Monday, October 4, 2021

After Week 5, struggling KU defense ranks at or near bottom of FBS in several categories

Baylor running back Trestan Ebner (1) is tripped up by Kansas safety O.J. Burroughs (5) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Baylor running back Trestan Ebner (1) is tripped up by Kansas safety O.J. Burroughs (5) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)


Five games into Lance Leipold’s first season in charge of the Kansas football program, the Jayhawks’ defensive shortcomings have proven to be problematic.

After a solid showing in the season opener against FCS opponent South Dakota — the Coyotes scored just 14 points and totaled 263 yards — KU’s defense found it much more difficult to get stops against FBS competition.

Opponents have scored at least 45 points and posted at minimum 460 yards of total offense in the four consecutive losses leading up to the team’s current bye week.

There were so many unknowns coming into this season, Leipold said recently, he didn’t know back in the preseason exactly what to expect out of the defense.

“I wish we were playing better,” he added, ahead of KU’s 59-7 loss at Iowa State in Week 5.

Even before that blowout, Leipold said defensively the Jayhawks weren’t “anywhere close” to performing at the level “we want them or need them to be” on third and fourth downs.

“Also there’s too many big plays altogether. We continue to work on that,” Leipold said.

Faults have popped up all over the place for KU’s defense, including with the Jayhawks’ tackling — an issue that defensive coordinator Brian Borland and Leipold have said they continue to address on a daily basis.

In the meantime, KU ranks among the worst in the country in a number of FBS defensive statistics, including scoring defense (43.8 points per game allowed, 128th) and total defense (494 yards per game allowed, 124th).

Leipold said the Jayhawks (1-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12) have to not only be more consistent defensively, but also improve their physicality and execution.

“A lot of that comes with experience. It comes with strength. It comes with confidence to play downhill. It’s confidence in the scheme,” Leipold said. “They’re still learning and understanding to really let it loose.”

Here’s a look at where the KU defense currently ranks among the 130 FBS teams in some key statistical categories.

KU football’s 2021 defensive stats (through Week 5)

Scoring defense: 43.8 points per game allowed (128th)

Rushing defense: 251.2 yards per game allowed (127th); 5.95 yards per carry allowed (124th)

Passing defense: 242.8 yards per game allowed (84th); 9.9 yards per pass attempt allowed (130th); 70.7% opponent completion percentage (125th); 176.16 opponent passing efficiency rating (130th)

Total defense: 494 yards per game allowed (124th); 7.4 yards per play allowed (128th)

Sacks: 0.6 per game (tied-126th)

Tackles for loss: 2.8 per game (130th)

Interceptions: 0.2 per game (118th)

Passes defended (broken up or intercepted): 2.0 per game (125th)

Fumbles forced: 1.4 per game (tied-10th)

Fumbles recovered: 4 recovered (tied-26th); 44.4% fumble recovery percentage (65th)

3rd down defense: Opponents converting on 51.72% (30-for-58) of their chances (125th)

4th down defense: Opponents converting on 57.14% (4-for-7) of their chances (tied-85th)

Red zone defense: Opponents scoring on 100% (22-for-22; 20 touchdowns and 2 field goals) of their red zone trips (tied-124th); opponents scoring a TD on 90.91% of their red zone trips (130th)

Opponent long scrimmage plays: 92 plays of 10+ yards allowed (125th); 27 plays of 20+ yards allowed (106th); 10 plays of 30+ yards allowed (tied-72nd)

Opponent long rushing plays: 44 runs of 10+ yards (129th); 9 runs of 20+ yards (tied-107th); 3 runs of 30+ yards (tied-73rd)

Opponent long passing plays: 48 passes of 10+ yards (tied-92nd); 18 passes of 20+ yards (tied-99th); 7 passes of 30+ yards (tied-62nd)

— Statistics from


Brett McCabe 1 year, 2 months ago

It’s rough, I know. If this were year three of Miles, we’d be getting the exact same thing or worse, and we’d be talking about his firing. If it were Beaty, we’d have a walk around guy, our ninth O.C. and an offense that, finally, could interest Texas recruits. Or maybe not.

There is only one thing to do right now as a KU football fan, and that’s cheer these young men on.

You can’t analyze the coaching staff or their decisions, because the program has been looted. First by Zenger/Weis. Then by Zenger/Beaty. Then by Long/Miles. And Major Milktoast Girod. Keep your frustration aimed at the idiot millionaires who created this mess, not the young DB who forgot that he had no safety support on an out route.

I applaud these young men and this staff. They have taken on the biggest challenge in FBS football. Thank you.


Rodney Schulz 1 year, 2 months ago

Who was that idiot chancellor who fired Mangino and hired a complete bonehead to replace him?

Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

Fumbles forced and recovered!

That’s something to build on.


Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

We were one of the youngest teams last year and guessing it will be the same again this year. There aren’t many JV squads that would fare well against varsity squad but these guys will grow.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

Rodney - Mangino’s last team was starting the losing streak which had grown to 7 games. He had also alienated chunks of the squad, including our record setting QB, and wasn’t personally taking action to correct it.

‘07 was a great year but we were already already spiraling into the cesspool that the others have perpetuated as Brett chronicles.

Doug Cramer 1 year, 2 months ago

It wasn’t the chancellor who fired Mangino, it was Lou Perkins.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Lou was the most dangerous risk to this university.

I’m not sure the end is in sight. Our recruitment class for next year is ranked 98 right now.

Is Leipold able to recruit here ?

Rodney Crain 1 year, 2 months ago

All coach L. can do is be his best Ted Lasso. Try to make sure no one gets hurt, keep their focus, and work towards the future.

He should take a long vacation during the offseason that so he can flush this season down the drain.

Layne Pierce 1 year, 2 months ago

We are always the youngest, the most inexperienced, the slowest, the smallest, you named it it is us. I support the coaches 100% and the players, but I am concerned about the business as usual approach of many.

We have been terrrible since 2004, and how we are perceived is part of our problem. That is why I am no longer in favor of being outscored by 40 pts a game, and not tryiing to do anything to mitigate it.

I fail to see how being drubbed everyweek is doing anything for our program, so I repeat use some option, run the clock down on most plays, and shorten the game, at least we could reduce the horrible scores. It might even drive the other teams crazy.


Dirk Medema 1 year, 2 months ago

Layne - I think you have some years mixed up but that’s understandable after what seems like an eternity. There were big chunks of terrible football before 2004 while 2007 & 2008 at a minimum were good to great years.

It’s also understandable to be pessimistic but to claim the coaches are “not tryiing to do anything to mitigate it” seems to disconnected from reality. Articles have repeatedly documented at least some of what the coaches are doing. They’re just not doing what you suggest nor is it happening as quick as you want.

Layne Pierce 1 year, 2 months ago

How long do you think we have Dirk, to straighten it out. Forever?


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