Texas Tech. It was a stretch that illustrated how good a Dearmon-led offense can look when the unit is clicking.

That offense did a great job of taking advantage of specific matchups. Just when an opposing defense would load the box to stop the run, former quarterback Carter Stanley would get the ball to one of his playmaking receivers.

It is not like Stanley constantly launched the ball downfield, but he did it enough for opposing defenses to respect it.

According to PFF’s NCAA Premium Stats, Stanley attempted a pass that traveled 20-plus yards on 16.1% of his pass attempts. It was a higher percentage of deep passes than six other Big 12 quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts in 2019, including both Charlie Brewer of Baylor and Brock Purdy of Iowa State.

Stanley was 25-of-60 for 853 yards to go along 12 touchdowns and three interceptions on passes that went 20-plus yards last year. Stanley had an adjusted completion percentage of 46.7% on such passes, which is a PFF stat that essentially factors in the number of passes thrown on target. He actually ranked fourth in the Big 12 in that category.

Kansas hasn’t been nearly as effective on deep passes in 2020, but part of that is the lack of emphasis on those plays. The three quarterbacks — Thomas MacVittie, Miles Kendrick and Jalon Daniels — have completed one deep pass on eight attempts through three games.

Kendrick, who was named the starting quarterback for this week’s matchup at West Virginia, actually connected on the lone deep pass of the season. He is 1-of-4 for 37 yards on such plays this year, throwing a deep pass on just 9.3% of his total attempts.

MacVittie has the highest deep pass percentage on the team with a mark of 11.1% in the early going. For comparison, Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson has thrown a deep pass on 34.9% of his 63 attempts and Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has done so on 20.4% of his 162 attempts this year.

Some of the Kansas-related numbers can be attributed to small-sample size, of course, but the lack of deep shots was especially evident in KU’s 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago. Daniels did not have a single pass go beyond the first-down marker on his four possessions under center prior to his injury. Kendrick, who came in for Daniels, only had two attempts travel more than 10 yards against OSU.

There could be plenty of reasons why Kansas has failed to truly threaten opposing defenses over the top. The quarterback carousel hasn’t allowed a signal caller to find a groove. The offensive line has struggled in pass protection, limiting the number of chances to connect on a deep pass.

But until KU figures out a solution for the lack of deep passes, I don’t believe this offense will be able to reach its full potential.

Reply 2 comments from Len Shaffer Dale Rogers

Three key numbers on West Virginia’s 2-1 start to the 2020 season

On the final play of the game, Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) is shoved out of bounds along with Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) by West Virginia safety Jake Long (22) on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

On the final play of the game, Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) is shoved out of bounds along with Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) by West Virginia safety Jake Long (22) on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Following a bye week for both teams, Kansas and West Virginia are slated to square off this weekend in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers might not be near the bottom of the Big 12 conference, like some predicted entering the 2020 season. West Virginia is 2-1 through three games, which includes a 27-21 home victory over Baylor.

For comparison, KU suffered a 47-14 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 opener and is 0-3 overall on the year. The Jayhawks, who have been outscored by a total of 88 points so far this season, are considered 22.5-point underdogs this weekend on FanDuel’s Sportsbook.

West Virginia earned a 29-24 win over Kansas in last year’s meeting between these two teams. But the Mountaineers appear to be better this year, at least from what they have shown through the first three games.

Using NCAA Premium Stats over at Pro Football Focus, here is a look at a few key numbers on how West Virginia has performed in 2020:

WVU led by a stellar defense

Even the surface stats show how impressive West Virginia’s defense has been this year. The Mountaineers rank first in the Big 12 in total defense (268.0 yards per game), first in passing defense (166.3 yards per game) and fourth in run defense (101.7 yards per game) so far this season.

PFF’s grades reflect that, too.

West Virginia’s total defensive grade of 84.6 is the seventh-best mark in the nation. The Mountaineers’ lowest single-game defensive grade in 2020 was a mark of 67.7 against Oklahoma State. They then followed that up with a defensive grade of 79.8 against Baylor last time out.

It also helps that WVU has a nice balance between run and pass defense thus far. West Virginia’s run defense grade of 85.6 ranks seventh in all of college football, while the team’s coverage clip of 87.1 is also seventh in the nation.

The Mountaineers aren’t as productive in pass rush, however, ranking 51st among qualified teams in that department. But they have performed well enough on the back end to hide some of those concerns.

A closer look at West Virginia in coverage

This area warrants a closer look, particularly because Kansas has struggled to get much going through the air to this point in the year. West Virginia’s success in coverage could cause a big mismatch this weekend for KU.

Safety Sean Mahone has only allowed one reception on 55 coverage snaps this year, and it was a catch that went for 14 yards. Safety Tykee Smith has given up five catches for 42 yards on 11 targets during his 88 coverage snaps.

Cornerback Dreshun Miller has been targeted just eight times on his 89 coverage snaps. He’s allowed four receptions for 29 yards, including 22 yards after the catch. Reserve safety Jake Long has only surrendered a 16-yard reception on his 39 coverage snaps.

As a team, the Mountaineers have recorded a coverage grade of 71.6 or better in each of their three contests in 2020.

Jarret Doege off to a strong start for Mountaineers

While the defense has led the way for WVU, quarterback Jarret Doege could be off to a breakout season in his second year with the program.

Doege has the second-highest PFF offensive grade through three games among players with at least 72 snaps on the year. He has posted a mark of 70.4 overall, which includes a 67.6 passing grade, on his 212 total snaps. Only guard Michael Brown (77.0) has a better offensive grade for WVU.

Part of the overall offensive grade is inflated by Doege’s brilliant performance in the season opener against Eastern Kentucky, when he finished with an overall offensive grade of 93.1. He went 19-for-25 for 228 yards and three touchdowns against EKU.

Doege, who transferred from Bowling Green, has still thrown for at least 211 yards in each of his last two outings. For the year, Doege has gone 69-for-104 through the air for 724 passing yards and five scores.

Per PFF’s passing chart, Doege is currently having more success in the middle of the field. He has a 92.6 grade on his pass attempts between the numbers and 20-plus yards downfield, while recording an 81.5 grade on such passes between the 10-19 yard range.

Doege does not have a passing grade higher than 69.3 in any other area of the field.

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Three key numbers on KU’s defense during 0-3 start

Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace hauls in a deep pass just beyond the reach of KU cornerback Karon Prunty during the Jayhawks' 47-7 loss to OSU on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace hauls in a deep pass just beyond the reach of KU cornerback Karon Prunty during the Jayhawks' 47-7 loss to OSU on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. by Scott Winters

Kansas is off to an 0-3 start, and staring down a possible winless campaign in Year 2 of the Les Miles era.

The offense certainly deserves a ton of blame for the slow start, which was highlighted by a few key numbers in yesterday’s blog. But now we are going to do the same thing with KU’s defensive unit by revealing a few key nuggets of information via NCAA Premium Stats over at Pro Football Focus.

Kansas has given up 44.0 points per contest through three games, which is a mark that ranks 71st out of 74 teams in all of college football.

Yet the unit has probably performed better than that number might indicate. KU’s inability to sustain offensive drives has often put the defense in a bad position.

None of that is to say the Jayhawks have been perfect on that side of the ball by any means. But hopefully these three numbers will help give a better idea as to how KU has really done defensively thus far.

KU’s lack of pass rush has been a problem

KU’s pass-rushing grade of 60.6 doesn’t seem all that bad on the surface, especially when you compare it to the team’s pass-blocking grade of 25.9 for the season. But it is a pass-rushing mark that ranks near the bottom in the nation.

Only four teams in the country have a lower grade in pass rushing, according to PFF. Georgia Southern (59.1), Charlotte (55.4), TCU (53.7) and Navy (49.9) all are worse than Kansas at this point in the year.

For the season, PFF has only credited the Jayhawks with 15 quarterback hurries as a defense. Caleb Sampson has been credited with four such hurries, while Steven Parker has posted three in as many games.

DaJon Terry, Kenny Logan Jr. and Nick Channel have all been responsible for the three sacks recorded by the Kansas defense in 2020. Parker, Kyron Johnson and Denzel Feaster have all registered one hit as well.

Pro Football Focus also has a special metric called “Pass Rushing Productivity” that measures pressures created on a per snap basis, which is weighted toward sacks. Parker is the only Jayhawk with at least 15 pass rushes on the season to rank inside the top-40 in the conference in that metric. Parker’s PRP mark of 7.4 is good for 24th in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks only blitzed five-plus players on 13 total dropbacks through the first two games, as highlighted in my defensive notes blogs from the first two contests. So part of the lack of pass rush could simply be not coming up with enough designed blitzes, or creating unique ways to get after the quarterback.

In the game against Oklahoma State, Channel came through with a sack on a delayed blitz that the offensive line just didn’t see coming. So figuring out ways to do more of that after the bye week could help Kansas get after the quarterback more frequently.

Karon Prunty’s numbers in coverage

The play of Karon Prunty will be one of the more interesting storylines this season for KU’s defense. After all, it is not that common for a true freshman to be tasked with shutting down Big 12 receivers as a starting cornerback.

As expected, Prunty has been tested by opposing signal callers during the early part of the season. Prunty’s receiver has been targeted on 13 of his 64 coverage snaps, allowing a total of seven receptions for 69 yards. Per PFF, Prunty has allowed an NFL passer rating of 69.1 when targeted.

Prunty has been targeted the 10th-most times among Big 12 defenders with at least 30 coverage snaps. Within that group of players, though, Prunty has surrendered the second-fewest receptions and second-fewest receiving yards.

The rookie cornerback has a long way to go before he’s in the conversation with the elite cornerbacks, such as Oklahoma State’s Rodarius Williams, who has only given up one catch for zero yards on his 79 coverage snaps. Still, it is a promising start for a player that was playing at the high school level just 12 months ago.

One player in top-30 in Big 12 for overall grade

While certain individuals have had strong moments or decent games, no KU defensive player has been completely consistent through three games. That much is obvious when scrolling through the leaderboard of the top individual defensive grades in the Big 12.

Sophomore linebacker Gavin Potter has the best overall defensive grade by PFF with a mark of 71.3 in 61 total snaps played. That grade ranks 30th in the entire conference among players with at least 50 snaps on the season.

It is important to note that Potter barely cracks the minimum for snaps played for this stat, because he’s played as a reserve linebacker and missed the Oklahoma State game entirely. Defensive lineman Caleb Sampson actually ranks 38th with an overall defensive grade of 70.0 in 152 total snaps.

But Potter’s play is worth mentioning because it illustrates some signs of growth in his sophomore season. Potter was essentially thrown into the fire as a freshman last year when Dru Prox was sidelined with a season-ending injury. Potter's PFF defensive grade of 30.0 in 673 snaps shows his struggles in 2019.

Yet, if Potter truly has taken a leap this year, it could be a much-needed positive sign for a program playing plenty of young players in 2020.

Reply 1 comment from Jim Stauffer

Three key numbers on KU’s offense during 0-3 start

Kansas offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon looks on during their game with Baylor in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)

Kansas offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon looks on during their game with Baylor in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP) by Rod Aydelotte

With it being a bye week, now is as good of a time as any to see where the Kansas football team stands with nearly one-third of the 2020 season in the books.

To say KU’s offense has been underwhelming during the team’s 0-3 start would be a massive understatement. The Jayhawks have averaged 14.7 points per game so far this season, a number that only ranks better than three teams in all of college football.

Kansas fans certainly were expecting more from this unit, especially with all the returning weapons and offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon coming back to call plays for a full season.

But the Jayhawks haven’t had consistency at quarterback, and they have had poor offensive line play through three games.

Let’s dive into some statistics to better highlight KU’s offensive struggles to this point in the season. Using PFF’s NCAA Premium Stats, here are a few numbers that stood out to me during this 0-3 start by the Jayhawks:

Andrew Parchment’s yards after the catch

The play of receiver Andrew Parchment is the least of KU’s concerns, but his lack of yards after the catch was somewhat surprising.

Parchment has caught 11 balls on 20 targets in 2020, recording 75 yards and one score in the process. But only 22 of those yards have come after the catch for Parchment, who is averaging 2.0 yards after the catch per reception through three games.

The talented KU receiver was much more productive after the catch a season ago. Parchment produced 301 yards after the catch in 2019, averaging 4.6 yards after the catch per reception. For the season, Parchment caught 66 balls on 111 targets for 838 yards and seven touchdowns.

Parchment’s total numbers will likely take a hit at this current pace, especially given KU’s quarterback play, but his yards after the catch is concerning considering his playmaking ability. Still, I have to imagine this won’t be a trend that continues over the final seven games of the season.

Andrew Parchment's receiving chart through the first three games of the 2020 season, according to PFF's NCAA Premium Stats.

Andrew Parchment's receiving chart through the first three games of the 2020 season, according to PFF's NCAA Premium Stats. by Pro Football Focus

KU’s pass-blocking grade is very low

One major talking point so far this season has been KU’s struggles along the offensive line. In particular, the o-line has had some major issues in pass protection for all three of the Kansas signal callers.

The Jayhawks have a pass-blocking grade of 26.0, according to PFF. Only Mississippi (23.7), South Alabama (20.3) and East Carolina (20.3) have a worse pass-blocking grade in 2020. Memphis, meanwhile, has the best mark in the country with a 92.0 pass-blocking grade.

PFF’s premium stats only go back to the 2013 season, but here is a look at how KU has performed in pass blocking in the PFF era:

2019 — 60.8 grade

2018 — 71.4 grade

2017 — 82.1 grade

2016 — 70.7 grade

2015 — 71.6 grade

2014 — 68.1 grade

Those numbers suggest that small-sample size could be playing a part in this historically poor performance by the o-line. And it is true that, perhaps more than any other position, the offensive line needs reps to learn how to play together.

But that unit has struggled in the early going, and the entire offense will keep having issues if that continues.

Just 4 runs of 10+ yards for Pooka Williams

Prior to last week’s 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State, players and Kansas coach Les Miles mentioned that the team needs more explosive plays. That obviously didn’t happen against the Cowboys.

Running back Pooka Williams, in particular, didn’t have a single run that went for 10-plus yards against Oklahoma State. He carried the rock a season-high 14 times, but only managed 32 yards for an average of 2.3 yards per attempt.

This season, only four of Williams’ 39 carries have ended up being a gain of 10 or more yards. Williams has put together a career out of making big plays, but his longest run of the season was a 21-yard carry against Baylor. It was one of two explosive plays by Williams against the Bears.

For comparison, Williams recorded 31 runs that went for 10-plus yards a season ago. He had 34 such carries as a freshman in 2019. His longest rushing attempts went for 65 yards and 72 yards, respectively, over the previous two years.

Perhaps the lack of big plays can be blamed on the o-line for not sticking with blocks. Maybe it is opposing defenses keying in on Pooka on every play. It might even be Williams himself, as he has appeared shaken up on multiple occasions this year.

Regardless, it is a big reason why KU’s offense has looked so lethargic through three games.

Reply 1 comment from Njjayhawk Dirk Medema

Takeaways from KU’s 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State

KU linebacker Nick Channel delivers a blow on an Oklahoma State ball carrier Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. The Jayhawks lost to No. 17 OSU, 47-7.

KU linebacker Nick Channel delivers a blow on an Oklahoma State ball carrier Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. The Jayhawks lost to No. 17 OSU, 47-7. by Scott Winters

So it looks like I missed an interesting game on Saturday, when the Kansas football team was crushed by Oklahoma State, 47-7, at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

I was busy covering a different game in Lawrence at the time, which is why my initial takeaways are out a little later than usual. Normally, I’ll try to have this blog out before watching the replay of the KU game like I did during the first two games of the season.

But since I didn’t get the privilege of watching the game live, these takeaways are from watching the replay of the game on Sunday. I decided to focus on plays from the first half, since the game got out of hand pretty quickly.

As always, feel free to share your own thoughts on the game in the comments section.

Jayhawks too conservative with Jalon Daniels

I mentioned this on the podcast last week, but I thought KU’s coaching staff was a bit too conservative with Jalon Daniels against Baylor. Part of that can be expected, of course, because you don’t want to overwhelm a 17-year-old true freshman quarterback.

But we all saw Daniels’ arm strength, and we have seen glimpses of his playmaking ability as a runner. In order for Kansas to at least be competitive in Big 12 play with Daniels under center, this staff can’t be afraid to figure out ways to better utilize those strengths.

KU called a couple read options for Daniels on the four possessions that he was in the game, which is something that I’m not convinced happened much against Baylor. In both instances, Daniels made the correct read and perhaps would have had a big play on one attempt if right tackle Earl Bostick Jr. maintained a block.

For me, the lack of deep pass attempts was the concerning part. There is something to be said about getting a young signal caller some confidence with some easy completions. On the first play of the game, he was off target on a screen pass to Andrew Parchment that carried the receiver too far back.

Scott Chasen of 247Sports broke this down on his Twitter account really well, but here’s the video of that first play anyway:

That being said, there was no real attempt to threaten Oklahoma State over the top when Daniels was in the game.

All five of Daniels’ pass attempts were short of the first-down marker, as he averaged 0.4 yards per attempt. This screenshot from PFF’s NCAA Premium Stats should help illustrate that:

Jalon Daniels' passing chart against Oklahoma State, per PFF's NCAA Premium Stats.

Jalon Daniels' passing chart against Oklahoma State, per PFF's NCAA Premium Stats. by Pro Football Focus

In fact, I don’t think Daniels’ first read was ever supposed to be beyond the first-down marker on all seven of his dropbacks. He was sacked twice, so it’s hard to know for certain if that is true, but here are both of those plays:

On the first one, Daniels was looking Kwamie Lassiter’s way initially and probably should have fired a pass before the Oklahoma State blitz got to him.

It is tougher to tell on the second play, but Daniels abandoned the pocket too soon. The latter sequence is probably the only one where I’d argue the primary target might have gone beyond 10 yards, however.

What’s interesting is the game plan didn’t seem to change much when Miles Kendrick came in for Daniels. Per PFF’s passing direction chart, Kendrick only attempted two passes that went 10-plus yards against Oklahoma State.

Not entirely sure why that would be KU’s plan of attack, particularly with Daniels’ ability to take deep shots or complete passes along the sideline. But it seemed too conservative against one of the better teams in the Big 12.

Sam Burt pushed around early on

There is no need to sugarcoat it, senior nose tackle Sam Burt was a liability for KU’s defense in the first half. While Burt only played 36 snaps, per PFF, it was noticeable when he was out on the field.

If you watch closely, you can see Burt shoot the gap to his right on 4th-and-1 on Oklahoma State’s opening possession. OSU center Ry Schneider, a redshirt senior who came to the program as a walk-on, simply took Burt out of the play. The Cowboys converted on a short run up the middle.

It is hard to fault Burt too much in that situation, but it was a sign of things to come. Later in that drive, Oklahoma State converted on 3rd-and-2 by creating a wide running lane. Burt was completely pushed back and out of position.

A similar sequence took place on 1st-and-10 on Oklahoma State’s sixth possession of the game. Schneider completely removed Burt by simply using his momentum from shooting the ‘A gap’ on what ended up looking like an all-too easy run by the Cowboys.

As a result, Kansas ended up using freshman DaJon Terry more at nose tackle against Oklahoma State. Terry had nice pressure on a pass play in the first quarter that forced OSU to hold him, rather than let him get to the quarterback for a sack.

Nick Channel was a nice surprise

At least early on, Nick Channel’s name was mentioned a lot on the broadcast. The sophomore from Wichita made a few nice plays in some key moments for the Jayhawks before the game got out of hand.

Channel and Davon Ferguson were responsible for a big stop at the goal line, forcing the Cowboys to settle for a field on their opening trip. Ferguson deserves most of the credit for this play, but Channel contributed to one of the better plays by the Kansas defense.

Channel delivered a pair of noteworthy plays on Oklahoma State’s second drive of the game. The first play was a nice recovery by Channel, who probably was out of position after his initial steps at the snap.

But Channel was able to recover, and came charging up to make a stop at the line of scrimmage.

Moments later, Channel recorded a sack on a delayed blitz on 3rd-and-10 to get the OSU offense off the field.

Kansas doesn’t seem to run many twists/stunts as a defense, but the delayed linebacker blitz is somewhat common. Off the top of my head, I remember Dru Prox coming up with a big sack against West Virginia in a similar situation.

Prox later admitted that it was his decision to go after the quarterback, so maybe that is what happened here. Channel might have been responsible for the running back, and then decided to take advantage when he saw an opening.

Don’t agree with decision to use Pooka as returner

The decision to use running back Pooka Williams as a returner is not one I agree with.

It is understandable that the Jayhawks want to do whatever they can to get the ball in the hands of their best player. The final box score even shows Pooka had success, accumulating 105 yards on six kickoff returns.

But Williams is too valuable on KU’s offense, and I think the risk outweighs the reward in this situation. Williams took a big hit on an early return that really highlighted this concern.

We all know what Pooka can do in space, and I’m all for finding creative ways to get him the ball. He even had success as a returner during his freshman campaign, averaging 22.4 yard per return on 11 opportunities.

But this year’s offense should revolve around Williams, and that is why the risk isn’t worth it. Williams has already appeared shaken up multiple times through three games, so I don’t see any reason to put him in more situations where he could take a big hit.

Especially when it is hard to imagine these returns leading to points on the scoreboard.

Reply 5 comments from Curtis Blankenship Len Shaffer Njjayhawk Dane Pratt Jayhawkninja Dale Rogers

Getting to know: Oklahoma State football

Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard (30) runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard (30) runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) by Associated Press

A young Kansas football team will have its hands full this weekend in the first home Big 12 game of the year.

Oklahoma State, a trendy Big 12 contender thanks to a high-powered offense, enters this week’s matchup with a 2-0 (1-0 Big 12) record. The offense hasn’t been as good as advertised through two games, though the Cowboys have actually been carried by their defense thus far.

But that might make OSU even more of a threat, to be honest, especially if the offense hits its stride. Oklahoma State is one of only 10 programs to post a winning season every year from 2010-19. The team is 58-31 in Big 12 Conference games since 2010, a mark that ranks second in the league during that span.

Because of all that, this will be a tall task for a KU team relying on a lot of young players during its 0-2 (0-1 Big 12) start to the season. The Jayhawks played a total of 24 freshmen and sophomores last weekend in their lopsided loss to the Bears.

That experience disparity is evident in this week’s point spread, too. According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, Kansas is a 22.5-point underdog in its home matchup with Oklahoma State. OSU has won 10 consecutive meetings against KU, a streak that should almost certainly continue this weekend based on that spread.

Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA STATE:

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Sophomore Spencer Sanders might be back under center for the Cowboys this week. Freshman Shane Illingworth served as the signal caller in his place last weekend in the team’s win over West Virginia. Sanders, the 2019 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, set an OSU freshman record by throwing for 2,065 yards last fall.

Sanders is an aggressive passer who often is looking to make plays downfield. He is capable of moving around in the pocket to extend plays for those deep shots, too. This aggressiveness can lead to turnovers, but it will be interesting to see if he takes a leap in that area with more experience under his belt.

None by Carson Cunningham

Running backs — This player needs no introduction, but Chuba Hubbard will be KU’s primary focus on the defensive side of the ball this weekend. Hubbard finished last season as the FBS leader in rushing yards, rushing yards per game, 100-yard rushing games, 200-yard rushing games and all-purpose yards per game. His 2,094 rushing yards in 2019 marked the 16th-highest season total in FBS history.

Hubbard’s patience and vision are two of his better traits, as he figures to be one of the top prospects in next year’s rookie running back class.

None by ESPN College Football

Receivers — Senior Tylan Wallace leads Oklahoma State’s talented receiver unit. He ranks second among active FBS players with 2,689 career receiving yards, which ranks sixth in OSU history. Wallace led all Power Five players with 112.9 receiving yards per game before his injury in 2019. Senior Dillon Stoner, junior Braydon Johnson and senior Landon Wolf are some of the key receivers behind Wallace.

None by Pick Six Previews

Offensive line — From left to right: Redshirt freshman Jake Springfield, redshirt junior Josh Sills, redshirt senior Ry Schneider, redshirt sophomore Hunter Woodard and redshirt senior Teven Jenkins are slated to start for OSU on the offensive line. Both Springfield and Woodard earned their first career starts last weekend against West Virginia. Sills is a graduate transfer from West Virginia.

DEFENSE

Defensive line — Cowboys have plenty of depth along the defensive line, but the four starters listed in the game notes are Trace Ford (DE), Brendon Evers (DT), Cameron Murray (DT) and Tyler Lacy (DE) ahead of this week’s matchup. Murray already has six stops through two games to lead the defensive line, while notching two tackles for loss and one sack in the process. Lacy has four tackles, and Ford was credited with a strip-sack against West Virginia.

Linebackers — A pair of seniors are slated to start at the two linebacker positions for Oklahoma State. Amen Ogbongbemiga is coming off a career-best 13-tackle performance against West Virginia. He also led the team with 15.5 TFL and five sacks just a season ago. Malcolm Rodriguez has a team-high 17 tackles on the year after pacing the defense with 103 total stops last year.

Secondary — It will be interesting to see who redshirt senior Rodarius Williams matches up with this weekend. Through two games, Williams ranks No. 2 in FBS with five pass breakups. He was PFF’s National Defensive Player of the Week following his last game, in which he didn’t give up a single yard in 50 coverage snaps.

Jarrick Bernard-Converse, who has started 24 consecutive games, is the team’s other cornerback. Kolby Harvell-Peel, Tre Sterling and Tanner McCalister are all expected to start in the OSU secondary as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS — Redshirt sophomore Alex Hale is the team’s starting kicker this season. He has made his first five field goal attempts thus far, which includes a long of 44 yards. Punter Tom Hutton is a 30-yard-old true sophomore, who was recruited by ProKick Australia.

VEGAS SAYS… KU opened as a 21.5-point underdog, and I suggested that the cover might be in play earlier this week. That was simply because the total of 54.5 points would imply that Kansas doesn’t really have to score much to stay within three touchdowns.

But the more I think about it, the less confident I am that Oklahoma State’s offense will be contained for the third game in a row. This feel likes a get-right spot for the Cowboys on their way to entering the Big 12 title game discussion.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 49, Kansas 20

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Defensive notes from KU football vs. Baylor in Big 12 opener

Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer is tackled by Kansas defensive lineman DaJon Terry in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)

Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer is tackled by Kansas defensive lineman DaJon Terry in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP) by Rod Aydelotte

Kansas gave up 47 points in its Big 12 opener during a 47-14 defeat at Baylor this past weekend.

Technically, the defense shouldn’t have to take the blame for all 47 of those points. The Bears scored twice on a pair of kickoff returns, both of which occurred in the second half. It marked just the 18th time since 2000 that a team has scored on multiple kickoff returns in a single game.

Still, KU’s defense has struggled through two games by allowing an average of 42.5 points per contest. The Jayhawks have yet to record a takeaway on the defensive end, and have only recorded one sack as a unit.

After a rusty start, Baylor’s offense eventually was in cruise control against KU’s defense. Veteran quarterback Charlie Brewer kept making the right play, whether it was throwing to his hot route when he read a blitz or finding a soft spot in KU’s zone defense.

Let’s dive into this week’s defensive notes to get a better idea of what went right and what went wrong for the Jayhawks on that side of the ball.

Starting lineup

KU’s starting defense was Caleb Sampson (DE), Sam Burt (DT), Malcolm Lee (DT), Denzel Feaster (LB), Dru Prox (LB), Kyron Johnson (LB), Kenny Logan (NB), Davon Ferguson (S), Karon Prunty (CB), Elijah Jones (CB) and Ricky Thomas (S) in the Big 12 opener.

Packages

Base 3-4 defense: 5 plays, 34 total yards allowed, 6.8 yards per play.

This is supposed to be KU’s standard defensive look, featuring a personnel grouping of three defensive linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs. However, it was not a popular personnel choice by the Kansas coaching staff on Saturday.

After using this grouping 27 total times against Coastal Carolina, Kansas only trotted out this personnel on five of its 65 defensive snaps against Baylor.

The main reason was because Baylor used fewer two-tight end sets compared to Coastal. In fact, all five of these snaps in the 3-4 base defense came when Baylor went 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) on Saturday.

KU used its 3-4 defense, which is a formation that allows Kyron Johnson and Steven Parker to be on the field at the same time, against some single-tight end formations in the opener. Yet the Kansas defense chose to rely on its nickel package in such situations against a Big 12 foe.

Standard Nickel: 53 plays, 255 total yards allowed, 4.81 yards per play.

In its standard nickel package, Kansas essentially subs a fifth defensive back in for the outside linebacker spot. Where that defensive back lines up ultimately changes, but is usually based on the offensive alignment.

When Baylor was bunched up, the fifth defensive back usually lined up in a similar spot that the outside linebacker would normally be in when in that 3-4 defense. Other times, the fifth defensive back was matched up with an outside receiver.

The Bears ran mostly 11 personnel, which ultimately led to this defensive grouping for Kansas. Baylor piled up 210 yards on 47 plays when going with one back, one tight end against KU’s nickel package. BU also had three plays in 20 personnel, turning that into 45 total yards.

KU’s 2-4 defense: 7 total plays, 78 total yards allowed, 11.11 yards per play.

This was a new formation for Kansas, at least for this year.

On seven different snaps, the Jayhawks chose to sub out a defensive lineman and put in another linebacker in his place. This personnel grouping features two defensive linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs.

In a lot of ways, it is similar to the “Peso” formation that Baylor head coach Dave Aranda made popular when he served as defensive coordinator for LSU. While I didn’t chart defensive formations a year ago, the Jayhawks did use this grouping at times last year.

On Saturday, Baylor was in 12 personnel on all seven plays and accumulated 78 total yards in this particular formation battle.

Pass rush

Watching live, it felt like the Jayhawks generated more pressure against the Bears compared to what they did in the season opener. I was curious to know if it was because the defensive staff chose to switch up its blitzes after what was a relatively basic opener.

But that wasn’t really the case. Kansas only sent five or more pass rushers on seven of Baylor’s 27 dropbacks. For comparison, KU blitzed five players on six dropbacks against the Chanticleers.

Most of KU’s pressure came when four players went after the quarterback, and any success in that department was probably a credit to defensive players winning more one-on-one battles against an injured offensive line.

Here is a breakdown of KU’s pass rush against BU by number of pass rushers:

When KU rushed three players — 4 plays, 27 yards

When KU rushed four players — 16 plays, 111 yards

When KU rushed five players — 6 plays, 3 yards

When KU rushed three players — 1 play, 16 yards.

Final snap counts for KU’s defensive players: — Information via NCAA Premium Stats at Pro Football Focus

FS Ricky Thomas — 65 total snaps

RE Malcolm Lee — 64 total snaps

CB Karon Prunty — 53 total snaps

SS Kenny Logan Jr. — 50 total snaps

LOLB Kyron Johnson — 48 total snaps

WLB Denzel Feaster — 44 total snaps

CB Elijah Jones — 43 total snaps

MLB Gavin Potter — 42 total snaps

SS Davon Ferguson — 40 total snaps

LE Marcus Harris — 37 total snaps

CB Kyle Mayberry — 37 total snaps

LOLB Steven Parker — 33 total snaps

LE Caleb Sampson — 33 total snaps

NT Sam Burt — 31 total snaps

MLB Dru Prox — 30 total snaps

CB Duece Mayberry — 29 total snaps

WLB Jay Dineen — 27 total snaps

CB Nate Betts — 24 total snaps

NT DaJon Terry — 20 total snaps

NT Kenean Caldwell — 10 total snaps

Reply 2 comments from Dirk Medema Dane Pratt

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