Year In Review: The pessimist's take on the 2019 Kansas football season
Editor's Note: Before the 2019 Kansas football season began, I took a stab at a couple of different viewpoints on what was to come.
The first belonged to the optimist and was a look ahead at KU’s first season under Les Miles from the perspective of those who believed there were plenty of reasons to be hopeful. The second belonged to the pessimist and was just the opposite.
Now that the run is over and Miles and the Jayhawks have put the finishing touches on their 3-9 season, it’s time to do the same by looking back at the season that was and all that came with it.
After examining the optimist’s view first, we’re looking at the year in review from the eyes of the pessimist today.
If the ho-hum, same-old 3-9 record wasn’t enough to leave you pessimistic about the state of the Kansas football program, there were plenty of specific moments during the 2019 season that likely did the trick.
And, no, I’m not just talking about last Saturday’s 61-6 beatdown by Baylor in the season finale.
The 38-10 loss to Kansas State, the 31-13 loss at Oklahoma State and, yes, everyone’s favorite, that 12-7 home loss to Coastal Carolina in Week 2, all factored into how this season would be remembered.
But whether you focus on the win total, the moments of offensive ineptitude or the opportunities to win that just weren’t captured, the most difficult part about the latest Kansas football campaign in the eyes of the pessimists is that it left them with the same two-word question that they’ve had for the past decade — now what?
Was enough of a foundation put in place in Year 1 of the Les Miles era to make people think better days are ahead? Who will play quarterback for the Jayhawks next season? And can Kansas score enough points on a consistent basis to compete in the Big 12 Conference or win on the road?
All of those have been common questions during the past nine years and they all still exist today. Anyone who thought they wouldn’t was probably five slices deep into a little pie in the sky. But the fact that they remain heading into the 2020 season is not exactly encouraging.
There were plenty of reasons and plenty of players to get excited about during the past few months. But there never were quite enough.
What’s more, just about every time the Jayhawks did something to get the fan base fired up and ready to see what came next, they fell flat the following week and snatched away the enthusiasm as quickly as it arrived.
In short, no matter what they thought was going to happen, Kansas fans sat by scratching their heads while watching the opposite unfold — both good and bad.
No one saw the Boston College win coming after the Week 2 effort against Coastal Carolina. But after it did, everyone thought West Virginia was there for the taking one week later. The result? A Mountaineers team that finished 5-7 walked into Lawrence and won an uninspired game by both teams.
Later, after nearly upsetting Texas in Austin (again, no one saw that coming) and beating Texas Tech at home, Jayhawk fans were fired up to finally see a competitive Sunflower Showdown. So much so that they sold out KU’s home stadium for the first time in a decade. The result? Well, it looked an awful lot like so many other KU-KSU clashes in recent years, with the Wildcats winning easily in a game that was nowhere near as close as the 38-10 final score indicated.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. And there was a genuine sense around the program that it was worth tuning in each week because at least you were going to get a team that was capable of competing. They didn’t always do that. But this season’s struggles were as much about not finishing as anything else.
Of course, for every KU fan who likes to point out that the Jayhawks were 26 points away from being a 7-5 football team, there’s another one who realizes that they also were 10 points away from being 1-11. So it goes with Kansas football, year after year after year.
And if that type of inconsistent uncertainty doesn’t bring out a little pessimist in everyone, more power to those who can avoid it.
KU’s special teams were anything but special. The defense took a major step backwards, from being one of the top turnover-producing units a year ago to tied for last in that category this season and 122nd (of 130) in total defense. And the offense, as much as people wanted to believe it was, at times, as explosive as any in college football, still had too many quarters, halves and games of nothingness, which put the group 91st in the nation in total offense.
That’s not going to get it done. And while the possibility certainly exists for KU to improve and build from here, a quick look at the key players departing from this year’s roster illustrates that improvement of any kind in Year 2 might be tough to expect.
Now what, you ask? Brace yourselves for more of the same.