It went about as expected, yet somehow, better than expected.
For the first time in a long time, the Kansas Jayhawk football team gave its fans – all five of them – a reason to watch their game deep into the fourth quarter despite playing a ranked team on the road.
The game plan actually went perfectly to start. KU controlled possession for all but 1:54 of the first quarter. The Jayhawks led 3-0 early, then 9-7 at the end of the first quarter. And although they went into halftime trailing by 13, the ‘Hawks would close to within 6 early in the third quarter. However, despite three drives after that that each covered 45+ yards, KU would turn the ball over on downs on those final three possessions of the game.
So the offense definitely improved from last week. The offensive line is still a disaster, but the offensive in general was much more productive. Following a week in which KU had five three-and-outs, against Coastal the Jayhawks had just two.
The run game found much more success this week, although again we have a bit of an asterisk. Kansas gained 174 yards rushing, good for 4.6 ypc. All three of KU’s touchdowns came via the run. However, two of those TDs were quarterback scrambles. Take Jason Bean out of the equation, and KU running backs gained just 72 yards at 2.9 ypc.
Digging a little deeper, I think it become obvious in identifying the culprit. Kansas actually gained 211 yards rushing, but had 37 “negative rushing” yards – i.e., plays that just got blown up. Bean himself lost 16 yards, Gardner 10 yards, and Jalon Daniels 11 more in mop-up duty. A week after South Dakota had 9 TFLs, Coastal Carolina racked up 11 of their own. Too many defenders are getting too much penetration in the run game.
During the game, I think maybe in the second half, one of the announcers commented following a Velton Gardner rush attempt something along the lines of, he needs to know when to go down because he just turned a 1-yard loss into an 8-yard loss.
Bottom line is, this offensive line has to get better, or Jason Bean may not last too much longer back there.
For the night, Kansas averaged 6.1 yards per play, a huge improvement over Week 1’s 3.6 ypp. (And this against a top-25 defense!) Coastal, however, is just an offensive machine. Their spread triple-option look is incredibly fun to watch, and the Chanticleers racked up 7.5 yard per play.
Coastal actually punted more than Kansas did, two to one, but that’s primarily due to KU going for it on fourth down five (!!!) times. KU was 0-5, but, I think it was the right decision every time. However, as fans are wont to do, playcalling on those attempts left a bit to be desired.
Kansas was 7-15 (46.7%) on third down despite constantly being in second-and third-and long situations. However, Coastal was 8-9 (88.9%) on third downs. The Chanticleers did not attempt a fourth-down conversion, and as mentioned above, KU was 0-5, bring the Jayhawks to just 1-8 on fourth downs on the year.
But let’s pause and talk about that just for a minute. In two games, Kansas has attempted eight 4th-down conversions. I’m actually incredibly happy about that. Obviously, we’d luck to see more success on those plays, but just the fact that KU is going for it is huge. In 2020, Kansas went for it on 4th down 24 times. 2019 saw 20 attempts. 2018 was 19 tries. Small sample size, but KU is currently on pace in 2021 to attempt 48 fourth-down conversions.
When you’re the underdog – especially a four touchdown underdog – you have to do things unconventionally to win. That’s something that Lance Leipold seems to understand that none of Les Miles, David Beaty, Charlie Weis, or Turner Gill ever figured out. You can’t just keep punting the ball away when the other team is better than you, and it’s actually refreshing to see a Kansas football coach that seems to understand that.
Back to the (semi) stats. Kansas was actually +1 in turnovers on the night, as the Jayhawks didn’t have any while managing to pick up a Coastal fumble. KU did have a few scares in the first quarter, with a Bean fumble and an INT that was overturned on review, but the Jayhawks escaped damage in that department.
If there was any doubt in your mind about who should be the quarterback after the South Dakota game, hopefully that has been put to rest. Bean was electrifying, particularly once he got out of the pocket. While he didn’t have a great passing night, he is a capable passer, and teams are going to have to respect his arm and his legs.
The offense is still a work in progress, which makes sense given the timeline of when this staff took over. However, the playcalling on some of these fourth downs needs to be just a bit more imaginative. For example, instead of a run play right up the middle, how about, I dunno, rolling out with your mobile quarterback and letting him make a decision?
It probably won’t happen this year, so this may be a recurring feature here, but the offensive line has to get better. There have been too many negative plays in the first two games of the year, and the Jayhawks have yet to get into conference play.
Jason Bean went 12-23 for 189 yards passing while adding 102 rush yards on just 13 carries. He was absolutely electrifying as a runner, scoring two TDs on the ground, one from 34 yards out and the other from 46 yards away.
Devin Neal picked up 40 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown, Curiously, only two of those carries came in the second half – not sure what was going on there.
Velton Gardner added 31 yards on 8 carries.
Torry Locklin picked up 11 yards on 3 carries.
Kwamie Lassiter led KU with 85 yards on 7 receptions.
Luke Grimm hauled in 5 passes for 75 yards.
Kenny Logan had 8 tackles as well as 76 return yards on 3 kickoff returns. I believe he is currently second in the NCAA in average kickoff return.
Kyron Johnson added 7 tackles, including 1.5 TFL and 0.5 sack, and recovered a fumble.
Ricky Thomas had 7 tackles as well.
Jacob Borcila nailed his only field goal attempt, a 46-yarder.