— Kansas (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big 12) at No. 4 TCU (6-0, 3-0) • 7 p.m. kickoff, Saturday, Amon G. Carter Stadium • Game-time forecast: 82 degrees, cloudy, 39% chance of rain • TV: FOX • Radio: KLWN, FM 101.7 / AM 1320
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1. Escape your offensive reality
Facing likely the most imposing defense they will see all season, members of the Kansas offense are better off approaching this game as if the pratfall at Iowa State never happened. It won’t do quarterback Peyton Bender or his teammates any good to dwell on the blunders that led to a 106-yard shutout seven days earlier when TCU’s defenders will soon be breathing down their necks.
Offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham set the tone for a mind-cleansing week of preparation the day after the botched visit to ISU. A week earlier, after scoring 19 points in a loss to Texas Tech, Meacham showed about 30 clips of offensive mistakes to the entire unit in order to hold players accountable in front of their peers. He took a decidedly alternate approach following a tedious afternoon of football at Iowa State.
“This game we kind of just went business as usual and made sure they saw the things that we can control. And just handled it positionally,” Meacham said. “You don’t want it to be a constant beatdown. You don’t want them to hate coming up here (to KU’s football facilities), too.”
On this episode of the KU Sports Hour, hosted by KU football beat writer Benton Smith, the KUsports.com staff discusses KU's 45-0 blowout loss to Iowa State. Topics include: What happened to KU's offense? (2:30-12:15), worst losses of the David Beaty-era (12:15-23:05), how potential staff changes would work (23:05-28:45) and ...
In the past two blowouts combined, Bender — who was benched the second half of the loss to Tech — has completed only 20 of 43 throws for 164 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. The junior QB needs a fresh start, even if TCU, which is tied with Oklahoma for the Big 12 lead in sacks (15), isn’t the best place for it.
Getting Bender in a rhythm early with reliable targets Steven Sims Jr., Ben Johnson and Jeremiah Booker is a must.
2. Keep progressing defensively
This week marked the first time since the days leading up to the season opener that KU’s defensive players could get ready for a game with clear signs of progress fueling their plan.
Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen could see small, steady steps from individuals over the course of the first month-plus of the season. But last week at Iowa State, when the defense limited the Cyclones to 318 yards and forced nine punts, the Jayhawks meshed better on the whole.
“It was good to have the kids finally enjoy some success and get some stops and feel good about their performance for a game,” Bowen said.
Defensive regression isn’t an option if the Jayhawks hope to compete with the nation’s No. 4-ranked team, TCU.
A week ago, KU linebackers Joe Dineen (16 total tackles) and Osaze Ogbebor and nickelback Bryce Torneden combined to make 30 of the team’s 74 tackles and keyed a successful, run-stopping scheme that limited Iowa State to 2.5 yards per carry.
“For the most part each game it’s been individual breakdowns here or there and really not following the plan, whether it be trying to do someone else’s job, missing your own job or just missing technique-wise,” Bowen said of what has ailed KU most. “For us in that game (at ISU) the kids just stuck to the plan, which in that game was to stop the tailback (David Montgomery, 21 carries, 68 yards). I thought he was the most dangerous guy on the field, and of course (receiver Allen Lazard, three catches, 40 yards) on the outside.”
The Jayhawks need to build off those small victories versus a TCU offense that features three running backs — Kyle Hicks, Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua — averaging between 4.6 and 5.9 yards per carry with 13 rushing touchdowns between them.
3. No mistakes allowed on special teams
Third-year KU head coach David Beaty constantly brings up the importance of playing complimentary football in all three phases of the game. Indeed, for the Jayhawks to have any shot at upsetting the undefeated Frogs, considered a 39-point favorite in Las Vegas, the underdog visitors will have to play flawlessly on offense, defense and special teams.
The specialty situations couldn’t have gone much worse for KU at Iowa State, with a muffed punt return by Sims, a Cyclones punt return for a touchdown, a snap over punter Cole Moos’ head and a dropped snap by Moos that led to a punt that failed to reach the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve got to be able to mature past those mistakes, right?” Beaty said. “I mean the focus was on the first 15 and playing good in those first 15 minutes. If you have something negative happen to you, you’ve got to be able to bounce back.”
KU’s D-line vs. TCU O-line
While the TCU backfield of Anderson, Hicks and Olonilua, as well as mobile quarterback Kenny Hill, deserve much of the credit for the Frogs sitting atop the Big 12 in rushing, tied with Oklahoma State at 199.5 yards per game, they wouldn’t be there without their massive offensive linemen.
Though TCU has been without No. 1 center Patrick Morris the past few weeks due to injury, the projected starting five of left tackle Joseph Noteboom (6-foot-5, 306 pounds), left guard Cordel Iwuagwu (6-3, 318), center Austin Schlottmann (6-6, 300), right guard Matt Pryor (6-7, 338) and right tackle Lucas Niang (6-7, 315) has fared just fine.
Bowen identified sophomore Niang as a future first-round NFL draft pick and senior Pryor as a “mammoth of a human.”
It will be up to KU defensive linemen Daniel Wise, J.J. Holmes, Dorance Armstrong Jr., Josh Ehambe, Isaiah Bean and KeyShaun Simmons to make sure the Jayhawks aren’t overwhelmed at the point of attack. After back-to-back three-sack games for the defensive line, the group also has to make sure the pass rush doesn’t drop off when Hill is looking, and possibly scrambling, to find receivers such as KaVontae Turpin and Desmon White.
“In the Big 12, it’s kind of funny,” Bowen said. “A lot of times out of conference it gets a lot harder, because you get those things you didn’t prepare for, you didn’t see, kind of out-of-the-box stuff. Whereas you get into the Big 12 season, these guys, they kind of do what they do, so you get a little bit better idea of what you’re going to get on game day. Dorance and Daniel are just continuing to fight and play and actually getting home a little bit. So it’s been good.”
Winning on the road has proven unattainable for the KU football program 43 games in a row. So beating No. 4 TCU on its home field — Kansas is 5-50-1 all-time versus top-five teams and 8-80 in its history on the road against ranked opponents — looks highly unlikely.
The Jayhawks’ odds could suffer further blows, too, should starting center Mesa Ribordy and running back Khalil Herbert (both game-time decisions) be unable to play due to injury.
Ultimately, very few outside of the KU locker room expect the Jayhawks to pull off what would be the upset of the college football season. But a competitive showing against one of the nation’s best teams — in prime time, on FOX no less — would help Kansas as it attempts to make real progress in the final half of Beaty’s third season.
KU ….. TCU
KU run D vs. TCU run game √
KU pass D vs. TCU pass game √
KU run game vs. TCU run D √
KU pass game vs. TCU pass D √
Special teams √
TCU 52, Kansas 10