Dealing with blowout defeats currently part of job for Les Miles at KU

KU coach Les Miles joins his team on the field during KU's 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

No Power Five college football program knows the despair of a blowout defeat quite like Kansas.

It was an experience head coach Les Miles wasn’t too familiar with before inheriting the ever-rebuilding program. However, three games into Miles’ second season leading the Jayhawks, he has three times been on the wrong end of a loss of 35 or more points — something that never occurred during his first 197 games as a head coach from 2001 to 2016.

“We’re in pain,” Miles said of his message to his KU players this past weekend, immediately following a 47-7 homecoming loss to Oklahoma State. “But in my opinion we’re going to continue to work hard and you’re going to be something. This is going to be a good football team.”

Optimism for the future has become a regular sentiment among head coaches at KU through the years. But lopsided trouncings have remained a staple, too.

As detailed in a feature called “The Blowout Directory” at college football website Banner Society, from 1990 to 2019, no Power Five program has suffered as many clobberings of 35 or more points as KU. The Jayhawks endured 60 such losses over that 30-year span. Only New Mexico State (62) had a worse run among FBS teams.

Rutgers was the only other team from a major conference to show up in the directory’s bottom 10, with 47 such losses.

Just two of KU’s 60 poundings came under Miles — a 51-14 loss at TCU in 2019, and a 61-6 loss to Baylor to conclude his first season in Lawrence.

Following the first such hammering of 2020, senior KU linebacker Denzel Feaster said Miles was a “great coach” who looks at the upside of a bad situation with his players.

Still, Feaster said Miles doesn’t sugarcoat everything in his talking points.

“He tells us not necessarily what we want to hear, but he tells us what we need to hear,” Feaster said. “And we take it for what it is and what it’s worth. And we’re just going to go back to the drawing board and work on the positives.”

There aren’t a lot of those following games with these types of margins. Even so, sophomore safety Kenny Logan Jr. said Miles has the ability to encourage KU players when the results are bleak.

“Coach Miles continues to keep the whole team together, and he continues to show us that he’s by us day in and day out,” Logan said.

Miles described himself as both “honest and optimistic” when trying to help KU players regroup following a rout. He said he prefers to commend his players for what they did right rather than “kick them in the tail and treat them roughly.”

Miles went 28-21 as the head coach at Oklahoma State from 2001 to 2004. He finished 114-34 at LSU during his 11-plus years in the SEC, leading the 2007 Tigers to the national championship. Currently Miles is 3-12 at KU.

According to Banner Society, KU also was involved in two of the most frequently one-sided matchups of the previous 30 years of college football, losing by 35 or more points nine times each against Nebraska and rival Kansas State during that span. Only Duke, with 10 blowout defeats to Florida State, suffered more lopsided losses to one opponent.

From 1990 to 2019, KU won by 35 or more points 21 times. Nine of those victories came during Mark Mangino’s tenure as head coach, from 2002 to 2009. Six of them were in the 2007 season, which the Jayhawks capped off by winning the Orange Bowl.

The most recent KU win by at least 35 points was in 2018, when the Jayhawks drubbed Rutgers, 55-14, in what proved to be David Beaty’s final season.

Comments

Dane Pratt

It's possible Les underestimated just what he was getting into. But then it's not like he had many options. He probably could have gotten a head coaching gig somewhere but this might be the only P5 school that would hire him.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Brian Wilson

You're kidding.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Dane Pratt

About his options or what he was getting into?

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Chris Condren

Heck it is past time for the KUAD to learn about the ruin brought by blowout losses. Fans and former fans figured this out during the Decade of Despair. It is time the KUAD had to really learn and understand the damage these losses cause. The KUAD has demonstrated immeasurable incompetence in running the football program that one would think anyone involveD would have been fired long ago but that is not the case. There are still people employed at high levels who had a hand in this mess.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Brian Wilson

Spot on! Who is in charge that is not being fired for being incompetent

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Mike Hart

Obviously, Dane. That is why he was passed over by other schools so many times. We have a 65-66 year old guy winding down his coaching career .. and he’s tasked with turning around our program. Keep in mind, a guy recruiting the most prospect-fertile recruiting grounds at LSU .. who was fired for his offenses being so predictable and lacking diversity.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Layne Pierce

There is much to criticize and little to praise in KU football, but beware of snake-oil salesmen.
The one thing Miles does know is what a major college football program is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to run.

There is little patience with KU fans right now, though patience and the expectation of improvement are not mutually exclusive. On the improvement side we are filling out our roster with high school, the majority 3 star players, something that we had not done for 10 years.

Now the next step is the development of the players who do come here and that will show in their character and performance on and off the field.

Let's don't ponder why Les Miles is here, let's be glad he is, and let's criticize him when we need, and give him credit where we can.

RCJH

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Charlie Gaughn

Hold the fort guys! Keep in mind that Miles is having to make up for Weis and Beaty. Weis ran 29 scholarship players when he first arrived to bring in "the Cavalry". That worked well. Beaty continued to recruit JC and senior transfers following in the footsteps of Weis. We have not had a full compliment of scholarship players in years, much less quality players. Miles is doing it right, painful as it is, by recruiting almost exclusively freshman. Will Miles get us to a level of respectability, who knows. I would say we're at least two more recruiting classes away from having a valid two deep chart. How much longer he'll continue to coach after that remains to be seen. I do know that the course that he's on will leave the program in much better shape for his successor than what he inherited. We just need to take advantage of the 6 to play 5 rule that Covid-19 has brought on. It should help programs like ours more than those that have had a full 85 scholarship roster.

On a lighter note, most years we'd be tickled to death to be tied with Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings two games in.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Brian Wilson

Worse than coming back from the death penalty, Due to Gill & Weis KU was left with scrubs occupying scholarships while having other scholarships were abandoned by good players leaving KU with no way to recover due to the 25 scholarship scholarship offer limit. To make matters worse, in order to just field a team Beatty had to find 60 walkons his first year just to practice and then the next two years he had to sign a bunch of transfers with 3 years eligibility left just to get some upper classmen. Its not hard to argue that Beatty should have just started all the Freshmen thatyear and maybe KU would have been better off today except for the fact that he would have had no upper classmen to be backups. In order to field a team he had to make promises to someone.<br><br> So, this is Miles' 2nd year, he needs 3 more to turn the corner. Please leave him alone.

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Layne Pierce

It is interesting to see what coaches do, I remember Glen Mason was incredibly hard on the players who were left, and did not hesitate to play anyone who could do the job, freshman or not.

Mangino, didn't care in the beginning how much we lost by as much as whether we had on field discipline and we did the basic things correctly. If you scored a touochdown, but you busted the designed play, you might not play for awhile, period. You win 2-3, or 0 games, if you're not building something then what's the point.

RCJH

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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