5 stats that popped from KU football's loss at Baylor
In a turnover-free Big 12 opener at Baylor on Saturday, the Kansas football team put together too few highlights on either side of the ball to keep up with the Bears in a 26-7 defeat.
One 90-yard scoring drive was the exception rather than the rule for KU’s offense, and the Jayhawks (2-2 overall, 0-1 conference) didn’t come close to crawling out of a 23-point first-half hole.
And though redshirt senior linebacker Joe Dineen delivered 13 total tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, the defense as a whole too often suffered breakdowns, and surrendered 447 yards, a season-high for a KU opponent.
Here are five statistics that kept Kansas from truly competing with Baylor.
Not enough support from passing game
The Bears (3-1, 1-0) knew the Jayhawks would like nothing more than to feature freshman running back Pooka Williams as much as possible, and the Bears game-planned accordingly.
But KU never forced BU to adjust its run-stopping defense with an effective passing attack.
Senior quarterback Peyton Bender completed 10 of his 17 throws, but a whopping seven of his completions picked up seven yards or fewer. Another completion — a touchdown pass to Jeremiah Booker — went for 10 yards.
So, between seven incompletions and eight completions of 10 or fewer yards, 15 of KU’s passing plays with Bender in the game netted a combined 40 yards.
Keep in mind: not all of that goes on Bender. The offensive line has to provide better pass protection and receivers have to find more opportunities to get open and bring in catchable passes in order for this offense to reach its ceiling.
Finding balance in the backfield
The Bears reminded the Jayhawks that even Pooka Williams can’t do everything.
While the talented freshman from Louisiana was able to bust a 72-yard rush that set up KU’s lone TD, eight of his 14 carries went for three yards or fewer.
Some of that is to be expected, especially with a freshman playing his first Big 12 game and a still jelling O-line taking on the best front it has seen so far this season.
More surprising, though, was how little KU used its other two running backs. Junior Khalil Herbert carried the ball just twice for six yards. And sophomore Dom Williams also finished with only two runs, picking up two yards.
For the benefit of the running game and offense overall, KU likely needs to find ways to incorporate Herbert and Dom Williams more, while also relying heavily on Pooka Williams. It’s difficult to pull off such balance, particularly if a defense is keying on your run game and presenting matchups that lead you to pass more. But it’s something KU’s coaches will have to figure out.
On 55 plays at Baylor, one of KU’s top three running backs carried the ball on 18 snaps (33 percent).
3rd down struggles
Outside of a touchdown pass from Bender to Booker in the third quarter, the Jayhawks mostly struggled to convert on third downs.
Overall, just four of KU’s 13 third-down plays went for a first down. On average, the visitors had 8.8 yards to go on their third downs, adding to their plight. They only averaged 3.4 yards gained on third downs.
On third-and-short (one to four yards), KU was fine, picking up two of three — Pooka Williams ran for one in the second quarter and backup QB Miles Kendrick converted on a carry in the third.
However, on third-and-longs (nine-plus yards), KU went two for six. Although the Jayhawks converted six of eight passes on third downs, they averaged just 1.3 yards per attempt and were also sacked three times.
Conversely, the Baylor offense’s 7-for-14 third-down success was fueled by gaining, on average, 9.4 yards on third down.
Long fields ahead
KU started every possession at least 75 yards from the end zone.
On average, thanks to Baylor’s kickoff and punt teams, the Jayhawks’ average starting field position was their own 17-yard line.
On KU’s 11 drives, one concluded with a score and seven possessions traveled fewer than 20 yards. Only four series ventured into Baylor territory.
The Jayhawks went three-and-out on four possessions and punted seven times.
Baylor’s offense, on 11 drives, had no three-and-outs.
Carter Stanley’s late-game reps
Given the context of the game essentially being over and Baylor not having incentive to play all of its first-stringers, it’s difficult to know how Carter Stanley would have performed if he played earlier in the game.
Still, the redshirt junior at times looked both comfortable and effective, once he took the field with less than six minutes remaining at McLane Stadium.
A shoulder injury kept Kendrick from handling KU’s final two possessions. In his place Stanley completed four of his six passes for 37 yards and rushed three times for 27 yards (second-best total on the team).
On his first series, Stanley made two short completions to Kerr Johnson, but suffered a second-down sack. KU went three-and-out.
The final possession began in the last minute of the fourth quarter, and Stanley hit Evan Fairs for 20 yards and Booker for 10 yards through the air. He also took off for rushes of 18 and 15 yards. KU went 63 yards in six plays before time ran out.
There’s no word yet on the extent of Kendrick’s injury. But if he happens to miss some time, KU knows it has another QB it can use in Stanley.
And, let’s face it, even though Bender has started all four games it’s not as if anyone would consider his status a lock going forward. Should Stanley see more playing time in upcoming weeks and give the offense a spark, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him move up the depth chart.