Call it false hope, fool's gold or the this is why we can't have nice things syndrome.
Whatever you dub it, it has become a heck of a pattern for Kansas University football during the past five-plus seasons.
Despite KU's dismal 12-53 record in the post-Mark Mangino era (2010-present), there have been a few memorable victories and even more close calls against some of the Big 12's best.
But while it's easy to remember last year's near upset of TCU or the Texas game at home that KU lost in the final 17 seconds a couple of years earlier, it's much harder to remember what happened in the week's that followed those close calls. The reason? Most of those results are ones the Jayhawks would rather forget.
Here's a quick look at the 10 most notable face plants since the start of the 2010 season, which, you could argue, actually began with KU following up a 5-0 start to the 2009 season with an 0-7 finish.
• Sept. 17, 2010 — Southern Miss 31, Kansas 16: After upsetting 15th-ranked Georgia Tech, following a disappointing loss to North Dakota State in the season opener, the Jayhawks traveled to Southern Miss and were outclassed from start to finish. Turner Gill's first road game featured a handful of clock management issues and penalties that all but guaranteed a Kansas loss. Just before halftime, the Eagles returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and took a 21-3 into halftime. KU never recovered and never threatened in the second half.
• Nov. 13, 2010 — Nebraska 20, Kansas 3: One week after a ridiculous fourth-quarter comeback at home beat Colorado, 52-45, the Jayhawks' suddenly-high-powered offense went to Gill's alma mater to face an offensively-challenged NU team playing with an injured quarterback. It didn't matter. The Kansas offense, led by QB Quinn Mecham, managed just 87 yards on 47 plays, and the defense, though tough all night, just did not get enough rest to hold the Huskers down.
• Sept. 17, 2011 — Georgia Tech 66, Kansas 24: One Saturday, the Jayhawks picked up a huge victory over bowl-bound Northern Illinois on their final offensive play of the game. The next, the Kansas defense was trounced by a Georgia Tech team that shattered several school records and wound up printing T-Shirts to commemorate the occasion. Kansas' offense did a decent job in the first quarter in Atlanta, but, with the defense looking like swiss cheese, KU simply could not keep up on the scoreboard.
• Nov. 19, 2011 — Texas A&M 61, Kansas 7: For three quarters at home against Baylor, the Kansas defense had future Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III completely bottled up. But then someone tapped RGIII on the shoulder and he led a fourth-quarter comeback that led to a 31-30 overtime victory for the Bears. Perhaps deflated by coming so close to such a huge upset, the Jayhawks barely even showed up the following week in College Station, where Ryan Tannehill torched the KU defense and the KU offense did not crack the scoreboard until the game's final minute.
• Oct. 20, 2012 — Oklahoma 52, Kansas 7: After a hard-fought 20-14 loss to Oklahoma State in miserably wet conditions, which featured James Sims unofficially laying claim to the title of the Big 12's best running back, the Jayhawks traveled to the Sooner State to take on OU the following week and never had a chance. Led by Landry Jones and an unstoppable aerial attack, OU ran the Jayhawks out of the building early. KU had a chance to keep things interesting early, but a simple pass to the flat by QB Dayne Crist that might have been an easy touchdown was woefully behind Tre' Parmalee and Crist did not throw another pass all game.
• Nov. 3, 2012 — Baylor 41, Kansas 14: One week after coming within a couple of plays of knocking off Texas — the UT comeback included a must-have fourth-down conversion and the winning TD in the final 20 seconds — Kansas no-showed against Baylor, yet again, in Waco, Texas. The Bears didn't even play all that well in this one, they just steamrolled their way to a 21-0 second half that left Kansas looking for answers as both Michael Cummings and Dayne Crist played under center for the struggling Jayhawks in this one.
• Nov. 17, 2012 — Iowa State 51, Kansas 23: One week after nearly ending their Big 12 AND road losing streak in the form of a double-overtime loss at Texas Tech, the Jayhawks returned home for what was supposed to be a huge opportunity at a win on Senior Night in front of a fired up home crowd. Just before the game started, the Jayhawks changed out of their traditional blue uniforms and came back out wearing all black. It might as well have been all white, as in “we surrender.” Third-string ISU QB Sam Richardson, whom KU did not even have film on heading into the game, torched the Jayhawks to the tune of 23-of-27 passing for 250 yards, four touchdowns, another on the ground and an easy ISU victory. The game went down as Richardson's coming-out party and yet another huge disappointment for Kansas.
• Oct. 5, 2013 — Texas Tech 54, Kansas 16: It probably should've been looked at as a sign of trouble at the time, but there was no disputing the excitement that came after Matthew Wyman drilled a 52-yard field goal to beat Louisiana Tech (13-10) after an improbable stop by the KU defense in the game's final minutes. Rather than capitalizing on the momentum of that big kick and a 2-1 start, the Jayhawks returned to the very same field the next week and let Texas Tech have its way with them. This one was made worse by the fact that the Jayhawks raced out to a 10-0 first quarter lead and then, in a little over a half, were outscored 47-0 to set the final margin.
• Nov. 23, 2013 — Iowa State 34, Kansas 0: Behind the hard running of James Sims and the spark ignited by the play of true-freshman quarterback Montell Cozart, the Jayhawks ended their Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 home victory over West Virginia on Nov. 16. The win, in which KU thoroughly dominated, was supposed to be the springboard for a strong finish and some momentum heading into 2014. But instead, the very next week, on a bitterly cold night in Ames, Iowa, the Jayhawks were blanked by one-win Iowa State, which embarrassed the Jayhawks by running wild on an icy field.
• Nov. 22, 2014 — Oklahoma 44, Kansas 7: After nearly shocking the college football world by putting a heck of a scare into national-title-contending TCU, the Jayhawks traveled south to take on an average Oklahoma team and walked away a part of history. OU running back Samaje Perine ran over, through and around the Kansas defense all afternoon on his way to an NCAA record 427 rushing yards that came against little resistance. The Jayhawks never put up a fight in this one and appeared to miss more tackles than they made.
To be fair, during that same time frame, there have been a handful of positive responses to close calls or KU victories. And those, which have been few and far between, include: KU responding to a season-opening loss to North Dakota State in 2010 with win over Georgia Tech; KU responding to its Iowa State win in 2014 with a near-upset of TCU; KU responding to a season-opening 42-24 victory over McNeese State in 2011 with a 45-42 win over Northern Illinois the following week. Those back-to-back wins still are the only consecutive victories at Kansas in the post-Mangino era.
On the heels of last week's close call against Texas Tech and with KU headed to Oklahoma State on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Boone Pickens Stadium, the Jayhawks now have their next opportunity to add a game to one of the two categories above.
The Kansas University players and coaches said they sensed something a little different in the hours leading up to Saturday's loss to Texas Tech.
And, judging by the way things looked on the field, they certainly were on to something.
The winless Jayhawks and their outmanned and overmatched defense entered Saturday as a 32-point underdog against one of the nation's most potent offenses.
But instead of being steamrolled for the second week in a row, the Jayhawks battled. Led by true freshman QB Ryan Willis, the offense clicked like rarely had been seen in recent years and the defense played its heart out to keep the Red Raiders to less than half of their season scoring average.
One of the most common phrases in sports is the one that says “there are no moral victories.” But for a team like Kansas, which is undersized, understaffed and in a serious rebuilding mode, I don't think there's anything wrong with latching on to every moral victory you can find. And Saturday certainly was one, perhaps even two or three.
It's easy to look at Saturday's outcome and feel pretty encouraged. Kansas played with a lot of heart and some of the youngest, most inexperienced guys on the team looked awfully sharp and played beyond their years. But there were still a ton of mistakes — silly mistakes that might have cost KU the chance to win — and this game, perhaps better than any other to this point, illustrated exactly where this program is right now. There will be progress. It will show up at unexpected times and in unexpected places, but the talent gap and lack of quality depth means the Jayhawks are going to have to play a nearly flawless game to have a shot at a victory. Had they done that against Texas Tech, the first win of the season might have been the result. But they didn't. And now it's on to the next one, with new lessons learned and more growing pains ahead.
1 – KU's postgame notes featured 12 different entries regarding true freshman quarterback Ryan Willis, who set freshman records for completions (35), attempts (50) and yards (330) during Saturday's loss. It was not just Willis' numbers that were impressive, though. For the second week in a row, the Bishop Miege High grad led the offense, played with a perfect blend of poise and confidence and, this time, led the offense to 20 points and a near upset. Willis has a strong arm, makes quick decisions and can put the ball wherever he needs to and right where his receivers like it. It's early in his career, but Willis definitely appears to be KU's QB of the future. And, what's more, that doesn't look or sound all that bad.
2 – This offense is a lot of fun. Offensive coordinator Rob Likens and head coach David Beaty sure have put in an entertaining and exciting offense. The Jayhawks rolled to 475 yards, put the ball in the air 50 times and did it while not completely abandoning the running game. The passes get out quickly and allow the KU play-makers to make moves in space. When the line holds up and Willis gets time to set and read, a four- or five-yard gain is almost automatic. The best part about this offense is I think we've only scratched the surface on what it can do and what these coaches want to do with it.
3 – The Jayhawks may have fixed their punting issues. It seems like a small thing, but not being able to kick the ball well and flip the field puts the Kansas defense at an even greater disadvantage on a weekly basis. Give Matthew Wyman a little more time to fine-tune his approach and I think the Jayhawks will realize they have found their punter. Wyman has a big leg, he's a heck of a competitor and he's a perfectionist. He'll work at it and only get better from here.
1 – Wide receiver drops were a problem again. Willis completed 70 percent of his throws and that number could have been and should have been closer to 80 percent if the KU receivers had caught everything thrown to them. We're not talking about tough drops, either. We're talking about easy catches that hit wide open guys in the hands. Can't have that when you're already at a huge disadvantage in every game you play.
2 – Matthew Wyman may have saved the punt team, but there appears to be a significant issue with the kicking game. Both Wyman and Nick Bartolotta missed a pair of kicks — one was even an extra point — and KU is in no position to be worried about a 22- or 34-yard field goal should it ever find itself in a game where a field goal of that length, particularly late in a game, perhaps to tie or win, could mean the difference between a win or a loss.
3 – I guess it's always better to be safe than sorry, but in each of the past few games — and a couple of times in this one — there have been some interesting timeouts called from the KU sideline. This goes in line with some of Beaty's curious fourth-down decisions and makes you wonder if the first-year head coach still has a ways to go in the area of game management. As is the case with his young team, the only way to improve in that area is to log games and go through it.
KU's 30-20 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday...
• Dropped the Jayhawks' all-time record to 579-604-58.
• Included 475 yards of total offense by the Jayhawks. KU's season-high was 576 against South Dakota State on Sept. 5.
• Featured the most passing yards (330) by the Jayhawks this season. Kansas last threw for more yards in a 342-yard performance against TCU in 2014.
The Jayhawks head back out on the road next weekend, when they'll look to snap their 35-game losing streak away from Lawrence with a 2:30 p.m. meeting with Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The game will end a stretch of four straight 11 a.m. games for Kansas.
It wasn't the worst beating in school history, it wasn't anything unexpected and it wasn't particularly ugly.
It was just a little taste of reality setting in for the Kansas football team, which was walloped, 66-7, by No. 3 Baylor on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Bears, favored by as many as 46 points in some places, jumped out quickly and wasted little time getting their high-powered offensive machine rolling.
QB Seth Russell looked smooth and poised all afternoon and may not have broken a sweat. Shock Linwood and that Baylor rushing attack faced very little resistance and the KU offense, after a fast start, never really looked in sync for most of the afternoon.
Until the talent and experience level of Kansas football is upgraded dramatically, these types of games — especially against these types of opponents — are going to remain the norm around here.
Good thing KU coach David Beaty is friendly with the Baylor coaching staff. Because if he had not been, the Bears could have really embarrassed the Jayhawks on Saturday. Not that losing 66-7 is anything to be proud of, but we're talking triple digits here. And if Baylor had wanted to get there, I'm not sure the Jayhawks would have been able to do anything to stop it. The best thing about Saturday's game against Baylor is that it came early in the schedule and it's now over.
1 – For his first start and coming against the No. 3 team in the country, true freshman quarterback Ryan Willis looked pretty good. He wasn't amazing and he did not play mistake-free football, but he definitely showed some things that surely had KU fans and coaches looking forward to seeing more.
2 – Saturday was our first look at true freshman Jeremiah Booker and you can color me impressed. He finished with 39 yards on 3 receptions but looked strong and explosive every time he caught the ball and appears to be a real bright spot for this offense as you peer into the future. He's a big, physical kid who snatches the ball out of the air with both hands and then has enough athleticism to get out and go after the grab. No wonder the KU coaching staff was raving about this guy all summer.
3 – The game is over and KU got out of there without being the butt of another national joke. Sure Baylor lit the Jayhawks up, but (a) it was about what people expected and (b) the Jayhawks actually held Baylor to a season-low 644 yards of offense. Incredible.
1 – For the second week in a row KU coach David Beaty chose to punt on fourth-and-short early in the game instead of taking the more aggressive approach and going for it. This trend is a bit alarming because, with its current roster against the teams it is facing, Kansas needs to find a way to create as many breaks as possible each game and, really, has nothing to lose if it were to elect to go for fourth downs and/or trick plays.
2 – These injuries are really starting to get ridiculous. Already without its top two quarterbacks (Montell Cozart and Deondre Ford), Kansas played Saturday's game without its top cornerback (Brandon Stewart, groin) and its leading receiver (Tre' Parmalee, concussion). Having any or all of those guys probably would not have done much to change the score or the outcome but it sure makes it difficult for the Jayhawks to even compete.
3 – KU's once strong and stacked running game is limping along. Ke'aun Kinner, who is dealing with some type of injury, turned in his third consecutive sub-par game after back-to-back 100-yard outings to open the season and De'Andre Mann (also injured), Taylor Cox (45 yards on 19 carries) and Taylor Martin (24 yards on 7 carries) are just not giving the Jayhawks much on the ground. As Beaty has said, this is on more than the running backs and offensive line, but until KU can find a way to run the ball with success again, the offense is going to continue to struggle.
KU's home loss to third-ranked Baylor:
• Dropped Kansas’ all-time record to 579-603-58.
• Marked KU’s 18th consecutive loss to opponents ranked in the Top 25.
• Featured the first time that KU scored points on its first offensive series this season.
Kansas (0-5) will return to Memorial Stadium to face another high-powered conference foe at 11 a.m. Saturday, when Texas Tech comes to town. The Red Raiders (4-2) have given up the most points and are four points shy of being the Big 12's best in points for during conference play so far this season.
Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen had a unique way to describe Baylor tight end LaQuan McGowan, who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs a whopping 410 pounds.
“There's a couple of plays (on Baylor's game film) that looks like the end of the movie when a team has to score a touchdown and one guy knocks 11 people over and they run behind him and score,” Bowen said of the Baylor senior who primarily is used as another blocker.
“There's actually a couple clips in there that resemble that, where he knocks a guy down, knocks another guy down and keeps running. He's a big fella.”
While the senior from Amarillo, Texas, does not necessarily fit the make-up of the rest of the Baylor offense — fast, explosive, athletic guys who like to do their damage in space — he does operate as the perfect complement to those other receivers and offers a perfect option for when BU coach Art Briles and his son and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles want to mix things up.
“Kind of a unique situation with what they do with him,” Bowen said of the tight end who does not yet have a reception this season but gained national fame by snagging an 18-yard TD reception during the 2015 Cotton Bowl. “They will throw him the ball, but, obviously he's in there to be a lead blocker and he's a big human that gets a lot of movement.”
McGowan, who wears a size 20 shoe, red-shirted his first season at Baylor and dressed for four games but did not play as a red-shirt freshman in 2012.
A year later, McGowan played in all 13 games on special teams and as a reserve offensive lineman. He filled the same role in 2014, when he again played in all 13 games, and was moved to tight end for the final third of the Bears' schedule.
Asked how to handle him if he does catch the ball during Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff against Kansas at Memorial Stadium, Bowen had one simple rule for his defense to remember.
“We gotta make sure we don't take him on real high,” Bowen said with a grin.
As for which Jayhawk has filled McGowan's role during practice with the scout team this week, Bowen did not provide a specific name but did offer some feedback.
“We don't have that guy,” he joked. “The guy playing him does not look like him.”
Many believed Saturday's showdown at Iowa State looked to be a winnable game on paper. And, for a little more than a quarter, the Jayhawks hung in there and appeared ready to compete with the Cyclones, whom they defeated 34-14 a year ago.
But a couple of costly mistakes and curious decisions cost the Jayhawks and, just like that, they found themselves down 17-0 at halftime and facing a major uphill climb to get back into the game.
Kansas (0-4) did not play particularly well in any aspects of Saturday's loss. The offense, though efficient at times, never really threatened the ISU defense and the KU defense continued to struggle in the run game, giving up 243 yards on the ground and more than 500 yards of total offense yet again.
Games like these have become all too familiar for KU fans — and the players and a number of different coaches — during recent years, and, although many believed the Iowa State game could be different, the reality of KU's current situation is that games like this are going to continue to be a part of the fall for some time to come.
And many of them could be much, much uglier than Saturday was.
This thing is starting to look a little scary. Nobody expected KU to win many games this season and a good chunk of those of follow the program knew that a winless season could be in the cards. But within that framework, the hope and, really, the expectation, was that the Jayhawks would look a little better each week and put a product on the field that was (a) disciplined, (b) played hard and (c) one fans could be proud of. That was during the first week or week and a half, but in the past few games things seem to have gone in the wrong direction. That's not to say there have not been improvements in a few areas. There have. But for the most part
1 – OC Rob Likens and the Kansas offense took a few shots down the field. That has to happen in the coming weeks if the Jayhawks hope to get Ke'aun Kinner and that running game going again, and it was good to see it happen in this week's game. Starting QB Montell Cozart took a few shots early on — missing on them all — and freshman Ryan Willis, who filled in after Cozart left with a shoulder injury, threw a few nice looking deep balls later in the game. The O-Line has to hold up long enough for this to work, but as long as it does, the deep ball has to be a part of KU's passing game from here on out.
2 – The Jayhawks are able to move the ball between the 20s. Getting into the red zone and finishing drives is another story, but Cozart and the offense looked pretty good moving it up and down the field before breaking down. Cozart finished 15 of 21 passing for 150 yards and Willis was 8 of 16 for 100 yards. Most of the throws by Cozart were short outs that were both safe and effective and that allowed KU to use the tempo it wants to use to keep pressure on the defense. It's good to see, but it will not matter much if KU continues to stall after putting together good starts to their drives.
3 – After committing seven penalties in each of the past two games, the Jayhawks were flagged just four times in this one. Unfortunately, two of those flags — a false start on a fourth-and-one early and an offsides penalty on a third-and-four for ISU — came at huge times and the Jayhawks made plenty of other non-penalty-flag-drawing mistakes that cost them. Still, it's important for huge underdogs like Kansas to limit their penalties as much as possible and four is certainly a respectable number.
1 – Tom Keegan wrote about it in today's column and I Tweeted about it during the game. KU coach David Beaty's decision to punt from the 35 yard line on fourth-and-three early in the game seemed like a terrible decision. Beaty said the wind and the down-and-distance factored into his decision to punt instead of kicking the field goal or going for it. But, to me, that sounds too much like a coach coaching with a College Football Playoff berth on the line not a guy trying to inject some confidence into a program in a major rebuilding mode. Teams like Kansas need to be more aggressive, not less, because they really don't have much to lose.
2 – The offensive line and KU running game struggled big time for the second week in a row — 38 yards on 33 carries. If they don't get that right in a hurry, this new-look Air Raid offense is going to be hard-pressed to reach 20 points in any game and, in a hurry, could start to look an awful lot like the offenses we've seen around here in recent years.
3 – KU quarterbacks are dropping like flies. Through four weeks, the Jayhawks are now down two quarterbacks, with Week 3 starter Deondre Ford out for an unknown amount of time with a thumb injury and now No. 1 QB Montell Cozart dealing with a shoulder sprain. Cozart has yet to play a complete game this season and if he's out for any amount of time, you're looking at two true freshmen (Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley) handling the top two spots on the depth chart and forgotten man T.J. Millweard quickly moving up from fifth string to third. None of that is good news.
KU's 25-point loss at Iowa State on Saturday:
• Dropped KU's all-time record to 579-602-58.
• Prolonged a streak of 32 consecutive losses in true road games and 35 total games played away from Lawrence. Kansas’ last road win came at UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009.
• Also extended KU’s Big 12 Conference road losing streak to 28-straight league road games and 31 conference matches played away from Lawrence. KU’s last Big 12 road victory occurred in Ames, Iowa on Oct. 4, 2008.
After two weeks on the road, the Jayhawks return home for yet another 11 a.m. kickoff, this one against third-ranked Baylor, which enters the week as a 38-point favorite.
If you look only at the score, you might think to yourself, 'Huh, it looks like the Jayhawks had a chance.'
However, if you watched Saturday's 27-14 loss at Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey — be it on television or as one of the brave souls sitting in the High Point Solutions Stadium stands — you probably understand that the Jayhawks never really threatened to win this game.
Falling behind by scores of 13-0 and 27-7 put Kansas in holes too big to crawl out of, and the Jayhawks' defense continued to struggle — especially against the run — in what went down as the program's 34th consecutive loss away from Lawrence.
The facts of the final outcome don't do the Jayhawks any justice in terms of how they competed, what they overcame or the handful of good moments they did have. But those things, especially at this point, mean very little to anyone associated with the program, be them fans, players, coaches or administrators.
Kansas lost. Again. And that narrative is not only all too common these days but also, more times than not, expected.
There's no way — or reason — to sugar coat things at this point, nor has anyone I know been doing that throughout the offseason and first few games of the 2015 schedule. This Kansas team is severely overmatched at just about every position and all of the hard work and hard and effort and determination is not going to make up for that. If it could, Kansas would have won Saturday's game against a bad Rutgers team that gave the Jayhawks every opportunity to not only hang around but also steal momentum and find a way to win the game. It never happened. Call it inexperience — on the sideline and on the field — call it poor execution or call it reality. Either way, this team, though continuing to fight and work every day, is in for some rough weeks now that Big 12 play has arrived.
1 – After surrendering a touchdown to the Scarlet Knights on their opening drive of the second half, the Jayhawks' defense held RU scorless for the final 24:24 of Saturday's loss. That left the door cracked for the KU offense to climb back into the game, but, after answering that Rutgers scoring drive with one of its own, Kansas could not find the end zone again and never crawled closer than the final margin of defeat. Rutgers' final four offensive drives of the game ended like this: turnover, missed field goal, punt, kneel down.
2 – You don't have to love him, you don't have to think he's a great QB or even the guy the Jayhawks should be playing with at the position this season... But you have to respect Montell Cozart for doing what he did on Saturday. Legitimately sick (yeah, I've heard plenty of people question it), Cozart completed passes with poise and ease, moved around well and brought calm and leadership to the Kansas offense. His numbers were good — 13 of 18 for 193 yards and no turnovers — but his heart was better. Very impressive showing by the junior, who fought through a lot just to be out there and, no doubt, proved a lot to his teammates. Not that they needed him to prove anything.
3 – If you're looking for rising stars on this team, and you're no such a cynic that you actually believe they exist, I've got one on each side of the ball for you. The first is wide receiver Tyler Patrick, a red-shirt freshman from The Woodlands, Texas, who now has put together back-to-back solid games. After catching six balls for 38 yards in KU's loss to Memphis on Sept. 12, Patrick got even more involved on Saturday against Rutgers. He finished with 70 yards on three grabs, but all three were big plays and he nearly scored on one of them. Gifted with great wheels, sticky hands and enough shiftiness to make guys miss in the open field, Patrick, who made the first start of his career on Saturday, appears to be working his way into a big time role and already has the complete trust of Cozart. On defense, another freshman, true freshman Tyrone Miller Jr., continues to show up in a big way. The Michigan native turned in a career-high 11 tackles, which led Kansas, and many of those came in run support, where Miller showed he's not afraid to stick his helmet in there and make a hit. He already has good coverage skills (though he can certainly get better) and has shown that he's tough enough and competitive enough to play a major role on this defense for years to come. His 26 tackles through three games lead the Kansas defense.
1 – The KU run D continued to struggle mightily. For the third straight game KU's opponent had its way with the Jayhawks on the ground, pushing around the smaller Kansas defense and taking advantage of the Jayhawks' inexperience and mistakes. Several KU players talked about the issues in the run game simply being a matter of all 11 guys doing their jobs. That, they say, will take care of it. I'm not so sure. It will definitely help, but teams with bigger offensive lines likely will continue to blow Kansas off the ball and pick up big yardage totals — both on individual plays and in entire games. There's not much defensive coordinator Clint Bowen can do about the defense's lack of size, so in order to overcome this, he's going to have to get even more creative than he's been and hope his young dudes can execute what he's asking them to do to stand up against the run.
2 – For the most part this season, KU's play-calling has been spot on. But there were a couple of moments in this one when it looked a little curious to say the least. Most notable was a drive late in the game, where the Jayhawks were marching down the field with the pass looking to cut the Rutgers lead to one score. After three straight passes moved KU solidly into Rutgers territory, Rob Likens called for first- and second-down runs. Neither went anywhere and that put the Jayhawks in a hole on third, and ultimately, fourth down. I'm no offensive coordinator and I understand that sometimes you gotta play the odds and call what you think fits the defenses you're seeing. Rutgers no doubt adjusted to what KU was doing, but sometimes you also gotta go with what's working until they stop it. That was a missed opportunity and a score on that drive would've made things really interesting and put the pressure on Rutgers and the momentum in KU's corner.
3 – KU's offensive line struggled mightily in run blocking in this one, paving the way for a 2.2 yards-per-carry average and giving junior tailback Ke'aun Kinner next to nowhere to run on the 15 times he was handed the ball. Kinner, who had gone over 100 yards in each of KU's first two games, finished with just 23 yards on 15 carries, a 1.2 ypc average. The Scarlet Knights certainly deserve some of the credit for stacking the box and daring Kansas to beat them with the pass, but KU got no push up front and too often allowed multiple RU defenders to crowd the Kansas backfield. As a team, KU finished with just 64 yards rushing on 29 carries. That number is made even worse when you remember that De'Andre Mann had the game's longest individual run of 41 yards. Take that away and you're looking at 23 yards on 28 carries. Look, yet again, for some more tweaks to the the lineup up front during the coming week.
KU's first road loss of the 2015 season:
• Dropped the Jayhawks to 0-1 all-time against Rutgers
• Moved Kansas’ all-time record to 579-601-58.
• Prolonged a streak of 31-consecutive losses in true road games and overall 34 total games played away from Lawrence. Kansas’ last road win came at UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009 and the somber streak also includes three losses to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Jayhawks will jump into Big 12 play for the first of nine consecutive weeks against conference foes with a road game at Iowa State on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. at Jack Trice Stadium, where the Jayhawks have not won since snagging a 35-33 victory in 2008.
Their bond comes because they occasionally feel like fish out of water, East Coast dudes living smack dab in the middle of the country.
But Kansas University football players Chevy Graham and Tevin Shaw want everyone to know that there is a different between New York, where Graham calls home, and New Jersey, Shaw's home state.
“New Jersey is more like New York City than New York state,” said Shaw earlier this week as he Jayhawks prepared for Saturday's 11 a.m. showdown with Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey. “The state is more city-like as a whole. It's a tough place. Driving, it's always traffic. People aren't too nice all the time.”
Despite coming from slightly different worlds, Graham, a junior safety who has worked his way onto the two-deep depth chart despite arriving in Lawrence as a walk-on, said both guys are plenty proud of their small part of the world.
“Tevin's very Jersey strong,” said Graham, a native of Uniondale, New York. “So there won't be a problem there, but both places are definitely more up-tempo than here. It's kind of nice being able to go back for a little bit. Obviously, the football game is the main focus but it's going to be a great experience.”
For Shaw, Saturday's experience will be a true homecoming, with the game taking place just minutes from where he grew up.
For Graham, who will be making his first ever trip to Piscataway, just being back close to home is enough to make this trip stand out.
“It's great being able to go back to the East Coast and see some familiar faces,” he said.
As for how, or perhaps why, he ended up in Kansas in the first place, Graham said the reason was simple.
“I came out here just for a different opportunity,” he said. “I was on the East Coast for the majority of my life and Kansas offered me the best opportunity for me to come out here and play ball so I took that chance and it's paid off.”
So much so that Graham has worked his way into the regular rotation in KU's secondary. Shaw, who was recruited to Kansas as a running back, has been a mainstay there since early in his career, but that's not the only bond these two players share.
“I mean, we joke a lot about it,” Graham said of the automatic New York-New Jersey rivalry that exists between the two. “But there's a lot of things that we can relate to because we're both from the East Coast. So in a way we do have that little East Coast bond and it's definitely nice to have another guy on the team from there.”
Added Shaw of living life in the Midwest: “I've definitely adjusted to it, but my first year here it was really strange just talking to people. We generally just don't have conversations with people we don't know.”
Luckily for Shaw, that was not an issue for him and Graham, who said his full name is Chevrick, something his mother “threw together.”
“A lot of people had problems with that,” Graham said. “And in eighth grade, my football coach just started calling me Chevy and it just stuck.”
That begs the question, what kind of car does Graham drive?
“An Isuzu, actually,” he said. “But people joke around and call me Ford and all that stuff. Maybe eventually I'll switch over and match up my name with my car.”
They used to say these sorts of things about the annual KU-K-State battles but then Kansas State up and got good and now it's the Jayhawks holding down the fort for Sunflower State futility.
The Toilet Bowl they called those games. But now it might have gotten worse.
This weekend, when KU plays at Rutgers, two of the worst programs in the so-called Power 5 conferences will be squaring off in a game that both sides have to be looking at as a winnable and welcomed vision.
One problem: The rest of the nation has caught on to just how bad these two programs are at the moment and they're not afraid to poke a little fun.
Earlier this week, ESPN.com put both KU and Rutgers in the weekly Bottom 10 rankings, with KU coming in at No. 2 (just behind, or is it ahead of, New Mexico) and Rutgers sitting at No. 8. The outcome of this game could easily have a major impact on those standings no matter which way it goes.
And then Thursday, on the front page of ESPN.com, a feature titled, "Kansas vs. Rutgers is the game you have not been waiting for," ran near the top of the home page, bringing attention to the current struggles facing Kansas football.
Anyone who has followed this program at all during the past five or so years knows exactly what's going on. And, although it might seem like piling on to some of the KU fans who hold all things Jayhawks near and dear to their hearts, this kind of attention is definitely fair, even though it might not be a whole lot of fun for the Jayhawks.
Heck, even CigarAficianado.com has a Top 10 worst college football teams feature, with the Jayhawks ranking first and Rutgers in the "others receiving votes" category.
The good news about these two teams squaring off this week is that one of them has to win. And whichever one does will likely buy at least a couple of weeks of avoiding such negative publicity. Who knows? Maybe a win will even springboard some confidence and get things going in the right direction a little more quickly.
Again, who knows?
For now, all we do know is that these rankings and this kind of attention, though cruel, is absolutely justified until further notice.
Let the game begin!
Throughout preseason camp and the start of the 2015 season, I've mentioned on multiple occasions how the Kansas University football coaching staff — and, because of them, the KU players — seems like a group that is willing to embrace the hard work required to rebuild things at Kansas.
What's more, they all appear to be unfazed by bad results, tough times and the outside perception of the program.
A lot of little things have led me to believe this, from a glimpse of how things are run at practice to the way things are said during press conferences and some behind-the-scenes nuggets that I've heard about life in the KU football complex these days.
However, Monday morning, on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference, I heard one of the more concrete examples of this idea during KU coach David Beaty's five-minute phone call with the media.
Asked, after back-to-back home losses dropped KU to 0-2 in Beaty's first season as a Division I head coach, how he was handling the reality of the situation he had gotten himself into, Beaty as a beacon of positivity shined through.
The question: “About you, I'm just wondering how you're holding up. Obviously this has been a career goal, to be a college coach, for a long time. After you finally got the opportunity, what are the biggest changes you've seen in your routine and what you've had to do to prepare over the first two weeks of the season?”
Beaty's answer: “First of all, I'm holding up great,” he said with plenty of pep in his voice. “I'm still very, very excited about our football team. There's a lot of things that we learned about our team in the last two weeks that are gonna help us moving forward. You know, our goal, from the very beginning, has been to get just a little bit better every week. Even though the score doesn't show it, being 55-23, there was some things that we improved on in this football game.”
Beaty then went on to list a few of those areas of improvement, which included success in the turnover battle, on special teams and in the running game.
But, really, the specifics of his answer were irrelevant.
See, even though we're just two weeks into the 2015 season, the whole thing has come down to this for Kansas football. And, really, it's probably been about this all along: Success during the 2015 season will not be determined by wins and losses or point differential or anything like that. It's about survival.
At this point, even with Rutgers in two weeks seeming like a potentially winnable game on paper, it's unlikely that KU will win a game this season. That's not to say it can't happen. And that's not to say this team won't get better. I'm sure it will. But so will the other teams. And with KU starting from so far behind to begin with, that makes catching any of the other guys an almost impossible task.
Given that such thoughts seem to be universally accepted and are basically common knowledge on and around the KU campus, Beaty's positivity looks all the more impressive.
Like many of you, I've seen this whole thing unfold before. But I've never seen it look or feel quite like this.
I remember Turner Gill talking, after almost every loss, about how it was “just one game.” The problem with that logic after a certain point was that it wasn't just one game. It was an entire season. And then another one. And things never seemed to get better.
Enter Charlie Weis, whose loud personality and big bravado may have changed the sound of things but not the outcome. Weis, who rarely ever showed anything but extreme calm in the press conferences following losses, often sat there and said the same sorts of things as Gill, albeit in a different way — We just have to keep working and try to get better.
Both men did their best to remain poised and put forward a positive vibe. But neither were all that believable. Gill always looked to be in over his head and Weis always looked like he was trying to master the art of spin, therein making things sound, look and feel better than they truly were.
You won't get any of that with Beaty. And, frankly, I've been incredibly impressed by that.
It's not easy to remain positive — heck, it's not even easy to start from a position of positivity — when you're the one calling the shots and steering the ship for a program in as bad of shape as Kansas football.
But Beaty has. He's been honest and open and realistic and forthright from the very beginning and continues to be that way today, even after a couple of bad losses, one to an FCS team that pushed KU around and the other in blowout fashion to a team with which KU absolutely should expect to be competitive.
0-2 but no boo hoo. Just more of the same from Mr. Enthusiasm.
Don't get me wrong, Beaty's demeanor is not one of acceptance. He's not happy KU is 0-2 and he does not believe it's acceptable. But he definitely projects that he understands why they are, that he might even have been prepared for it to begin with and that he and the rest of his crew are willing to do whatever they have to do to keep working through it, good, bad or ugly.
“There's some things that we can build on,” Beaty said Monday morning. “But there's obviously some things that are giving us problems. The good news is, all of those things we saw on tape, those are all fixable. We just gotta be willing to step up and do 'em.”
This kind of attitude will not win games in 2015. But it could be the reason these kids stick around long enough and work hard enough to win games in 2016, 2017, 2018 and beyond.
Time will tell if that's the case, but while we wait, one black and white aspect of the program that will be easy to track is Beaty's disposition.
If he remains the same man and coach that he is today, I'll have no problem saying that this coach and this staff have a real chance of finally being the bunch that gets KU going again. If he doesn't and even he cracks under the weight and heavy load of lopsided losses piling up, it could be yet another bad sign for a program in desperate need of some positivity that Beaty tries to bring day in and day out.
Let the watch begin.
A little more than five minutes into Saturday's game, the Kansas University football team held a 10-0 lead, had picked up a couple of stops on defense, forced a turnover and looked sharp on offense.
For a brief period of time, Kansas actually looked like the better, more prepared team.
But things evened out dramatically during the next quarter and a half and ultimately tipped heavily in Memphis' favor before the fourth quarter even arrived. At that point, it was just another long night for a program that has seen so many of them during the past five seasons.
Yes, the Jayhawks kept fighting and, yes, believe it or not, there were some signs of progress and improvement. But those were small and hard to see and KU, now more than ever, is staring at the very real possibility of finishing a season winless for just the second time in 126 seasons of KU football.
There's a lot of football left to play and there's no doubt that anything can happen. So it may be way too early to jump to those kinds of conclusions. But the opponents are only going to get harder and this team clearly has a ton of work to do to get to the point where it's competing with anybody.
The biggest silver lining for the Jayhawks right now, however, is that these guys understand that and seem unafraid of going through it.
Two things are now clear about this Kansas football team — the defense needs some serious work and the success of the offense, though improved and certainly more exciting, depends so heavily on the play of the quarterback, which, on Saturday, was less than stellar. Memphis was a solid team in 2014 and appears to have another strong team this season. But there's no reason that the Jayhawks could not have been more competitive against a team of that caliber, particularly after starting with a 10-0 lead. The fact that they weren't is one of the strongest signs yet of just how deep of a hole the program is in and just how difficult it's going to be to climb out of it.
1 – Ke'aun Kinner can flat-out play and KU's going to need him to be great to have any chance during the rest of the season. The junior-college transfer who emerged as KU's best back after a solid spring and quality camp became the first Jayhawk since James Sims in 2013 to run for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games. Early on, it looked as if Kinner might wind up with 50 carries, as the Jayhawks handed it to him on five of the first six plays from scrimmage and 10 times by the 9:48 mark of the first quarter. KU backed off of that pace, largely because the deficit grew so quickly, but, even with the lopsided loss, Kinner, who finished with 113 yards and a TD on 16 carries, further established himself as a real talent.
2 – Although it didn't matter much toward the outcome, it was definitely a good sign that the Jayhawks improved in a couple of areas in which they struggled mightily in the opener. The tackling, as a whole, was better and KU came out of the gates much better, carving out a 10-0 lead and forcing an early turnover instead of falling behind 31-7 as it did last week. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the games are four quarters long and those gains, though encouraging, were not big enough to help deliver a victory.
3 – This two-kicker system seems like it just might work. Credit Nick “Yoda” Bartolotta for staying perfect this season on the “short” kicks. Bartolotta knocked in two more field goals and two extra points in Saturday's loss. But long-range bomber Matthew Wyman, who had another good day as the kickoff specialist, finally got a chance to show off his leg, hitting from 51 yards midway through the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach. Given the struggles of the defense and the potent nature of the rest of their opponents, field goals probably aren't going to be that important for the Jayhawks this season. But should there come a time where the three-point try is crucial, it's good to see Kansas has it covered, short or long.
1 – As good as he was in the opener at times, junior QB Montell Cozart was equally that bad in this one. It wasn't all his fault, though. Cozart was running for his life for much of the game, as the protection in front of him consistently broke down. That forced him to make some bad throws or throw some balls away and also kept him from getting comfortable enough to make good throws when he did have time. Cozart completed just 46 percent of his passes (one week after completing 66 percent) and threw for 118 yards. Week 1 was a fantastic step forward for the junior QB, but it was against FCS competition. Week 2 was a step backwards and there's no telling where things will go from here.
2 – Even if Cozart had been Cam Newton, it might not have mattered given the way the defense played. For the second week in a row, the defense gave up big plays, big chunks of yards and a big point total, creating legit concern that this group is a long, long way from being anywhere close to ready to compete in the Big 12. Memphis racked up 651 yards on just 79 plays and averaged 8.2 yards per play. The 55 points came even with the Tigers giving up three turnovers. There were far fewer missed tackles, but the secondary played way too passive and the guys up front got pushed around by Memphis' bigger and more experienced offensive line.
3 – While the “earn it” philosophy is solid in theory, I'm not sure it's doing KU any favors at the quarterback position. In Week 1, Cozart was sent to the bench for two plays after getting banged up and freshman Ryan Willis went in to replace him. Beaty said after the game that Willis had earned the right to be the Jayhawks' No. 2 QB, a promising sign given KU's struggles at the position during the past few years and Willis' long-term potential as an answer. But then Saturday, during the fourth quarter of a game that was already decided, junior-college transfer Deondre Ford went in as KU's No. 2 guy. Beaty said after the game that Ford had out-played Willis during the week and, therefore, earned the opportunity. But based both on what I've heard and seen, I don't think Ford is the answer, now or in the future, so it seems at least a little strange that Beaty and company would not have wanted to get Willis some more live reps in case he is needed sooner rather than later. For the record, freshman Carter Stanley did not suit up for Saturday's game.
KU's loss to Memphis in Week 2...
• Dropped the Jayhawks' all-time record to 579-600-58.
• Marked just the fifth non-conference home loss in 32 tries dating back to the 2003 season.
• Included a Kansas defense forcing Memphis to lose three fumbles in the game, the most loose balls recovered by a Jayhawk defense since also pouncing on three mishandles at Oklahoma State, Nov. 10, 2007.
• Featured KU giving up the most total yards of offense since Baylor rolled to 669 yards in 2014.
The Jayhawks (0-2) will have their lone bye of the 2015 season this week and will not play again until they travel to Rutgers for a Sept. 26 kickoff in New Jersey. Rutgers dropped to 1-1 with a 37-34 home loss to Washington State last weekend and will play at Penn State on Saturday night before hosting the Jayhawks.