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.”


Nick Kramer 1 year, 2 months ago

It's possible to lose by 27 and only punt twice when you go 0-5 on fourth down tries. Three of those 5 might have resulted in field goals in the 4th quarter had the game been close enough to warrant. Total offense over 400 yds was encouraging.
Most concerning is opposition completing 17 of 21 pass attempts and KU getting just one sack.

John Strayer 1 year, 2 months ago

How in the hell do you let a defender jump over the o-line?

Edward Daub 1 year, 2 months ago

John, the leapfrog took us by surprise or we have short, stubby linemen.

It was a terrific play by that one lone defender.

Rodney Crain 1 year, 2 months ago

Miss a block by an inch, miss a block by a mile. - Fool's Gold movie (kind of)

0-5 on 4th down is a way to rest your punter.

We won the turn over battle. What? It's true we had 1 they had zero.

Just found this out - Our Special Teams on the right side of the line, they were Coastal players wearing stolen KU Jerseys. Same thing happened in the middle of our punt team. We Were Robbed, they cheated! It is the only thing that explains it.

Coach L can't fix everything.

Edward Daub 1 year, 2 months ago

Schooner rather than later, Jake needs to get this fixed.

On the 1 on 2 edge block, Trevor needs to be coached to block the inside guy and let the the outside guy go. "A man who chases two rabbits captures none".

On the 3 on 4 punt fiasco, they rushed through so easily, our guys were in shock! They moved to the right, blocked 3, but not the guy with a direct line to the stationary punter.

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