A pair of touchdowns in the final minute of the fourth quarter against Texas Tech did little to improve the mood of Kanas football head coach Lance Leipold Saturday.
With his Jayhawks coming off a bye week, Leipold expected a more competitive game than what transpired during a 41-14 homecoming defeat at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, in front of an announced crowd of 25,106.
“That was disappointing,” Leipold said of his team not only giving up 41 points, but also being shut out for the first 59 minutes.
The KU offense didn’t even reach the red zone until just more than a minute remained in the fourth quarter and the backups were on the field. The first of two late-game drives, led by third-string running back Amauri Pesek-Hickson (five carries, 28 yards) and backup quarterback Miles Kendrick (4-for-7 passing, 48 yards, two touchdowns), helped the Jayhawks avoid a scoreless outing. Kendrick found Luke Grimm in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown with only 56 seconds remaining in the blowout for the first score of the day.
KU junior quarterback Jason Bean couldn’t replicate the highlight flashes of previous games, either through the air or on the ground. Bean finished 11-for-21 passing, for 80 yards with one interception, and ran five times for 14 yards. KU’s offense totaled 273 yards in the shutout.
Leipold thought the defensive looks Tech gave Bean led to some of the issues, and from what he saw from the sideline it seemed the QB needed to have a little more patience and see some plays all the way through.
“It definitely wasn’t his best game,” the coach said. “We need to be better in the passing game holistically.”
With so many possessions being unproductive, Leipold added, neither Bean nor the offense ever could gain some consistency or confidence.
“That seems to be a repeating thing,” Leipold said after KU (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big 12) lost its fifth game in a row and again suffered a lopsided Big 12 loss.
The KU offense actually moved the chains a handful of times (five) in the third quarter after even doing that seemed like a chore in the second quarter. But the longest play of the third — a Bean pass to Steven McBride — went just 15. On the first three possessions of the second half, KU punted twice and turned the ball over on downs as Tech (5-2, 2-2), which finished with 438 yards of offense, maintained its dominance, padding its lead to 38-0.
Much of Leipold’s disappointment, he said afterward, stemmed from the score in general and what he deemed a crucial second quarter, which Tech won, 17-0.
“A lot of different things went wrong there,” Leipold said.
What was a manageable seven-point hole after the opening 15 minutes devolved into a 24-0 deficit for the Jayhawks by halftime.
The Red Raiders, who outgained KU 249-72 in total yardage over the course of the first two quarters, marched down the field for touchdowns on each of their final two drives of the second quarter.
The KU offense, meanwhile, didn’t come close to keeping pace. The Jayhawks picked up just one first down the entire second quarter, gaining only 20 yards total on 11 snaps.
Bean’s timing and rhythm were off throughout the first half, and he went 4-for-9 with one interception. Even so, Tech defensive backs had a few chances to add to their takeaway totals on those other incompletions, and the Jayhawks were fortunate to have just one turnover in the first half.
Representing the offense during KU’s postgame media session, freshman running back Devin Neal (15 carries, 54 yards), said the Jayhawks simply failed to execute.
“We practiced for the two weeks to come in prepared. And we had a game plan going in, and we would’ve liked to execute it a little bit better. But all we can really do is just move on to the next day and keep getting better,” Neal said.
The Jayhawks’ lone big play of the first half came courtesy of the defense, with veteran safety Kenny Logan Jr. reading a deep shot down the left sideline from Colombi. Logan swooped in for the interception near the KU 6-yard line, and went 22 yards the other direction on his takeaway before being forced out of bounds.
But that was the only time during Tech’s first eight possessions that the Red Raiders failed to score.
Said Logan of the defense’s problems: “We’ve just got to get guys off the field. We’ve got to make sure we’re executing at a high level.”
Logan’s pick alone wouldn’t turn the tide for KU. In fact, just three plays later, Bean returned the favor, throwing an interception on the first play of the second quarter — a third-and-8 for the KU offense on its own 30-yard line. Bean’s pass sailed on him as he tried to hit Lawrence Arnold for a first down. Dadrion Taylor-Demerson made the Jayhawks pay for the mistake, picking off the pass.
The defense helped the Jayhawks weather the troublesome start to the quarter. Though the Red Raiders began the ensuing series in plus territory, at KU’s 41-yard line, they couldn’t get a touchdown out of the possession, despite getting into the red zone. Graduate transfer cornerback Jeremy Webb broke up a pass in the end zone to conclude Tech’s drive, and the Jayhawks avoided a two-TD hole for the time being, as Jonathan Garibay kicked a 28-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 11:37 left in the first half.
KU’s offense didn’t appear so sluggish on its initial possession, picking up three first downs. Even so, after advancing to the Tech 30-yard line, KU sent kicker Jacob Borcila out for a 47-yard field goal try. What would prove to be the Jayhawks’ best chance at a score in the entire first half sailed wide left.
The Red Raiders only passed twice on their opening drive, but both were Colombi completions for 15 or more yards. Tech runs chipped away at KU’s defense for the rest of the 10-play scoring drive, capped by a Colombi fake handoff that allowed the QB to saunter into the end zone untouched and set the stage for the visitors’ easy road win.
Junior linebacker Rich Miller, who led KU with seven total tackles, said the Jayhawks too often beat themselves.
“Like Coach Leipold always says, our margin of error is really low,” Miller said. “We’ve just got to be able to come back from that. We weren’t able to tonight.”
KU is back at home next week, when Oklahoma comes to Lawrence.
SCORING BY QUARTERS
10:26 — Henry Colombi 1 run. Jonathan Garibay kick. Ten-play drive for 75 yards, in 4:32. (TT 7, KU 0.)
11:37 — Garibay 28 field goal. Seven-play drive for 31 yards, in 3:10. (TT 10, KU 0.)
5:30 — Erik Ezukanma 9 run. Garibay kick. Ten-play drive for 55 yards, in 4:50. (TT 17, KU 0.)
0:32 — Myles Price 7 run. Garibay kick. Seven-play drive for 64 yards, in 2:15. (TT 24, KU 0.)
6:52 — Donovan Smith 5 run. Garibay kick. Eleven-play drive for 92 yards, in 4:27. (TT 31, KU 0.)
2:02 — Travis Koontz 2 pass from Colombi. Kick by Garibay. Five-play drive for 57 yards, in 2:15. (TT 38, KU 0.)
6:29 — Garibay 48 field goal. Nine-play drive for 32 yards, in 5:09. (TT 41, KU 0.)
0:56 — Luke Grimm 14 pass from Miles Kendrick. Jacob Borcila kick. Ten-play drive for 75 yards, in 5:36. (TT 41, KU 7.)
0:14 — Lawrence Arnold 13 pass from Kendrick. Borcila kick. Five-play drive for 35 yards, in 0:36. (TT 41, KU 14.)