Trying to make sense of the KU offense's season-opening struggles


Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson (9) puts a big hit on Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick (3) in the fourth quarter of a college football game between the Chanticleers and Jayhawks on September 12, 2020 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson (9) puts a big hit on Kansas quarterback Miles Kendrick (3) in the fourth quarter of a college football game between the Chanticleers and Jayhawks on September 12, 2020 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via AP Images) by Matt Tait

Twenty-three points and 367 yards, including just a field goal by halftime, was not exactly the offensive explosion Kansas football fans were expecting to see in the debut game of Offensive Coordinator Brent Dearmon’s first full season in charge of the Jayhawks’ offense.

But as unimaginative and ho-hum as the KU offense looked for much of the game on Saturday night, there were a couple of reasons why.

The reasons are not excuses, which you can come with for days. Instead, we’re talking about actual factors that had an impact on the offense’s slow and sluggish night. Here are a few of them.

• No Stephon Robinson – We still don’t know the reason for Robinson not playing in this one, and we may never. But not having him out there made things harder. The senior who was one of the Jayhawks’ most dangerous and reliable threats in the passing game in 2020 definitely would have made impact somewhere on the field had he been in uniform instead of street clothes. Heck, on the first drive alone, it almost certainly would have been Robinson on the field instead of freshman Lawrence Arnold, who allowed a perfectly throw ball from Thomas MacVittie to slip through his hands and into the arms of a Coastal Carolina defender, thus jumpstarting the early onslaught of KU miscues and CCU points.

• That 21-0 hole – Speaking of that early onslaught, Coastal Carolina’s ability to jump out to a 21-0 lead by the 11-minute mark of the second quarter had to impact that way KU’s offense called this one. Sure, there was still plenty of time to settle in and execute, but staring into a 21-0 hole — that eventually grew to 28-0 — does not exactly create a sense of calm for the players or the coaches. KU’s opening drive looked promising and featured a good run/pass blend. But once the deficit grew to three scores, the Jayhawks surely had to adjust their game plan from what they had envisioned throughout August. I get it. If you don't want to play from 21 points behind, don't get down 21 points in the first place. But the offense can only control so much of that, and that specific situation certainly contributed to what they called.

• Neither MacVittie & nor Miles Kendrick is as talented as Carter Stanley – No one knew at this point last year, of course, just how good of a season Stanley was going to have. But it seems a little more certain that neither MacVittie nor Kendrick is in line for that type of season in 2020. And while that’s obviously significant in terms of what it means for the calls Dearmon can make, it also is important to remember when evaluating what happens at the QB position from here. As much as it would be nice to see KU pick one guy and go with him, the fact that the coaches did not do that in Week 1 tells you all you need to know about their confidence in either quarterback.

• The O-line struggled mightily – MacVittie or Kendrick, Pooka Williams or Velton Gardner — it often did not matter who was in the game at either position, as the Coastal Carolina defensive line physically won at the point of attack far too often for the Jayhawks to find any real rhythm or comfort on offense. That was to be expected to some degree, given the fact that KU's O-line featured a few new faces from a year ago. But it also has to get better, and fast, if the Jayhawks hope to enjoy the kind of offensive season that their talented group of weapons at the skill positions could deliver.

• Dearmon’s still relatively new in his role – Sure he has experience calling plays at lower levels and also possesses extensive knowledge about how to coach football and call offenses, but he’s still doing it all at Kansas — and under Les Miles — for the first time. Maybe that means Miles still has some say in how the offense runs. Maybe that means Dearmon still needs a few weeks with this particular group to find his footing. Remember, the Jayhawks, like the rest of college football, got no spring practices and had a limited and spotty preseason camp before kicking things off for real. The hype surrounding Dearmon and his impact on the program has certainly created the expectation for the Jayhawks to be a juggernaut on offense. And they might become that in time. But the personnel is still too limited and Dearmon is still a little too green for Kansas fans to expect their team to light up the scoreboard week in and week out with consistency.

Growing pains are real, and the Jayhawks were always going to experience some of them in the season opener. Especially against a Coastal Carolina team that returned 75% of its production from 2019 and a talented defense.

It’s totally fair to expect more and better, and it’s also fair to criticize the effort that the Jayhawks put forth on Saturday night.

But let’s see how things play out over the next few weeks before making any final judgements about the 2020 season.

Remember, Stanley completed just 13 passes for 107 yards while also tossing two interceptions against these guys a year ago. He followed that up by passing for at least 230 yards and 3 TDs in five of his next six games.

The Jayhawks don’t have Stanley anymore. But they do still have Dearmon. Now’s when he earns his money.


Dale Rogers 2 years ago

I read somewhere today that CC DID have spring practice. Did all of the Sun Belt Conference have spring practice? In any case, as you said, missing two offensive starters hurt. Still, you take away the bad start, the 21 points from those turnovers, and we won the rest of the game. Not that it helps anything other than to hope things will get better.

Micky Baker 2 years ago

All 3 turnovers were completely avoidable in my opinion. The first INT, the receiver had both hands on the ball and it went through his hands. The throw was high, but you have to make that catch. The 2nd turnover was a misread on a block and he ran into his own player. Same player responsible for the first 2 turnovers. The 3rd turnover was when Kendrick telegraphed his pass and had made the same throw a few plays earlier and the defender read it and was right there. Ball shouldn't have been thrown. I get these are correctable mistakes but without those 3 turnovers which resulted in 21 points for CCU, without those points we win the game even if we don't score any more than we did. With that said, we could have overcame those mistakes but the switching up on QB in the first half never let either QB get into a rhythm early on and we were stagnant. But beyond that, we moved the ball well enough to win, but those mistakes need to be fixed to have any chance to win a game this year. It is time to get focused for these guys and get rid of the external distractions.

Brett McCabe 2 years ago

Agree about the QB shuffling. I was so impressed with last years commitment to Stanley. Of course, we didn’t win a lot of games, so you could easily argue it wasn’t a good strategy.

My feelings about QB’s is simple, if they don’t have confidence, they don’t have anything. They have too much to do, putting doubt in their minds doesn’t help them.

If you can’t pick your QB, then you aren’t doing your job. Last year Les stayed with his guy. Now we have a whiz-bang Flavor of the Day O.C. and we are into platooning.

Dearmon feels a lot like Beaty, so I’m hesitant to proceed with the anointing.

It will be a long, weird season. And that’s the full test. But the the first game out was a massive, epic fail.

Dane Pratt 2 years ago

The absence of Williams, Robinson and Luavasa on offense didn't help.

Brian Wilson 2 years ago

LOL Brett!

A missing Stephen Robinson is no excuse. KU would have had the turnovers anyway. Quarterbacks should be trained to recognize and throw into good situations. The O-line did look bad, unorganized, not communicating and out run by a supposed speedy team. How is it that the 3 star players recruited by a CC, a Sun Belt school, are any better athletes than the 3 Star players KU is recruiting?

Jerry Walker 2 years ago

"Lawrence Arnold, who allowed a perfectly throw ball from Thomas MacVittie to slip through his hands" -- Tait

It was not a perfectly thrown pass. It could have been caught but your misplaced sole blame of Arnold isn't the truth...the throw was high.

Dane Pratt 2 years ago

But catchable. Maybe MacVittie had to throw over the D-line. Either way, the interception is on Arnold.

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