It’s three weeks into the season, and all the Kansas Jayhawks have to show for it is a win over a downtrodden FCS team. There’s no more romanticizing the situation in Lawrence as there was when everyone was 0-0.
A 43-7 lashing from Memphis last Saturday was a wake-up call for anyone still wedded to an ideal timeline for progress under coach David Beaty. The root of the problem? Beaty said he isn’t sure there is one:
“The great thing about this game is it takes all 11 guys,” Beaty said. “It’s not an individual sport. All 11 guys have to do their job effectively for us to prevent ball-security issues.”
Currently, the Jayhawks have 11 turnovers, which has limited their time on the field. Even the quickest offense can’t score when not on the field. Kansas has averaged just 25 minutes of possession per game — and had under 16 against Ohio.
The biggest problem connected to that Big 12-worst time of possession stat is those 11 turnovers, which lead the conference by six. The turnover margin stands at minus-seven, which Beaty said was “not acceptable.”
Though, as a coach always looking for the silver lining, he was happy with how the defense has helped limit the offense’s gaffes.
“We’ve had 11 turnovers but we’ve only give up 22 points off those turnovers,” Beaty said. “That’s amazing what our defense has been able to do. If we can minimize those mistakes, that will help us get into the win column.”
Those mistakes — while a team issue as Beaty prescribed — certainly aren’t doing the quarterback situation any favors. Kansas has even realized that within games, subbing out three quarterbacks in the flow of play this season. That strategy hasn’t solved any issues, but it has shaken up the situation in ways that could bring clarity to KU’s needs.
So far the starter has been senior Montell Cozart. He’s currently 48-of-71 for 484 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. That completion percentage is particularly attractive, but it hasn’t been all that effective considering that the 6.8-yard average per attempt ranks last among quarterbacks with at least 60 attempts.
Second-in-command has been sophomore Ryan Willis. He’s completing 63 percent of his passes with 232 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, but he’s at least shown improvement from last week, when he had a completion rate of just 52 percent, and he’s upped his average to 8.6 yards.
Lastly, freshman Carter Stanley has filled in for 10 attempts, completing seven for 82 yards and a touchdown. It’s a small sample size, but one to keep in mind moving forward.
Those stats look good for the most part, but are mostly inflated from a strong outing against Rhode Island. The game against a much stronger Memphis side brings things into focus. As the majority players, Cozart and Willis suffered tremendously. Each received a QBR under 10 points from ESPN, which most notably docked Cozart for his two interceptions.
While it would be easy to point to the offensive line not helping the cause, statistically that hasn’t been the case. Kansas has surrendered only two sacks this season. Only 13 tackles for loss have been suffered in the run game as well. The battle in the trenches hasn’t been the inciting issue; what has happened inside the pocket might be.
If things clear up with the quarterbacks and Kansas still struggles, it may be time for a complete evaluation of what this team is truly about.