Decked out in blue uniforms and blue helmets, one could easily have mistaken Memphis for being Kansas on Saturday.
Seeing a receiver bust loose for an 84-yard score in the first quarter was the first clue that the Tigers — not the Jayhawks — were decked out in blue, en route to a 43-7 win.
This now leaves Kansas with a 1-2 record entering conference play, and it’s time to get pragmatic about the future. A 55-6 win over FCS foe Rhode Island instilled hope that this season could be different (indeed, one win compared to no wins is different) for David Beaty and crew.
Red, Morgan Freeman’s character in The Shawshank Redemption, was right: Hope is a dangerous thing.
Unless Beaty has been digging a hole with a rock hammer into Big 12 teams’ conference rooms to steal the playbook, there’s not much more hope to be found this season… except maybe in a toss-up matchup with Iowa State, a team that has lost its last two games by 60 points.
The exact prognosis doesn’t stem from any one point in particular, but it surely is negative. The inability of the offense to move the ball through the air and on the ground has left the defense out of breath. The only clarity is that there is no clarity — at least on offense — for the Jayhawks, who have used three quarterbacks without success.
Notre Dame and Texas may be praised for their systematic uses of multiple quarterbacks, but the Jayhawks proved just as inept no matter who was under center. Montell Cozart started out the day against Memphis throwing two interceptions (including one pick-six) and was followed by Ryan Willis, who flashed a brief sign of ingenuity only to turn the ball over himself.
The best quarterback hope lay with Carter Stanley, who intermittently entered the game as well. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 26 yards, but that came against a Memphis defense that was subbing out its starters in the second half. Collectively, the three quarterbacks were 26-of-41 for 193 yards and two interceptions.
For comparison’s sake — and to forecast the rest of the season — Kansas was 18-of-38 for 165 yards last season, using two quarterbacks in the 23-55 loss to Memphis. The lone refuge of that game was the use of running back Ke’aun Kinner. In that game, he rushed 16 times for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Against the Tigers on Saturday, Kinner was granted 12 touches for 49 yards. It was a cyclical performance all around. The struggle to move the ball vertically — zoning in on LaQuvionte Gonzalez all day — then prepped the Memphis defense to stop Kinner in his tracks. The Tigers cracked only once on a 66-yard dash from Khalil Herbert.
Next week the Jayhawks head to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech, which most recently gave up 68 points to Arizona State. If there’s a confidence-builder for an offense, it’s that defense.
The question lingers, though: What can Kansas’ offense achieve? Few encouraging answers were found against Memphis. Will any encouraging answers emerge for the rest of 2016?