Tom Keegan: Time for bad-start trend to end for Kansas football

Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II (5) runs for a first down past Kansas linebacker Marcquis Roberts (5) during the first quarter on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas opened its Big 12 football schedule in Lubbock last season with a realistic shot at shedding its habit of getting off to woeful starts. Texas Tech was coming off consecutive games in which it had allowed 68 points to Arizona State and 45 to Louisiana Tech.

So what happens? Kansas falls behind, 14-0, five minutes and five seconds into the game. The first-quarter score of KU’s first three games vs. FBS competition of 2016 drops to 42-0. KU’s first six possessions vs. Tech end in punts.

And all the talk a few days later centered on how to get off to quicker starts. A year later, the chatter is right back to where it started.

The time has come for Kansas to either put a stop to getting blown out of games right off the bat or brace for the reality that if this keeps up much longer, the stands will look at the beginning of games the way they do in the waning moments — by which time even Eleanor Rigby feels too isolated and heads home.

By halftime, Central Michigan led Kansas, 24-6. Ohio was up on the Jayhawks, 18-0, in the second quarter en route to a 25-14 lead heading into the third quarter. West Virginia took a 35-13 halftime lead.

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In its three games vs. FBS foes, all losses, KU has trailed at the half by an average score of 28-11, and has mustered just six first-quarter points.

I sometimes wonder how many among the “I’m just going to finish this beer and then head in” crowd listening on the radio in the parking lot decide before the beer has vanished that the game is over and never enter.

The trend that must end showed signs of vanishing late in 2016. Third-year head coach David Beaty has coached 25 games vs. FBS opponents and has taken a lead into the second twice. Those leads came on back-to-back weeks vs. Iowa State and Texas in the 10th and 11th games of last season.

But as has been the case so often this decade when Kansas does something positive, it fails to sustain the momentum.

Kansas State took a 20-3 halftime lead in the season finale, and things haven’t gone a great deal better than that in the first half this season.

In 25 first quarters vs. FBS competition, Beaty’s teams have averaged 2.7 points. Beaty addressed KU’s slow starts Tuesday and referenced a “quick-start drill” he calls for out of the blue in practices. OK, but not all problems have practice solutions. Maybe the answer lies in switching the game-day routine.

Might Beaty want to step way out of character during his pregame speech and locker-by-locker quickly blast every single player on the team, sharing with the whole room whatever negative quality about that particular player pops into his head? Just something to startle the players into thinking they owe the coach one.

Maybe pop in that eerie nighttime BBC Planet Earth video of a pride of lions teaming up to take down an elephant, or one of an eagle turning a wolf into its lunch, whatever will drag the team into the sort of visceral, savage mindset needed to wage battle in the Big 12.

During his time at Kansas, Beaty’s teams on average have been outscored in the first half, 26-7, and 18-9 in the second half, rounded to the closest digit.

Score by quarters, rounded to the closest digit:

First: Opponents 11, Kansas 3.

Second: Opponents 15, Kansas 5.

Third: Opponents 10, Kansas 5.

Fourth: Opponents 7, Kansas 4.

So it’s not just about slow starts, but fixing that might make a nice place to start.

Comments

Len Shaffer

Nice line about Eleanor Rigby ...

2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Brett McCabe

The "I'm just going to finish this beer..." line is right on the money and is a pretty apt description of the overall fan view of the program.

Doug Cramer might want to read the stats before, again, claiming that all we need to do is fire our D.C. and it will be all roses and bumblebees. The stat that is telling is the 3 first quarter points we've averaged against FBS competitors. I'd be interested to know the percentage of FBS teams who win games when only scoring 3 points in the first quarter. I'm guessing it's below the 10th percentile.

The defense has been epically bad, too. But one reason we don't need to fire the D.C. is because the entire staff will be gone in about 9 weeks.

David Beaty is a great, great guy. A better man than me in probably almost every way. But the slow starts have a constant theme. The blowouts have a constant theme. The curious player personnel decisions and revolving door in the coaching staff suggests where the problem lies. I think that Tom just didn't want to go there, again.

Beaty's enthusiasm is as relentless our program's ability to find ways to lose. When we were in the hiring phase after the Weis firing, I remember hearing Gary Barnett on the radio say that what Kansas needed, more than anything, was a professional coach (not NFL) who knew how to rebuild a program. Using Zenger's own words..."We went another way".

As I look around at successful program builders, I don't see a lot of rah-rah. Mike Leach? Bill Snyder? Glen Mason? Mark Mangino? Dave Doren? Gary Patterson? Jim Leavitt? Rah-Rah? Not so much.

Constant slow starts over three seasons aren't the players' faults. A bland meal can't be made better with table salt. The prep and cooking makes the difference. There is no substitute.

To me, the TTU game is the decider for the Beaty era. The spread is sitting at around 17 points. Come out ready to play, ready to score, ready to compete and able to beat the spread, and maybe you've shown that you have this thing pointed in the right direction. If you get whooped on home turf by three or four touchdowns, then I think we can all probably spend the balance of the season arguing about who the next head coach should be.

The CMU game was nearly disastrous. The TTU game could be about regime change.

2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Steve Corder

Some valid comments.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Jacob Zutterman

I’m sure he’ll probably show you the stats of previous years. I think it’s time for a new DC myself, but in Bowen’s defense, it’s hard to keep a team from scoring when your Defense is on the field most of the game

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Marc Frey

What I seem to remember is that during the first quarter of our last game, and one or two others, "self inflicted wounds" killed early momentum. False Starts being the #1 culprit. If a team can not do the basics, then we have real issues.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Robert Brock

Fire Sheahon Zenger! Do it NOW!

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Mike Bennett

I'm not in favor of firing Beaty. Changing HC's every couple of years is insane. You can't build anything changing coaches every couple of years. Plus, his first 2 years he was well down on numbers. He needs to figure out how to find some linemen. RB's and WR's are easy to find. Finding people to stop the other team is tough. Finding someone that drives people off the ball is tough. Watching Cozart at Boise St., it's not the QB. We need to quit blaming the QB's. Bowen on the other hand is a different story. He's been around forever. His scheme's haven't changed. He doesn't trust his corners to cover anyone so he plays them so far off the ball with hopes they will come up and make tackles that they are useless in actually defending passes. He needs to go.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Jeremy Morris

These are the sorts of issues that really have me questioning the staff. We just don't seem to be getting much better in the areas we can control. Regardless of talent or experience teams can play energetic yet disciplined football. Yet, we can't seem to ever get it together.

I also question whether we really get better in the second half or if the other team just let's up as a natural reaction to not being pushed and being so far ahead. (How many times have we seen our bball team succumb to this?!) Then, once the opponent shakes that funk off (4th quarter) we see a return to poor play and falling behind.

Thanks for having an article that is highlighting some of the issues that need to be addressed by this football team. Trotting out the same old message and coach speak (and things of that nature) and not getting any results is just getting tiresome.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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John Brazelton

Having a poor defensive back field this year is the result of not recruiting the right quality of players during the previous two years. Tewks have been made during the bye week. Let's see if it makes a difference against one of the best passing teams in the Big 12. Fire the coaches by posters every week is getting old. Almost all of our coaches have been successful in other programs, primarily Oklahoma State, TCU and California. They didn't lose their coaching abilities just by coming to Kansas. Let's see if the defensive back field can get better as the season progresses and we can cut down on interceptions.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Barry Weiss

"If" some stats show us doing better in the second half of games, I think we need to consider that many times our opponent has inserted their 2nd and 3rd team players into the game at that point, not always, but enough to skew the stats.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Brett McCabe

I think that there is a way to get at this. To your comment and to Jeremy's, there is a point where the competitiveness of the game changes. Mike Gundy pulled his starters before half-time a couple of years ago.

I felt that the WVU game was a sign of an opponent who kind of quit playing at half-time. And, in spite of all the celebration you saw on this site, we still didn't beat the point spread of 21, at home, with a visitor traveling half-way around the world, for an 11am game.

I think of KU games in a different way from almost all other games. I try to identify when the game is essentially lost and then try and forget about what happens after that point. You could alliterate and call it the "competitive quarters". At the end of the CQ's, the stats become meaningless. Points scored, sacks, yards, etc. The other team has essentially throttled down.

This is why I think that the TTU game will be a bellwether game. TTU needs the win, we've had a bye week to prepare, their defense is awful, it's another 11am start for the visitors, the stadium will be muted and Beaty needs to be competitive to survive. If you can't beat or come close to beating TTU on Saturday, then you have not moved this program forward. Period.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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Jeff Coffman

As Urban Meyer joined the Ohio State Buckeyes, the media said the cupboard was bare, the players aren't his, he'll need more time.

Urban said these are all my players and they will run my offense. Urban Meyer went 12-0.

Stoops second year national champ. Harbaugh 1 score from the BCS champion. Mangino year 2 bowl game.

Bowen has proven to be 115 to 125 in defense consistently, so Bowen gone is a no brainer. Beaty should be bought out and go for a winner not a rebuilder. Rebuilding assumes you can't win.

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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