Oh so close: Poor execution costs Kansas in heartbreaking home loss to TCU

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) walks through the tunnel to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 24-23 heartbreaking loss to TCU on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

A 54-yard field goal hung in the air Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium as the Kansas football team’s head coach said a prayer and its starting quarterback looked away, too nervous to watch.

The collective gasp from the 23,946 in attendance signaled the result before the officials positioned in the south end zone waved their arms, making the miss and the Jayhawks’ fourth consecutive loss all but official, with just two ticks left on the game clock.

In the minutes following a 24-23 defeat at the hands of TCU, second-year KU head coach David Beaty, who just watched his team’s defense spearhead a would-be upset that nearly ended the program’s 14-game Big 12 losing streak, had to dial down his patented positivity to make it clear moral victories shouldn’t be the endgame.

“Fighting tooth and nail is not the goal. The goal is to go win the game,” Beaty said after senior kicker Matt Wyman’s would-be winner missed to the right. “Fighting tooth and nail, that’s the minimum expectation — that’s the price of admission. That team (TCU) fought tooth and nail, as well. You’re gonna get that week in and week out in the Big 12.”

It took a wild final series from KU’s offense just to get in position for the kick, attempted on third-and-two from the left hash with six seconds left in the fourth quarter. Horned Frogs senior defensive end Josh Carraway sacked the Jayhawks’ new starting quarterback, Ryan Willis, on back-to-back plays in the final minute, eventually leading to a fourth-and-22 from KU’s 31-yard line. Incredibly, Willis hit sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr., who lateraled to junior Bobby Hartzog Jr. In total, a 24-yard completion kept hope alive.

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Postgame: David Beaty on 24-23 loss vs. TCU

Kansas football coach David Beaty answers questions following his team's 24-23 loss against TCU, which moved the Jayhawks to 1-4.

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And even though Sims next got flagged for offensive pass interference, pushing KU backward, Willis found one of his most talented targets again on first-and-25 near the Frogs’ sideline, and Sims’ ninth reception of the game got Kansas to TCU’s 37-yard line, the spot of Wyman’s final kick.

“My heart was racing. I didn’t even watch that last kick,” said Willis, adding Wyman, who made a 50-yarder in the second quarter and three of six tries overall, kept KU (1-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12) in the game.

Beaty said he took some pride in seeing his offense somewhat successfully navigate the field against TCU (4-2, 2-1) with a two-minute drill in crunch time.

“Man, we got down there and we gave ourselves a chance. For that I’m elated,” Beaty began. “I’m so fired up that we’re starting to grow as a team. We gave ourselves a chance to win. But, man, I am burning inside with the fact that we weren’t able to get the win, because I feel like we gave it away in a lot of ways. So we have to go back to the drawing board and not just let some self-inflicted things keep costing you.”

Any number of examples existed in the category of “what cost KU this week?” Willis (31-for-45 passing, 348 yards), in his first start of the season, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. TCU sacked the quarterback five times. KU’s five penalties for 61 yards seemed to come at inopportune times. Wyman missed field goals from 37 and 41 yards in the fourth quarter.

But in Beaty’s mind one third-quarter sequence proved as costly as anything for Kansas. After quickly advancing the ball up the field with the help of a 67-yard catch-juke-and-sprint sequence from junior receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (eight receptions, 131 yards), the Jayhawks had first-and-goal at TCU’s two-yard-line and came away with just a field goal.

Neither sophomore running back Taylor Martin (18 carries, 66 yards, one touchdown) nor senior Ke’aun Kinner (seven rushes, 36 yards) could punch the ball across the goal line when Beaty called three straight run plays, and the Jayhawks had to settle for a 21-yard Wyman field goal — giving KU a 16-14 lead late in the third quarter.

“I think the thing that’s probably gonna be keeping me up tonight is not putting the ball in the end zone from the one-inch line,” Beaty said, adding KU would have gone for it on fourth down had Martin not been tackled for a loss on third down, pushing Kansas back to the four. “That’s a big deal. We had the ball down there and that play that knocked us back where we had to kick the field goal, we’ve just gotta be more disciplined as a group.”

Kansas actually extended its lead to nine entering the fourth. After settling for Wyman field goals twice in the third, the KU offense finished the quarter in style, when Willis dropped back to pass, couldn’t find an open receiver and decided to take off for a 21-yard touchdown run, completing it at the goal line by spinning off a charging defender.

However, Willis understood his four first-half turnovers made it all the more difficult for his four-TD underdog team. The outcome could have been different with a cleaner game. Kansas out-gained the Frogs, 470-366 in total offense.

“Just execution,” Willis said of where things broke down for KU on the turnovers. “We saw what they were doing. We just didn’t execute. We made bonehead mistakes. But they’re there — the shots are there. We can make plays. This team doesn’t know how good we can be. Once we get out of our own way we’re gonna be pretty dang good.”

Week after week this season, Kansas coaches and players alike have lamented the team’s slow starts, but the Jayhawks finally began a game with some positive plays on both sides of the ball against TCU. The offense appeared as ineffective as ever on its first series, when Horned Frogs defensive back Nick Orr picked off Willis on a third-and-13 throw. As it has grown accustom to doing, though, the Kansas defense quickly made the miscue a little less disastrous. Two plays into TCU’s first possession, KU senior corner Brandon Stewart intercepted Kenny Hill’s first pass of the game.

Though it took the offense a little while to get warmed up and the unit went three-and-out on its second possession, TCU’s offense couldn’t make the home team pay for it. On a first-down pass play, Dorance Armstrong Jr. sacked Hill and stripped him of the ball. Another KU defensive end, Damani Mosby, recovered the ball.

Nine plays later, Martin rushed for a one-yard score and Kansas took its first lead since the season opener, against Rhode Island.

The rare fast start allowed KU’s defense, which held Hill to 17-for-32 passing and 206 yards, with three interceptions and one TD, to keep the game close.

A couple hours later, the vibe on the Kansas bench reached a new height, according to Stewart, who also picked off a pass in the third quarter, and finished with five total tackles.

“It was actually cool this week,” Stewart shared of watching the offense try and drive for a last-second victory. “There was a sense of belief on the sideline rather than others in the past, you felt like, ‘Ah, we might lose.’ But I felt like we came together and it was just a different feel out there, so I feel like we’re coming together. I think we are establishing an identity — slowly but surely. It’s good to be out there with those guys, man.”

Reluctantly, following the narrow defeat, Beaty admitted Kansas actually took a step in the right direction during the loss.

“The pride in me wants to say that it shouldn’t be, but you know what, we’re developing,” Beaty said. “I love our team, like I said before. They’re showing improvement in different things. If we continue to do that, I think we’ll continue to play competitive football and give our fans something they can be proud of. We’re gonna stay the course.”

Kansas travels next week to Waco, Texas, to face undefeated Baylor (5-0, 2-0).


More news and notes from Kansas-TCU football


Comments

Brett McCabe

What's been in the way is boneheaded coaching. That seems to be better now that we've settled on a quarterback. Of course, we still waste first downs on 0-passes that put us behind the chains too often.

To keep his job, Beaty should be required to hire an O.C. next year. Don't change the offense, again, just get someone else to run it.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Lance Hobson

What a waste. Great effort but that shotgun call on 3rd and inches was as bad as Pete Carrol's pass call in the SB. Just sneak it in, why is this so hard? Terrible kicking and that freak fumble play didn't help either. When your program is this bad you just can't pass up these gifts.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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David Robinett

Nope, progress is being made.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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David Robinett

For once I felt normal game stress rather than the usual despair of a KU football fan. Thats progress!

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Ross

Yes indeed!

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Humpy Helsel

Failed on 1st and goal to score at TD. The "accidental fumble-roosky" (the type of play that only seems to happen to us) and three missed field goals. Convert one of the above, and you win a game this program BADLY needs. This team has no idea how to win. They appear to get into a situation where they have some prosperity and the players, the coaches, and all of the fan base can't seem to swallow or breathe (called choking). I have steadfastly refused to blame the coaching because we really can't fire this coach without giving him at least 4 years. But I have to say... watching them makes one wonder.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Kevin Fest

Wyman is lost for the rest of the season. It's in his head now he blew a big game he blew a game that had a chance to turn the program around he won't be the same the rest of the season he misses kicks he should make he's not a clutch kicker I'm sorry just like the coaching staff needed to see it a lot earlier Cozart was not the right quarterback the coaching staff needs to get a new kicker get anybody else in there hello volunteer my grandmother.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jerry Walker

This attempt at psycho-analyzing Wyman's state of mind is really weak chili.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jay Scott

At least it's not another rant about the locker room renovation....

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Michael Lorraine

Feel really bad for Matt.

That last attempt had the distance.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Joe Ross

Random thoughts:

1. Willis is raw, but showed he has the stuff to be a decent quarterback.

2. What happens to Montell Cozart?

3. Will Kansas use the TCU game to boost confidence in preparation for Baylor, or will they have a hangover feeling too good about ourselves and lose focus against a very potent team.

4. How good is this Kansas defense?

5. Is Beaty's coaching getting better or worse?

6. Maybe having the faith to start Willis, stay with him the whole game, and seeing a positive result will give Beaty a similar kind of trust in his coaching staff. Beaty should relenquish direct control of the offense to his coaches.

7. Can Kansas win another game this year? Which one(s)?

8. It was great to be interested in a game from start to finish. Last time I felt that way was 2008.

9. Bowen's stock is rising.

10. Wyman is going to have to recover his confidence. We will need him.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Michael Lorraine

5) By virtue of starting Willis he is already a better coach. Lots of complaints about his coaching today but I thought he called a good game. 23 first downs, 470 total yards, time of possession. It was the missed field goals, fumble and facemask penalty that killed us.
7) OSU, ISU and UT in no particular order. Those are our only remaining home games. Don’t think we can win on the road.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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David Kemp

Wyman will never deliver when it matters! Beaty even more so displayed lack of ability not being able to close a game. And I feel that only way to judge if true progress is being made is to not get blown out next game. If so count this up to one hit wonder.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jeff Soisson

This Big 12 conference is too good to give 4 turnovers in the first half and 3 missed field goals to anyone, whether you are KU or OU/Baylor. I think Beaty needs to stop talking about winning and tell everyone 'focus on no (or a few) mistakes'. Goal line play calling still is horrible, running 3 run plays behind center at the 3 yard line? That is really creative. Show pass, QB can still run in. We need more 3rd down screen plays, let them rush everyone and we go over the top. Bring Cozart in for goal line run/pass packages.

Blame coaching if you will, but the 'hook and ladder' was thrilling and well executed, reminded me of the Reesing days. Gutsy call, well executed, nice! Nice to see a 4 quarter game, really an awesome change we have not seen in a long time!

I still want to think we can beat Iowa State if we clean up our mistakes and if we keep improving. If we do win that, I put Texas on upset alert, they hate cold weather, 11am start times and going to Kansas. They look horrible this year and ripe for a road loss.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jay Scott

How does a football team that Vegas put the over/under on wins at 1.5 have Chicken Little fans?

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Ashwin Rao

The 0.5 is for the "almost won", so we are on target.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryan Mohr

Hopefully a sign of progress. Too soon to tell. Recall that in Weis' second year he only lost by 10 @ TCU, and he defeated WVU by 12. Just saying that almost defeating TCU at home in Beaty's second season doesn't mean much at all. Are you ready for more Mangino from me? Of course not, but I don't care. Mangino's second season: beat Mizzou by 21, lost @ CU by 3, beat Baylor by 7, lost @ TAMU by 8, beat ISU by 29. But I suppose Mangino's "cupboard" inherited from Terry Allen wasn't AS bare as Beaty's... right? Like I've said before, I don't see Mangino type progress from Beaty's team, but I have almost no confidence that KU would hire someone better than Beaty. Time will tell.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jim Stauffer

And few of those teams could hold a candle to the teams we will play in the Big 12 this year.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Bailey

The play calling was improved but never up to 'normal' and last year's OC was even worse. And why did it take 3 games to learn Willis is the QB? We need a GOOD OC.
Some of the position coaches are much improved! But the Defensive Plan is deficient. They still can't be trusted to 'tackle. The first defender should wrap up the runner; 2nd and 3rd should go for the ball! Why is it hard to change tackling enough to go from 1 out of 3, to 9 out of 10? And it seems the defensive backfield are out of position. So we need a well qualified DC.

The team is qualified, however, to do as well as they did with the coaching we have.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Michael Lorraine

Martin had a good game except for the play he freelanced on. I don't know if he was supposed to go up the middle or off the right tackle but there was a huge whole on the right side of the line. Overall Beaty called a game that put his players in a position to win so I can't fault him. If Martin follows the script and Wyman sinks what should be make able field goals we are not having this conversation.

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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Kenneth Hillman

Obviously some things we can point to now that could have / should have gone differently for the win. Hell, the refs took 8 points off the scoreboard on a bogus holding call that brought a touchdown back (we ended up getting 3) and a ball that crossed the td line ruled down at the 1 (we ended up getting 3). Some play calling could have been improved (sneak it from the 1, run the ball in the 4th when you have a lead and your O line is rolling) but some was great (hook and ladder) which always is going to be the case and we just need to learn and improve. We missed field goals that we need to practice on. Turnovers are killer but we got a lot from them too. My point is we have the option now to either complain about what could have been and waste time trying to place blame on a missed opportunity for a win...or we can point to the positives, learn from our mistakes, and continue to improve. I saw a lot of improvement on Saturday and was very proud of our team. One, we have our QB1. How fired up were you when Willis ran through defenders, not to be stopped, for a TD?! This is what we need to tap into. The defense did not let them out to a fast start, created turnovers, and played hard all game. The offense did a good job starting and sustaining drives to give the D a breather. I for one am hoping the message is we are right there gentlemen. It's a sinking feeling to not win a ballgame like that but we are right there! Continue doing the good we did on Saturday, make a few small tweaks on the improvement areas and we are going to be in every game. We are going to win. What route do we take? What message is delivered?

Rock Chalk

9 months, 2 weeks ago

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