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Matt Tait: Mired in a 3-game losing streak, here are 3 ways KU can use its upcoming bye week to its advantage

Kansas running back Devin Neal scores a touchdown against Baylor in the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

As the weeks go by and the losses start to mount, the significance of Kansas holding on to win against both Duke and Iowa State becomes even more clear.

No matter how rough it gets or how many losses the Jayhawks take, those two wins, which both hung in the balance late in the fourth quarter, guaranteed that they will always enter their next game of the season needing just one more win to become bowl eligible.

No matter how the rest of the season goes, if KU can find a way to get that sixth win and play in a bowl game, it will go down as a huge development for the program.

Not only will it put a feel-good ending on the best season in more than a decade. It also will give these coaches more time to work with their players and the players more time in the system. When you’re rebuilding and trying to catch the rest of a physically tough conference, you can never have enough time.

Right now, though, the Jayhawks need to catch their breaths and that’s exactly what the schedule will allow them to do in the week ahead.

KU (5-3 overall, 2-3 Big 12) will be off next weekend and the bye week could not have come at a much better point in the season.

It’s not like vacation awaits. But this coaching staff and these players will get an opportunity to regroup and reevaluate what they’re doing as they head into the final four games of the 2022 season.

Here’s a quick look at the three biggest ways KU can use the bye week to its advantage.

• Get healthy

This is by far the biggest thing the Jayhawks can do to increase their chances in the weeks ahead.

Whether you’re talking about getting injured starting quarterback Jalon Daniels back after the bye week or addressing varying degrees of injuries to a host of other players, including two along the offensive line and a big one in the secondary, KU needs its full roster to go into these Big 12 battles with a chance to win.

Give KU credit. Injuries were a factor in each of their losses and yet Lance Leipold’s team dug deep and found a way to make all three of them competitive right down to the wire. That’s after letting Oklahoma and Baylor build monster leads.

Related document

Box Score: Baylor 35, KU 23 ( .PDF )

So, the thinking here goes, maybe if KU is healthy those early deficits aren’t quite as big and those late comeback efforts are not as daunting.

• Fix the run D

This is the biggest X’s and O’s issue the Jayhawks are currently facing. By a mile. And it’s hard to picture KU winning another game if it doesn’t get fixed.

Baylor on Saturday ran for 273 yards on 57 carries, good for nearly five yards a pop. A week earlier, Oklahoma ran for 298 yards on 57 carries, good for 5.2 yards per carry. But it’s not just the yardage totals that have been a problem. KU’s opponents are getting way too many easy yards in predictable running situations and the holes they’re running through are often pretty massive.

KU’s run defense was one of its strengths early in the season, but that has not been the case in the heart of Big 12 play. Part of that is the jump in talent level. But Kansas has to find a way to address it if it wants to crack the win column again.

The Jayhawks were marginally better in the second half on Saturday, and they made a few key run stops that helped them get back into the game. But when they needed to step up the most, Baylor ripped off six running plays for 55 yards (9.2 per carry) on the game-clinching drive late in the fourth quarter. And that was your ballgame.

The defense, as a whole, has done enough to keep the Jayhawks in games, largely because of the offense’s quick-strike capabilities and KU’s ability to force turnovers. They got three on Saturday. But the offense can’t be expected to keep up game after game, especially when it’s dealing with injuries of its own.

• Rediscover the swagger

There’s a chance it returned after the defensive play by Jereme Robinson early in the second half. KU certainly got an important lift in Saturday’s game from the Robinson’s tremendous individual effort. And it’s plays like that — and the Jayhawks’ expecting to make them — that were a big part of the story of their 5-0 start.

With Baylor driving, looking to go up 35-3, Robinson stripped Baylor QB Blake Shapen, fought him off to recover the loose ball, scooped it up in the open field and nearly scored, returning it all the way to the BU 9-yard line. Three plays later, the Jayhawks were in the end zone and, one quarter later, KU had trimmed Baylor’s lead down to 28-23 with 6:29 to play.

It’s fair to think that a three-game losing streak, after climbing so high early in the season, would rattle the confidence of any team. But this team has enough talent and enough play makers — veterans even — to play with the confidence and swagger we saw early in the season. That’s where they miss Daniels the most, but they still should be able to deliver with or without him.

Getting back to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for their Nov. 5 game against Oklahoma State will help. And getting healthy will, too.

This team still has four cracks at getting that sixth win and if their heart and effort in the past two losses have shown us anything, it’s that the Jayhawks will continue to believe they’ll get the job done until they’re out of chances.

Comments

Brett McCabe

Injuries are never an excuse. It’s an incredibly physical game. The guys who are more involved will generally get hurt more. Every team has them. Literally part of the game.

Here is how you fix the slump….

1. Coach the team to be prepared to play in the first quarter. We literally have lost three games in a row in the first quarter.

The staff needs to get their collective crap together to start the game. ALL the points count.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Brian Skelly

Our run defense is not good to terrible. It's clearly the true achillies heel of this team.

And quite frankly, I don't think we'll win a game until Jalon Daniels comes back. And I say this as someone thinks that Bean has done a decent job.

But we need more than that now.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Len Shaffer

I honestly don't think that Jalon could have done much better than Jason in this game. I thought it was the best Jason has ever played, and he was very consistent.

Unfortunately, as great as Jalon is, he doesn't play on defense.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Alex Berger

I think quite simply, Jalon Daniels is the difference. The defense was still a problem early in the season, but Jalon Daniels was leading effective drives and finishing them with TDs. The 50+ pts per game average gave the defense a lot more margin for error.

The run defense is definitely atrocious, but it seems like this is the area that the talent gap is getting exposed. Where the offense can just scheme around their weaknesses, the defense has opposing OCs aiming right at their weakness.

If Jalon Daniels can get healthy for the last 4 games, there is a good chance he'll pull out at least one win. The QB position is just so important in football, UT and OU are in-conference examples of how different a team is without their QB1 and with em. And when offenses are leading longer drives, defense gets rest for their legs and more time to scheme in-game changes.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Rodney Crain

Bean is ok but his decision making is slow. He also panics and does not just throw the ball away.

JD gives us a chance to stay in the game, and win it late with the way the offense moves. We are a step faster with him running it. Our defense was always a work in progress. If we don't score we quickly get in a hole and have to hope there is enough time to pull it out. Hinshaw out obviously weakens the running game too.

At least this takes some focus off coach. WI looked strong on the road at Purdue. NE had a bye week, but are 2-1 since Frost left.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Dirk Medema

There’s a decade of evidence that 50% completions don’t win games. There are plenty of other factors but none that touch every play. There are also two players involved in every completion/incompletion, but one that is consistent.

Jason seems like a great guy. This isn’t meant as an attack on him personally. It’s just that the spotlight shines brightest on the QB position highlighting successes and failures. There have been really good to great halves of football each of the last three weeks and that’s good enough for a competitive loss on Saturday and just a loss thereafter.

I’ve not done an analysis of top25 games, but it seems that even against top D’s, the top 25 teams score more. It’s similar to what we did for the first 5 games and for half of the last 3.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Brad Watson

We have beaten the teams we should have beaten and we have lost to teams that are clearly better than us...those teams have better rosters...better depth...we knew at the beginning of the season...this stretch of games was going to be very, very tough and our chances of winning any of these games was probably unlikely at this stage in the rebuild...even with a healthy Daniels...depth is an issue...players you can't trust yet being put into the game and being exposed....that's life in the rebuilding stage...it will take a few years of recruiting and smart portal finds...hey we have 5 wins...yes...losing sucks...we were all on cloud 9 with Gameday here...even the coaches got caught up in the hype...everyone is human..it's understandable...we have had some key injuries that have exposed the depth problem...so where do we go from here this season?...just have fun...understand it's a learning experience...just play loose and free and enjoy the journey...Football is fun and winning any game is hard...quit worrying about the W...just worry about the E...the EFFORT!!..and have fun playing college football...only a few people actually get to suit up and play at this level...make it fun and be happy!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Brad Watson

Teams with 3 losses

Texas...
Oklahoma...
Texas Tech...
Baylor...
Mississippi St....
Minnesota...
Purdue...
Florida...
Notre Dame..
Teams with 4 losses... Texas AM ...Auburn... Miami ...WV.. Iowas State.. Wisconsin... Mich. St.... Iowa ...BYU... Missouri...
Nebraska...
Stanford...
So as you can see ...there are a lot of "GOOD" teams..."Brands" with much better rosters that we have.... the same or a better record than...it's hard to win any game period... so be happy and Relax..at this stage of the rebuild we are doing just fine!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Layne Pierce

We are now at the place in our schedule where any mistakes are difficult to overcome.
Our defense is barely adequate, sometimes not.
Daniels just makes better decisions in the offense. They are both competent. Thank goodness.

One more is all we need.
I am so proud of this team for the way they played in the second half. In the past the score would have been 52-3.

RCJH

1 month, 1 week ago

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"mired in a 3 game losing streak" ffs matt. act like uve covered the hawks for over a year! down 28-3 this team came back to make it a game. were finally doing well, dont get ur negativity. take that sh*t elsewhere. rcjh

1 month, 1 week ago

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Joe Ross

Wins and losses don’t tell the whole story. Losing 56 to 0 is not the same as losing 28 to 27, and yet they count equal using wins and losses as an indicator.

So the words “mired in a losing streak”—true though it is—do not say everything.

Are you getting this?

No analysis of a team’s performance is complete without asking how competitive we played. Even the final score doesn’t tell the whole story. That analysis omits, for example, whether or not you had all your personnel available, which certainly contributes to a score. So before we consider that the sky is falling, it seems to me that we are “mired” in improvement even if the losses pile up, if all things are considered.

Keep sawing wood!!!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Rodney Crain

- Says everyone mired in a losing streak.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Robert Brock

A lot of Jayhawk posters bash our backup quarterback while giving a pass on our pitiful defense. Our D is awful!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Jim Stauffer

No doubt Brad has the best advice for fans. Realize just how fortunate we are to have this staff working with these kids.
But the injury bug has a lot to do with the size and physicality of our players versus the rest of the league.
Most of the teams we will play have bigger, faster and stronger players than we.
This staff has this team playing at its maximum level of efficiency against the competition we face.
Sit back and relax and watch the good FB these kids are playing against nearly insurmountable odds.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Dirk Medema

Matt - Was Ky injured again? Did he even play? The deep RB room has gotten really shallow.

1 month, 1 week ago

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