Year In Review: The optimist's take on the 2019 Kansas football season

Kansas head coach Les Miles points to a fan as he walks off the field Saturday afternoon at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019.

Kansas head coach Les Miles points to a fan as he walks off the field Saturday afternoon at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019. by Mike Gunnoe

Editor's Note: Before the 2019 Kansas football season began, I took a stab at a couple of different viewpoints on what was to come.

The first belonged to the optimist and was a look ahead at KU’s first season under Les Miles from the perspective of those who believed there were plenty of reasons to be hopeful. The second belonged to the pessimist and was just the opposite.

Now that the run is over and Miles and the Jayhawks have put the finishing touches on their 3-9 season, it’s time to do the same by looking back at the season that was and all that came with it.

First up: The year in review from the eyes of the optimist. We’ll run with the pessimist’s point of view tomorrow.


Despite the final record, this one’s actually pretty easy.

If you’re the type who can ignore the final scores and believes that the puzzle of a rebuilding project is put together not of individual moments but by snapping together notable accomplishments, you probably think Year 1 went pretty well.

And in some ways it did.

Let’s take a quick look back at the three most notable achievements by the Kansas football team during Year 1 under Miles. None of the three have been anything close to a given during the past decade. And all three not only happened but also happened in the same year.

First, the Jayhawks won a road game. Remember when that used to be basically impossible?

And before you scoff and think back to how bad that Boston College team that KU beat 48-24 was in mid-September, you might be interested to know that the Eagles are bowl-bound after finishing the season 6-6.

Any Kansas football season that includes the Jayhawks winning away from home is one worth remembering. And the Jayhawks not only won their first road test of 2019, but they also had late leads in the fourth quarter of two other road games that went down as losses — at Texas and at Iowa State.

A 1-4 record away from home doesn’t sound like much. But it does when put in the context of a 1-49 road mark in the nine seasons that came before it.

Second, Kansas won a Big 12 game.

This accomplishment has a similar ring to KU winning on the road, with the Jayhawks picking up just their sixth Big 12 Conference win in the past 10 seasons.

That, of course, came when the Jayhawks followed up their near-win at Texas with a wild victory over Texas Tech at home, and that two-game stretch was by far the Jayhawks’ best football of the season.

For context, Texas Tech finished the season 4-8 yet won two Big 12 games — vs. No. 21 Oklahoma State and by 21 at West Virginia.

The third thumbs-up for 2019 came on the heels of the close call in Austin and the home win over Texas Tech, and even though it did not result in a victory it was nearly as impressive.

For the first time in 10 years, Memorial Stadium was full on a Saturday in the fall. And while the visitors in purple accounted for 20-25% of the sellout crowd, Jayhawk fans certainly did their part to fill the stadium. And it was some sight.

The game itself did not live up to the buzz surrounding it, as the Wildcats rocked the Jayhawks 38-10 in a contest that really wasn’t that close.

But the mere fact that Kansas football could generate enough excitement in early November to inspire fans to pack the stadium can only be viewed as positive.

The bottom line is this: KU’s overall record in Les Miles’ first season was not any better than what we’ve seen for the past decade. But the path to 3-9 featured higher highs than many expected and seemed to come with folks paying more attention than in recent years, expecting Kansas to at least be competitive week in and week out.

The Jayhawks didn’t always live up to those expectations and there were certainly some duds, none worse than the 61-6 drubbing by Baylor in the season finale.

But whether it was because people tuned in to see if KU could win or because of the excitement brought on by the move to Brent Dearmon as offensive coordinator, this was the first season in a long time that featured so many Kansas fans paying attention to KU football deep into November.

They talked it, watched it and were frustrated by it. Isn’t that a step forward from the annual apathy that we’ve seen in years past?


Layne Pierce

I am optimistic, because in the beginning, everyone should be. I believe Coach Miles will get us back to respectability and bowl games, and that would be just fantastic.

I would even say that for what Beatty left him, he may have overachieved. We were not far away from 6 victories, we could have beat Texas, Iowa St, and West Virginia.

Now, this next year is going to actually be harder, because we will have to play some young kids like Potter, and there will be growing pains. Our line play was mediocre at best, and that is tragic given that we have one of the premier running backs in the country.

Defensively we are probably ok but not great in the secondary, but linebackers must be better next year, and defensive line has simply got to be rebuilt, and improved, it was terrible, though granted there was effort, but results simply were insufficient.

Another big problem will be QB. I hope everyone realizes just what an incredible season Carter Stanley had. The mystery will always remain why didn't Beatty like Carter Stanley.
He never gave him credit, and he refused to take into consideration that the team always played hard for Carter.

Let's all stay optimistic

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Dale Rogers

I'm also optimistic. Potter got lots of playing time this season because of injuries to starters. He had some good moments. He'll be a good one but won't be starting out as a true newbie in the lineup. We also have to remember we are still a couple of years from having a full complement of scholarship players. And this team never gave up, even when getting blown out. I would have liked a better record but the improvements are obvious and the foundation is building. Add in a stellar recruiting class (given our situation) and next year should show significantly more improvement.

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Michael Maris

Actually, Potter played a lot of minutes this year. So, Potter has game time experience and will improve even more in his sophomore season.

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Brian Hosfelt

I think Potter started the last 6 games or so...he should be lights out next year...and what about the linebacker that was injured? wonder if he will be granted a extra year or be a senior next season...biggest concerns should be QB, Dline and Oline

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Dale Rogers

Dru Prox. He was the leading tackler for the team when he got hurt. I think he was leading by far if I remember. He's a Junior so hopefully he'll get that medical redshirt and have two years remaining.

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Dirk Medema

Layne - I’m optimistic for the future also, but not nearly so blind as to miss seeing that this season wasn’t significantly different than last year. We similarly lost to a lower division team that we should have beaten, won a road game, and missed out on several close games that would have made us bowl eligible. Last year we blamed the coach.

While we did lose some quality players from last year, this year’s team was far from devoid of talent. It’s also interesting that you think the DBs won’t be a problem next year. I believe we’re losing the majority of our starters though I haven’t studied it closely in a while. Hopefully the reserves have been strengthened during recent rebuilding so that we can withstand this most recent turnover; better than 4 (?) years ago when it was a complete rebuild with virtually no reserves.

As for Carter, he explained in an article a week or so ago that he realized this past summer why he wasn’t playing in the past. He realized that he had been playing to impress people instead of consistently moving the team down the field. His words.

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Brett McCabe

I would have liked more this year. Specifically, to be more competitive in the KSU and Baylor games, and to clinch the deal in Austin.

That said, Mile’s deserves some consideration vs. the Beaty/Weis/Gill era because of the change in the early signing period - two months sooner than during those regimes. This date drove a lot of decisions in a very short period of time. It’s already clear that, with more time, Miles has been able to put together a solid, expansive commitment list.

One challenge that KU has created for itself has been to hire three straight coaches who did not have staffs that they could bring along to speed up the development process. Hiring a new staff, in a hurry, is going to create misfires, especially when many coaches in the profession believe that a move to Kansas is a career-killer. The candidate pool is much smaller for KU than for almost any other school.

Year Two is a telling year for this program. Beaty lost grip early in year two. Weis lost control. I don’t think that we’ll get the panic we saw with Beaty or the arrogance we saw with Weis. Miles knows that he is virtually untouchable for the next three years. He’s not in panic mode, he’s not looking for the next opportunity at Texas or a big payout courtesy of the former A.D. At the very least, we should see a highly competent coach go about his business in a professional manner. That alone would be progress and would lift this program a full competitive level.

Matt Campbell is a great, great coach. But he also benefitted from the fact that his predecessor was a pro, even if he didn’t win enough games. Campbell didn’t inherit a mess. The same can be said in little kitty land, Morgantown and Lubbock. All four of those program were far, far, far ahead of where KU was coming into this year. Miles to go is right.

My mantra will be simple: patience is warranted, as is progress. We’ve already seen significant progress in recruiting. That progress will need to need to continue to improve. You cannot recruit at the bottom of the conference and beat the teams who recruited better.

The league is a grind. The conference idiotically added to the grind by requiring another P5 non-con game for its members. The progress we see will have to be steady, recognizable and, eventually, observable in the W-L columns. Four wins next year would be a significant achievement. Win four. Take another step in recruiting. I’ll call that real progress.

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Curtis Blankenship

First off, BC did fire their coach, so KU gets to claim another victim!

I think the key will be to find out the difference for the hawks between the BC, WV, TT, ISU, and UT game and the rest. Find out why the team showed up in those matchups and were absolutely flat in the rest. Prep, talent, game plan, whatever, if the Hawks can play a full season like they did those games it will be a very exciting season next year! Rock Chalk!

9 months, 4 weeks ago


Brian Wilson

I am cautiously optimistic. Not because of the team or the coach, but because KU Fans are fickle and will probably turn on HC Miles by the end of next season due to too high of expectations. My final prediction is still out, but to guess, I am thinking 4 wins next year. I made that guess this year and missed by one and I have no reason to think we won't improve by one. But if they only win two I won't be shocked....just mildly disappointed. As far as I'm concerned, I have Miles back. In 4 years this team will be better.<br><br>
Also, I am optimistic because a lot of the Seniors that graduated were transfers. A lot of them were not originally recruited or indoctrinated in Lawrence, it will beceome a little more personal for our guys, there will be less and less unfamiliar faces, and they will have spent 4 to 5 years practicing the same system to achieve the same ovjectives.<br><br>
Even more optimistic, everyone is always concerned about how bad our DL and OL is every year. IMO, HCLM will get this under control soon. Les played on the line, he loves coaching the line, and I am sure he can identify and recruit talent that can get it done. When KU gets to the point we can win in the trenches, the rest will come. .I'm conifdent KU will be more than competitive soon.

9 months, 1 week ago


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