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Lance Leipold thinks KU football special teams mistakes that led to blocked kicks are fixable

Kansas coach Lance Leipold yells at an official as the team plays against Coastal Carolina during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Conway, S.C., Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Coastal Carolina won 49-22. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Kansas coach Lance Leipold yells at an official as the team plays against Coastal Carolina during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Conway, S.C., Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Coastal Carolina won 49-22. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

As his Kansas football team prepares this week for its Big 12 opener, head coach Lance Leipold thinks some special teams miscues from the Jayhawks’ loss at Coastal Carolina in Week 2 are repairable.

Few plays during the Friday night loss in Conway, S.C., stood out as much as a KU punt that the Chanticleers not only blocked, but also turned into a special teams touchdown with a recovery in the end zone.

Coastal safety Alex Spillum raced untouched from the line of scrimmage to punter Reis Vernon, smacked his punt out of the air and then jumped on the loose ball in the end zone, turning a one-score game into a 21-9 CCU advantage near the midway point of the second quarter.

Leipold said Monday during his weekly press conference, ahead of KU’s Saturday home game versus Baylor (2:30 p.m., ESPN+), that there was a check made on the punt protection and one player made an assignment error.

“We let a guy go free, cut loose a guy who was in a good position to get there,” Leipold said of Spillum. “It’s correctable,” the coach added.

The Jayhawks also incurred a delay of game penalty just before the critical special teams gaffe. Leipold, reiterating what he stated on Friday night after the 49-22 loss, said the penalty was his fault, as he was hoping to run some extra seconds off the clock before the punt. When a check had to be made, the punt team couldn’t get back set to get the punt off before the play clock ran out.

“It’s two separate issues but it looks like it’s all tying in together. We’ve got to do a better job,” Leipold said.

That play marked the second time at CCU that the Jayhawks (1-1) got a kick blocked on special teams. The first instance came late in the first quarter. After freshman running back Devin Neal’s short touchdown run put KU ahead, 9-7, the margin didn’t become 10-7 as expected.

CCU redshirt senior Jeffrey Gunter already was in the backfield when he skied upward to swat Jacob Borcila’s extra point attempt. To make it happen, Gunter first leapt past long snapper Luke Hosford and offensive lineman Joseph Gilbertson once the ball was snapped.

Leipold said the Jayhawks had a couple of “operational communications” in that instance.

“More importantly the issue was just technique wise of getting too low and causing a gap,” the coach said. “We’ve got to protect the gaps a little bit bigger and stay bigger. I think we’ll get that solved, as well.”

Although it ended up getting negated by a penalty, the Jayhawks had another kick blocked — this time on a long field goal try — in the third quarter.

Trying to cut the CCU lead to 10 with more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, KU sent Borcila onto the field for a 56-yard field goal attempt. The pressure didn’t come from up the middle like it had on the blocked extra point earlier, but Spillum raced in off the edge to get his hands on the kick.

CCU cornerback Jacob Proche lined up in the neutral zone, drawing a flag that wiped the blocked kick from the record books. But it was another instance of a KU special teams breakdown, as tight end Trevor Kardell was left trying to block both Spillum and Proche at once.

KU’s field goal team found success on its first appearance of the night at CCU, when Borcila capped the opening drive with a 46-yard field goal. Borcila also sent an extra point through the uprights on his only other try following a KU TD.

The Jayhawks attempted just two punts in the road loss, both coming in the second quarter. The one Vernon had time to get off traveled 38 yards.

Leipold called Coastal’s blocked punt and TD a “huge momentum shifter” in the defeat, his first as KU’s head coach.

“We lost by 27 points and we punted twice and we didn’t turn the ball over,” Leipold said of the odd combination of events. “Think about that. I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a game like that.”

Reply 5 comments from West_virginia_hawk Rodney Crain John Strayer Nick Kramer Njjayhawk

Some more captivating KU football over/under numbers to go with those extra-long Big 12 title odds

Kansas running back Velton Gardner slips past Baylor safety Jt Woods, left, 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 running back Velton Gardner slips past Baylor safety Jt Woods, left, 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

Long-suffering Kansas football fans didn’t need Las Vegas’ input to know the Jayhawks aren’t expected to win the Big 12 this fall, in new head coach Lance Leipold’s first season.

While various sports books and websites have continued this summer to roll out some exceedingly long odds for KU football, some new over/under bets posted this week by SportsBettingDime.com figure to be more compelling for those who follow the Jayhawks.

First of all, SBD, which posted regular season statistical over/unders for every Power Five program, landed on 1.0 wins for KU football’s over/under total in 2021. Basically, the Jayhawks are expected to open the Leipold era with a victory over South Dakota on Sept. 3, but play the familiar role of underdog in every other game on the schedule.

Do you think KU can pull off an upset on the road at Coastal Carolina or Duke early in the season? Or beat — just one of — any of the other nine Big 12 programs? If you do, well, you may consider this over/under a source of some easy money.

The most eye-grabbing portion of SBD’s over/under offerings, though, had to do with KU’s personnel. The site is essentially predicting that former North Texas starter Jason Bean will emerge as the Jayhawks’ starting quarterback for 2021.

The online sports book placed the over/under for Bean’s passing yards during his first season in a KU uniform at 1,415.5, and gave the incoming transfer QB an over/under passing touchdowns total of 12.5.

And if you really want to go crazy, SBD has odds for Bean winning the Heisman Trophy at +200,000.

In 2020, Bean was involved in a QB competition with the Mean Green throughout much of the season. Bean threw for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight appearances. He went 79-for-145 through the air, with five interceptions and finished with a 54.5% completion percentage.

All of that being said, there’s also a chance Bean could end up as a backup QB for KU. Remember: the Jayhawks haven’t even practiced under Leipold yet, and the QB race truly will be determined during preseason camp, when Leipold and his staff finally get to evaluate all of the QBs live and in person.

The betting experts at SBD also have over/unders for KU’s potential leading rusher and receiver. The sports book zeroed in on No. 0, Velton Gardner, as the likely top runner. Gardner’s over/under for total rushing yards this fall was set at 650.5.

Headed into his third season with the Jayhawks, Gardner is coming off an injury-shortened sophomore campaign, during which the 5-foot-9, 195-pound back from Dallas played in six games but still led the team in rushing. Gardner ran for 325 yards and two TDs in 2020, when he averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

The running back room, though, appears to be crowded this year, with Daniel Hishaw Jr. and Amauri Pesek-Hickson returning and standout Lawrence High product Devin Neal joining the group.

Who will be the Jayhawks’ top passing target? If SBD’s projections are right, it will be the same man who led the receiving unit last year, Kwamie Lassiter II. A super-senior with more college game experience than the other wideouts in the group, Lassiter was given an over/under of 687.5 total receiving yards.

That number would be a new career high for Lassiter, who in eight starts and one appearance as a reserve in 2020 led KU with 458 receiving yards and 43 receptions.

Other potential leading receivers for the Jayhawks this season include former Buffalo receiver Trevor Wilson, sophomore Luke Grimm, redshirt freshman Lawrence Arnold and sophomore Steven McBride.

Oh, yeah. Back to those Big 12 odds. SBD has the Jayhawks at +25,000 just to make the conference title game. Of course, winning the Big 12 is even more of a long shot, at +75,000.

2021 KU football schedule

Sept. 3 — South Dakota, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)

Sept. 10 — at Coastal Carolina, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Sept. 18 — Baylor, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Sept. 25 — at Duke

Oct. 2 — at Iowa State

Oct. 9 — Bye week

Oct. 16 — Texas Tech

Oct. 23 — Oklahoma

Oct. 30 — at Oklahoma State

Nov. 6 — Kansas State

Nov. 13 — at Texas

Nov. 20 — at TCU

Nov. 27 — West Virginia

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With new AD in place, KU football players continue to back Emmett Jones

Kansas football interim head coach Emmett Jones addresses the Jayhawks at the team's indoor practice facility on March 30, 2021, the first day of KU's spring practice schedule.

Kansas football interim head coach Emmett Jones addresses the Jayhawks at the team's indoor practice facility on March 30, 2021, the first day of KU's spring practice schedule.

The University of Kansas athletics department filled one of its two major vacancies on Monday, as Travis Goff became the new athletic director. And while Goff’s plan for the KU football job remains to be seen, several Jayhawks didn’t waste any time backing interim head coach Emmett Jones.

The Jayhawks started spring practices under Jones’ guidance last week, and the popular assistant, who is now in his third year as the receivers coach, impressed the players.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they just stay with him as the head coach,” super-senior linebacker Kyron Johnson told reporters last week, “because he’s just great like that.”

Goff will have time to observe Jones and the KU football program through much of the spring schedule if he so chooses, having missed only the earliest sessions. But some players, who don’t yet know the new AD’s intentions, made sure via social media Monday evening to let their voices be heard.

One of the first Jayhawks to endorse Jones on Twitter this week was redshirt freshman tight end Will Huggins, who wrote that Jones “is my head coach.”

And it wasn’t long before other players weighed in. Sophomore running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. posted: “I’m all the way in with (Jones) this season,” adding, “we got who we need over here.”

Sophomore receiver Luke Grimm’s message read: “Gotta keep rolling with Jones.”

Veteran leaders backed the assistant, who also serves as KU’s passing game coordinator, as well. Junior safety Kenny Logan Jr. proclaimed: “I’m rocking with (Jones) all the way,” and “we rolling right now.”

Super-senior receiver Kwamie Lassiter II, who has learned from Jones for two-plus years and emerged as a key contributor, wrote, “We trynna ride out (with) Jones.”

The support for Jones from the players was no surprise, as a nearly identical outpouring came a few weeks ago, after former AD Jeff Long stepped down.

A tweet Monday night from redshirt freshman running back Amauri Pesek-Hickson seemed to sum up the way many players feel at this uncertain time for the program.

“Coach Jones is the perfect fit for this team,” Pesek-Hickson wrote. “We want him as our head coach.”

Goff is set to have an introductory press conference on Wednesday morning.

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Reply 24 comments from Inteldesign Glen Jeff Coffman Dirk Medema Robert  Brock Armen Kurdian Brett McCabe Plasticjhawk John Strayer Doug Roberts and 2 others

With head coaching job vacant, Jayhawks endorse Emmett Jones

Kansas receivers coach Emmett Jones slaps hands with Steven Parker at the start of practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.

Kansas receivers coach Emmett Jones slaps hands with Steven Parker at the start of practice on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. by Nick Krug

With the future of the Kansas football program in limbo, some Jayhawks on Wednesday night began publicly drumming up support for Emmett Jones to become the team’s next head coach.

The endorsements for Jones, KU’s third-year receivers coach, began hitting the Twittersphere hours after Jeff Long stepped down as athletic director and two days removed from KU parting ways with Les Miles.

Having those two mammoth vacancies coincide made what will come next for the head coaching position all the more unpredictable, perhaps prompting players to voice their preference for Jones.

The social media movement began with freshman cornerback Jacobee Bryant tweeting, “(Jones) for head coach.” That simple recommendation picked up backing in the form of quote tweets from KU safety Kenny Logan Jr., as well as cornerback Valerian Agbajw Jr.

One of Jones’ position players, sixth-year senior Kwamie Lassiter II, also made his thoughts on the matter clear, posting, “Put Jones in that spot and (let’s) get to it!” Lassiter’s tweet was soon after retweeted by running back Velton Gardner, receiver Takulve “T.K.” Williams, defensive end Marcus Harris and other Jayhawks.

More calls for Jones, who also serves as KU's passing game coordinator, to take over would follow, too. Receiver Lawrence Arnold wrote, “As a player at KU we need a coach in office right now that (knows) the players and (has) a relationship with the players.” Jones followed that opinion with a hashtag in support of Jones.

De’Kedrick Sterns, a freshman offensive tackle who just enrolled at KU this semester, shared a similar tweet to Arnold’s.

Yet another receiver, Luke Grimm, posted a game photo of him and Jones, with the caption, “Y’all know what to do.”

On Tuesday, before he left KU, Long stated he planned on naming an interim head coach within the next couple of days. While the specifics of the new plan and timetable for naming an interim haven’t yet been made public, it’s likely KU Chancellor Douglas Girod and Kurt Watson, a KU alumnus and prominent donor whom Girod named interim A.D., will decide with current KU assistant will be the interim head coach.

It might be as soon as a few weeks, per Girod, that KU has a new athletic director in place. But it won’t be until then that the next steps for finding the permanent KU football coach will be solidified.

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Reply 6 comments from Austin Lopez Robert  Brock Jeff Coffman Forever2008 Layne Pierce Surrealku

The case for D.J. Eliot as KU’s interim head coach

Kansas defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot shows his frustration during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot shows his frustration during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

At some point in the next 24 to 48 hours, the Kansas football program is expected to at least have an interim head coach in place, even if that person ends up merely keeping the seat warm for a yet to be determined replacement for Les Miles.

As KU Athletic Director Jeff Long weighs his options for the present and future of the program, two current KU assistants seem to be the most obvious candidates for the job, either on an interim or permanent basis.

Among the current staff members, only receivers coach and passing game coordinator Emmett Jones and defensive coordinator and linebackers coach D.J. Eliot have played prominent roles for KU throughout the previous two-plus years.

Some of the reasons that Jones would be a sensible hire already have been highlighted by Matt Tait. So let’s also take a closer look at Eliot.

Obviously the Jayhawks’ third-year coordinator has more Power Five experience than anyone on the staff, having also led the defenses at both Colorado (2017-18) in the Pac-12 and Kentucky in the SEC (2013-16). And even before that, Eliot was coaching defensive ends at Florida State (2010-12) in the ACC.

One unique experience that Eliot brings to the table is his time at UK, where he was part of a Mark Stoops staff that turned a football program around at a basketball school. That’s the exact scenario KU’s administration is looking for. The Wildcats were 2-10 the year before Stoops took over. And when Eliot and other coaches joined him on the ground floor in 2013, UK went 2-10 again. But the Wildcats steadily improved from there — 5-7 in 2014, 5-7 in 2015 and 7-6 and a bowl berth in 2016, before Eliot left to work at Colorado.

Rebuilds take time, as KU football fans know all too well. And Eliot just a few years back helped orchestrate one in the SEC.

One major issue for KU since Mark Mangino left following the 2009 season, leading to the program began falling apart, has been the constant turnover throughout the coaching staff. Finding some stability by giving the interim — or permanent — job to someone such as Eliot and Jones could help avoid the Jayhawks taking too many steps backward (again) in this perpetual rebuild.

There’s no learning curve for Eliot or Jones at KU anymore. They’ve been here. They know the players. They know the challenges of coaching and recruiting at KU. The Jayhawks long have been in need of some continuity.

It certainly doesn’t hurt Eliot’s case, either, that entering the 2021 season, many of KU’s most promising young players are on defense. It was the play on that side of the ball that showed flashes of promise for the future in 2020, as Jayhawks such as safety Kenny Logan Jr., cornerback Karon Prunty and defensive linemen Marcus Harris and Da’Jon Terry emerged. Eliot, defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson, defensive line coach Kwahn Drake and safeties coach Jordan Peterson deserve some credit for helping the defense stand out for good reasons at times during a challenging 0-9 campaign.

Eliot came to KU in 2018 as one of Miles’ first few hires. And he took the job with the Jayhawks instead of going to work at a better program, Ole Miss, in the SEC. Following his first year at KU, Eliot turned down an assistant coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. So it seems like Eliot is fond of KU and Lawrence, and willing to see what can become of these young players.

Whomever ends up getting the job, it will take someone invested in the program and serious about rebuilding it the right way — with year after year of high school signing classes — for KU football to finally turn a corner. Eliot and Jones sure look like candidates who would check those boxes.

Reply 1 comment from Keithii Njjayhawk

Lack of continuity in KU football lineup one of Jayhawks’ many issues in 2020

Texas Tech's Colin Schooler (17) pushes Kansas' Daniel Hishaw Jr. (20) out of bounds during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Texas Tech's Colin Schooler (17) pushes Kansas' Daniel Hishaw Jr. (20) out of bounds during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson) by Associated Press

Assembling a conclusive list of all the factors that led to the Kansas football team going winless in 2020 would be time consuming. But one component that surged to the forefront was the staggering lack of continuity with the roster.

Back when this strange, pandemic shortened season began in September, with the Jayhawks taking on soon-to-be college football darling Coastal Carolina, KU’s starting lineup included quarterback Thomas MacVittie, running back Pooka Williams, linebackers Dru Prox and Denzel Feaster, safety Davon Ferguson, and offensive linemen Jacobi Lott and Chris Hughes. It only took a matter of weeks for some of them to become non-factors for KU, through injury or opt out or some other reason. And late in the season none of them were available to start anymore.

Shakeups to the depth chart became a recurring theme in head coach Les Miles’ second year running the program. During the course of the 0-9 campaign the offensive personnel rarely looked the same from week to week. KU started three different quarterbacks, four different centers, four different running backs, three different right tackles, three different right guards, two different left tackles and two different left guards.

At receiver, a perceived strength for KU entering the season, Stephon Robinson Jr. started three games early on, but barely played in any of them while dealing with injury issues. And then Robinson had season-ending surgery.

Even though the Jayhawks had solid depth at the running back spot, after Williams opted out four games into the schedule, new No. 1 rusher Velton Gardner only got to play two more games before his year came to a premature conclusion due to an undisclosed injury. Then freshman back Daniel Hishaw Jr. had to miss a game due to COVID protocols and freshman Amauri Pesek-Hickson, the No. 4 running back when the season began, started a game.

KU’s defense didn’t have to deal with that extent of instability. But the loss of a playmaking linebacker in Prox to an opt out four games into the season proved to be brutal.

Only three players on the roster started all nine games for Kansas in 2020: freshman cornerback Karon Prunty, junior defensive lineman Caleb Sampson and senior offensive lineman Malik Clark (the first seven games at left tackle, before moving to left guard).

Four more Jayhawks started in eight games and played in all nine: senior linebacker Kyron Johnson, senior receiver Kwamie Lassiter II, senior cornerback Elijah Jones and sophomore safety Kenny Logan Jr.

Four others started seven games, and one of those Jayhawks, senior receiver Andrew Parchment, basically started eight. Technically, Parchment didn’t start at Baylor, when KU opened the game on offense with two running backs and a tight end, but Parchment carried his typical workload in that game. Senior defensive tackle Sam Burt and sophomore tight end Mason Fairchild also started seven games. Sophomore left guard Jacobi Lott opted out after starting the first seven games.

Only four players started six games: true freshman quarterback Jalon Daniels, senior offensive lineman Hughes, senior safety Nate Betts and junior O-lineman Earl Bostick Jr.

By the time KU played what proved to be its 2020 finale at Texas Tech on Dec. 5, the starting lineup included several names almost no one would have projected as best case scenario starters for this year: junior quarterback Miles Kendrick, freshman receiver Steven McBride, running back Hishaw, freshman offensive linemen Armaj Adams-Reed and Bryce Cabeldue, freshman linebacker Taiwan Berryhill and defensive back Betts. The last starting lineup of the winless season also featured six more players who didn’t start in Week 1: tight end Fairchild, junior fullback Ben Miles, redshirt freshman defensive end Marcus Harris, sophomore linebacker Gavin Potter, safety Logan and cornerback Jones.

Injuries and opt outs proved to be issues for many college football programs in 2020. But such obstacles are even more challenging to navigate at a place like KU, where instability has been the norm for more than a decade now. Head coaches, position coaches and coordinators frequently coming and going has been one of the few consistent aspects of KU football since Mark Mangino was forced out following the 2009 season. Since then, administrators and KU football coaches alike have struggled to bring some semblance of stability to the program and its roster.

Maybe 2021 will be the year that begins to change. The Jayhawks definitely could’ve benefited from Parchment and Robinson returning for a bonus senior season. But the vast majority of the players you would put on a perfect world two-deep (where injuries weren’t an issue) at the end of the year could return. Along with all the freshmen, sophomores and juniors who played key roles during an albeit difficult year, KU might be able to bring back seniors such as receiver Lassiter, offensive linemen Clark, Hughes and Adagio Lopeti, and safeties Thomas and Betts. Linebacker Johnson and nose tackle Burt already have shared they plan to take advantage of the NCAA’s blanket waiver for an extra year of eligibility. And as long as we’re on the topic of ideal scenarios, some of those veterans could become key reserves instead of starters if KU’s coaches can develop the youngest players in the program.

Plus, of course, the Jayhawks will add the 2021 recruiting class, another group that could be comprised totally of high school recruits, just like Miles and his staff did with the 2020 class.

Some continuity might be coming to the KU football program in Miles’ third season in charge. And the Jayhawks need some of that first before they can start expecting to produce winning seasons again.

Reply 12 comments from Brjam Adam Bengtson Dane Pratt Dirk Medema Jim Stauffer Andy Godwin Njjayhawk Dale Rogers

KU football could finally be bowl eligible in 2020, but postseason berth is far from automatic

Kansas head coach Les Miles walks off the field after a timeout during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Les Miles walks off the field after a timeout during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

As if 2020 weren’t already bizarre enough, it could conclude with the ever rebuilding Kansas football program bowl eligible — technically.

The Jayhawks haven’t won enough games to be automatically considered for a postseason invite since 2008, but the Division I Football Oversight Committee is recommending waiving bowl eligibility requirements for this muddled college football season.

The Division I Council would have to approve the idea when it meets in mid-October, but the waiver is expected to pass, making every FBS team bowl eligible — just for this year — thanks to the complications that surfaced as conferences took different approaches to playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Jayhawks haven’t sniffed the postseason since going 5-7 and missing out on a bowl berth in 2009, Mark Mangino’s final year with the program.

In the 10 years since then, neither Turner Gill, Charlie Weis, David Beaty nor Les Miles has been able to guide the team to any better than a 3-9 season.

While it will be exceedingly easier for teams to receive a bowl invitation this year, that doesn’t mean it’s time for KU to pop the champagne. It’s unlikely any bowl will have to get desperate and bring in a team that only won one or two games, or worse, went 0-for-the season.

That might have been the case had FBS conferences such as the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West stuck with their postponement plans of playing in the spring. Now that there are far more teams in the mix this this fall, it becomes easier for bowls to fill out those spots with winning — or just below .500 — teams.

This blanket bowl eligibility isn’t for the teams that struggle. Rather it helps clear the pathway for solid teams that end up on the wrong side of .500 because of this year’s unusual schedules.

The Big Ten is playing an eight-game conference-only schedule when it returns in late October. Now a Big Ten team with a difficult slate that competes throughout the abbreviated fall but ends up 3-5 can play in a bowl.

The Pac-12, which just reached its decision to return this week, won’t start playing until November, and its teams only get seven regular season games. A scenario where there are multiple 3-4 teams that caught some bad breaks is easy to envision.

And even with the SEC playing a 10-game conference-only schedule, you know there will be 4-6 teams that clearly look and perform better than the teams that finish at the bottom of the standings in other FBS leagues.

The good news for KU is that it doesn’t have to go 5-4 in Big 12 play to reach the typical minimum requirements for automatic bowl eligibility. But the Jayhawks are expected to be underdogs in every game left on their schedule after losing their opener at home to Coastal Carolina.

KU hasn’t won more than one game in Big 12 play since 2008, when Mangino coached Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe and the Jayhawks to a 4-4 mark, and the Jayhawks beat Minnesota in the Insight Bowl to finish 8-5.

This year’s Jayhawks may be bowl eligible on a technicality, but they will have to go out and win at least three or four games, one would think, to end their postseason drought.

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Early signs indicate KU might need to embrace its ground game

Coastal Carolina cornerback Derick Bush (23) and safety Shi'heem Watkins (28) break up a pass intended for Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Coastal Carolina cornerback Derick Bush (23) and safety Shi'heem Watkins (28) break up a pass intended for Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) by Associated Press

No one expected the Kansas offense to feature an elite passing attack when college football returned. But the first weekend of Big 12 games also magnified how far behind the rest of the league the Jayhawks might be in that category in 2020.

While Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech posted the top three passing totals among all the teams that played this past weekend, with each topping 400 yards, KU in its home loss to Coastal Carolina couldn’t settle on a starting quarterback and didn’t even crack 200 yards through the air as the three QBs who played combined for 35 passing attempts.

Texas veteran Sam Ehlinger lit up UTEP’s defense for 426 yards and five touchdowns on just 33 throws. The newest Oklahoma star QB, Spencer Rattler, only needed 17 attempts to rack up 290 yards and four TDs versus Missouri State (backup Tanner Mordecai threw for 157 more yards). And Texas Tech went pass-happy in a narrow win over Houston Baptist, as Alan Bowman threw for 430 yards, going 38-for-52.

KU’s 189 passing yards versus Coastal ranked sixth in the Big 12 out of the seven teams that played. In Iowa State’s home loss to Louisiana, the Cyclones’ Brock Purdy was 16-for-35 for 145 yards against a Ragin’ Cajuns defense that finished 18th nationally in scoring defense in 2019.

After Brent Dearmon took over as offensive coordinator last year, KU averaged 267.2 passing yards in its final six games with redshirt senior Carter Stanley leading the attack.

When the 2020 season opened, neither of KU’s two primary QBs, starter Thomas MacVittie and essential co-starter Miles Kendrick, found any sort of rhythm in the first half, leading to the unproductive outing.

MacVittie ran into some bad luck on his first two series, with a pass to Lawrence Arnold going off the receiver’s hands and into the arms of a CCU defender. Next, on the second play of KU’s next possession, a quick completion to Takulve Williams ended up as a fumble recovery for CCU.

Then KU commenced with its QB rotation. Kendrick came in for a series. Then it was back to MacVittie. Then two for Kendrick to close the first half, with the first of those ending with an interception.

After MacVittie was the first QB to play in the third quarter for KU, the plan was put to a halt due to MacVittie getting hurt. Kendrick entered with a few minutes left in the quarter and handled the rest of the snaps until KU put in its reserves for the final 1:13 and true freshman Jalon Daniels made his debut.

Kendrick finished with far more passing attempts than MacVittie, even though he only played three more snaps.

A junior, Kendrick went 15-for-24 for 156 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception while playing 39 snaps. He was sacked twice, losing 11 yards.

A senior, MacVittie finished 5-for-9 for 20 yards, with no touchdowns and the one pick, on his 36 snaps. He was sacked once for a loss of 4 yards.

It remains unclear how KU will use its two QBs moving forward, or if MacVittie will be healthy enough to play in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opener at Baylor on Sept. 26.

But based on the limited snaps we’ve seen from the KU offense so far, the rushing attack might need to become the focal point. Star junior running back Pooka Williams only had 12 carries and 67 yards before leaving the game with an injury late in the third quarter (Les Miles expects him back after getting “nicked”). And sophomore rusher Velton Gardner produced 81 yards and a TD on his 11 runs.

Although KU technically ran the ball more (38 attempts versus 35 passes) in its opener, the numbers are a little skewed due to sacks and other times a QB had to take off and run on a passing play. MacVittie, Miles and Daniels combined for 12 rushing attempts and 19 yards.

KU only had non-QBs running the ball 26 times. Not counting the sacks, KU rushed for 193 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

The offensive line’s pass-blocking in the opener was historically bad, too, as Pro Football Focus’ grades showed.

It will be interesting to see if all that transpired in a let down of a debut will alter KU’s upcoming offensive game plans. Relying on two running backs in Williams and Gardner might prove more effective than depending on two QBs behind an O-line that didn’t protect its passers well versus CCU.

According to CFBstats.com, KU’s 4.68 rushing yards per attempt ranks 15th nationally out of the 42 teams who have played so far in this strange season. The Jayhawks’ 5.4 yards per pass attempt ranks 34th.

Reply 6 comments from Keithii RXDOC Maxhawk Dillon Davis Robert  Brock Brjam Njjayhawk

Andrew Parchment bluntly gives himself an F after frustrating performance

Coastal Carolina cornerback Derick Bush (23) is called for pass interference against Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Coastal Carolina defeated Kansas 38-23. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Coastal Carolina cornerback Derick Bush (23) is called for pass interference against Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. Coastal Carolina defeated Kansas 38-23. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) by Associated Press

Andrew Parchment made it unmistakably clear that the Kansas football team’s second home loss to Coastal Carolina in as many years was unacceptable. And the senior receiver did so by pointing the finger at himself.

After the Jayhawks’ offense turned the ball over three times in the first half of their opener, leading to 21 points for the Chanticleers, there were plenty of questions about KU’s issues.

During Parchment’s postgame video press conference an inquiry came up about the performances of KU’s quarterbacks in the 38-23 loss.

“I would grade my performance as an F,” Parchment replied.

And what about the QBs?

“I would grade my performance as an F,” Parchment repeated.

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior wideout felt that way, he elaborated, because, “I didn’t do enough for my team to win the game.”

Parchment returned to that theme a little later during his Q&A, when asked about how Miles Kendrick played at QB after Thomas MacVittie had to leave the game due to an injury.

“My performance tonight was an F,” Parchment replied.

Parchment caught six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown in KU’s season debut, but he kept circling back to what he deemed his personal failures on the night. He identified a few things he could have done better.

“The block on the perimeter,” Parchment began, referring to a Takulve Williams fumble immediately after a reception on KU’s second possession, when Parchment “got beat up on a block” near Williams.

The senior receiver also said he needs to be more of a leader, “not only on Saturdays, but through the week.”

As Parchment admitted, it was his blocking on the perimeter in particular that was not up to snuff. As detailed in the NCAA Premium stats from Pro Football Focus, Parchment’s night was graded out at 57.3 on his 75 snaps. PFF graded his run blocking on 26 plays at 32.8.

Even when asked about about his 14-yard TD reception on 4th and 5 in the third quarter, Parchment wasn’t interested in taking any credit.

“I don’t honestly remember,” is all he said about the score.

All of this transpired after the loss because Parchment holds himself to high standards. He aspires to be one of the best receivers in the country and he knows, especially playing for KU receivers coach Emmett Jones, that there is much more to the position than catching a few balls and adding a TD to your stat line.

The next step for Parchment, he said, is watching the video from the game and learning from his mistakes. That’s a theme that showed up on his Twitter timeline, too, in the days that followed KU’s loss. Parchment retweeted some messages from NFL receivers that seemed to apply to his current situation.

Carolina receiver Robby Anderson tweeted: “Best thing I ever did was look myself in the mirror and tell myself the truth and take accountability for my own actions and take pride in restructure.”

The Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy shared: “Failure is growth.”

None by Robby Anderson

None by Jerry Jeudy⁴

Parchment’s teammates late Saturday night didn’t seem surprised by the veteran receiver’s self-evaluation.

“Andrew Parchment’s a competitor,” Kendrick said. “He has a lot of passion for the game. And I think that’s just what that is. I think a lot of guys on the team feel that way tonight.”

Kendrick said all of the Jayhawks have to watch the game footage and make corrections and improve, just like Parchment said.

Fellow senior receiver Kwamie Lassiter II explained why Parchment was hard on himself.

“It’s tough, but we’ve all got things we need to work on,” Lassiter said. “We’re gonna come back on Monday and then go to work. And step up, because we’ve got to go down to Waco and play again.”

The Jayhawks play at Baylor on Sept. 26, following their bye week.

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

Some predictable (and other more intriguing) KU football odds and props

Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson (15), right, and Kansas safety Davon Ferguson (7) try to corral Baylor Bears quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson (15), right, and Kansas safety Davon Ferguson (7) try to corral Baylor Bears quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Kansas football fans, you may want to sit down for this.

Oddsmakers don’t like the Jayhawks chances of winning the Big 12 title this year.

Obviously that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But if you follow the Jayhawks closely, the types of odds and props that SportsBettingDime.com put out this week are likely to intrigue in some fashion, even if you don’t want to send any of your hard-earned money in the direction of these outcomes.

Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State are SBD’s favorites to win the Big 12 championship in 2020, while KU head coach Les Miles, a former SEC and national championship winner at LSU, leads a Jayhawks roster the gambling site considers a whopping 50,0000/1 long shot. (The second-longest odds are West Virginia at 105/1.)

What are the chances of KU finishing the Big 12 schedule in one of the top two spots in the standings, assuring the Jayhawks of a berth in the title game? SBD put those odds at 25,000/1.

In this sure to be strange 10-game season in the age of COVID-19, one normal expectation is that the Jayhawks will have to shock some people to win more than a couple games. SBD put KU’s over/under at 2.0 wins for the year.

Fortunately, the gambling experts also delivered some more captivating odds for individual players. Along with declaring KU star running back Pooka Williams a 350/1 dark horse for the Heisman Trophy, SBD placed his total rushing yards over/under at 965.5.

Williams already is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, going for 1,125 yards as a freshman and 1,061 more as a sophomore. He put up those numbers while playing 11 games in each season. For his career he’s averaging 99.4 rushing yards per game. If Williams maintains that and stays healthy in 2020, he’d come close to a third 1,000-yard season.

Considering KU doesn’t have an obvious starting quarterback at this point, projecting passing numbers is a little trickier. But SBD provided some anyway. The site put Andrew Parchment’s over/under for receiving yards at 605.5. In his first season with the Jayhawks in 2019, Parchment played in all 12 games, finished with 831 yards and averaged 69.2 a game.

SBD also set over/unders for whomever finishes the season as KU’s leading passer (whether that’s Thomas MacVittie, Miles Kendrick or maybe even someone else). Will KU’s leading passer this year throw for more or fewer than 1,550.5 yards and 9.5 touchdowns? That’s for you to decide. Last year Carter Stanley started every game for KU and turned in 2,664 passing yards with 24 touchdowns.

If you’re so daring you also can place a bet on who will start the most games at QB for KU this year. SBD has MacVittie as the favorite, with 2/3 odds, followed by Kendrick at 7/3 and true freshman Jalon Daniels at 9/1.

SportsBettingDime.com’s 2020 Big 12 champion odds

Oklahoma: 6/5

Texas: 9/2

Oklahoma State: 9/2

Iowa State: 8/1

Baylor: 24/1

TCU: 50/1

Kansas State: 71/1

Texas Tech: 95/1

West Virginia: 105/1

Kansas: 50,000/1

Reply 2 comments from Dale Rogers Bee Bee Njjayhawk

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