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Matt Tait: Don't look now, but the Kansas football offense is a whole lot of fun again

Kansas wide receiver Luke Grimm (11) runs in to the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Houston, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

That’s two weeks in a row where the Kansas football team fell into a 14-0 hole to open the game but managed to crawl out of it to win on the road.

Pro tip: Stop doing that.

There’s no doubt that the Jayhawks felt some sort of comfort after going down to Houston 14-0 during Saturday’s 48-30 Kansas victory.

After all, much like the Kansas men’s basketball team relying on its comeback earlier in the season at Kansas State while facing a 15-point deficit at halftime of the national title game, these Jayhawks had been there before and knew they could overcome it.

In general, though, being down by two scores anywhere — especially on the road — is not a real comfortable place to be. And if the Jayhawks truly do have bowl aspirations this season, which all of a sudden seems way less laughable and way more realistic, they’ll need to figure out a way to get off to better starts.

The way things have gone so far for Lance Leipold’s club, I have no doubt they’ll clean that up. When was the last time anyone was that convinced that KU football would do the right thing and do it quickly?

OK, now that we got that out of the way, there’s just one other question we need to ask.

To quote the late, great Vince Lombardi: What the hell’s going on out here?

The answer?

The Kansas football program has an offense again. More than that, the Kansas football program has an offensive coordinator again.

His name is Andy Kotelnicki and he has called a nearly perfect first three games for the Jayhawks during this improbable 3-0 start.

You have to go all the way back to the Ed Warinner days to recall a Kansas offense that looked like this and played with this much fun and freedom.

Related document

Box Score: KU 48, Houston 30 ( .PDF )

Through the first three weeks of the season, it has looked as if the Jayhawks have known that the opposing defenses could not stop them, so they hit them with anything they wanted and did it all with a smile.

No one has had a bigger smile than quarterback Jalon Daniels — 281 yards of total offense and five TDs on Saturday — but that’s just because you can see the KU QB’s grin glowing through his facemask on the field. If the cameras showed the booth as often as they show the quarterback, you might see a pretty electric smile coming from Kotelnicki, too.

Kotelnicki's on one heck of a heater. Just think about what he dialed up during Saturday’s win, which featured a third consecutive game of KU’s offensive line not giving up a sack.

There was more QB run game, which led to Daniels rushing for a career-high 123 yards and two touchdowns. There was the reverse to Quentin Skinner on a critical fourth-and-short in the third quarter. There was the direct snap to Devin Neal, who handed it to Daniels so he could fake a reverse and throw a touchdown to Jared Casey. And there was the easy pitch and catch from Daniels to Luke Grimm on the first play out of the locker room after the weather delay that Kotelnicki had an hour to call and his players needed mere seconds to execute to perfection.

Nevermind the way Kotelnicki shows off his mastery of offensive play-calling by creatively using Casey, Torry Locklin and KU’s stable of running backs whenever, wherever and however he wants.

This stuff is imaginative, electric and a whole lot of fun. More importantly, it is all designed to do the one thing that Kotelnicki has emphasized as the most important job of an offense — put stress on the defense.

KU’s OC has talked about that a lot since he arrived in Lawrence. Each time, he has pointed to the importance of creating in-game stress, as in forcing defenders to read and react or make tough decisions in space.

The way things have gone so far, though, it’s safe to assume that KU’s first three victims — and future Kansas opponents, as well — have experienced their share of mid-week and gameday mental stress, too.

Don’t get me wrong, the Kansas defense is making plays, too. But you might even credit the offense for some of those.

After all, confidence can spread throughout an entire team and in that way these three wins have been complete team efforts.

Beyond that, when your offense is cooking like Kansas’ has been so far this season, it can inspire a defense to dig a little deeper to make the plays that give the ball back to your offense.

But this wild start, which only figures to get wilder next week when the Jayhawks return home to face unbeaten Duke, has been all about the offense.

The Jayhawks entered Week 3 leading the nation in scoring at 55.5 points per game. They threw up 48 points against the Cougars’ defense and now the question isn’t so much whether the Jayhawks can keep it up but rather who can stop them.

Get this: Next week, one of the biggest storylines of the Jayhawks' Week 4 contest will be Coach K against Duke. Buckle up.

Comments

Matt Gauntt

This is SOOOO much fun!! Thanks guys for another exciting game.

Matt - question....maybe you can address in a future article. What impact is all of this having on potential recruits? Is there any tangible evidence that recruits are responding positively to the excitement in Lawrence?

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brett McCabe

The coach k stuff has to stop. That's a purple kitty move, not a Mighty Jayhawk.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Tait

Meh. It's literally what they call him. It doesn't have to be overused, but it doesn't have to stop either. Not real worried about it myself. Plus, as much as you think it *has to stop* I think it *had to be used* in reference to the upcoming game with Duke.

As you were...

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Gauntt

First article after one of the most inspiring games in KU history, and your comment is to complain about a Coach K reference? LOL SMH

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Sarah Carr

I’ve been hoping for a KU football comeback before I leave this earthly life!
ROCK CHALK!!!

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

I gave up all hope of a KU football comeback, but now that KU football is finally worth rooting for again, I'm going to start listening to games again! Here's hoping KU can beat Duke next week!

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brad Watson

GAMEDAY?????????????? BELIEVE IT INTO EXISTENCE!!!!

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

KU's offense is definitely more fun than Iowa's offense these days. The Hawkeye offense can't score on a hooker!

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jim Stauffer

Who is the Iowa fan who used to come on here and make snide comments about KU FB all while bragging about Iowa?
Maybe he could provide some insight for those of us unused to such success as his vaunted Hawkeyes have every year.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dale Rogers

OK, make sure these assistants are paid very, very well, too, as well as Coach L. We do not want to lose any of them. Yes, they have been with Coach for years (at least, most of them have) but there comes a time when it's hard for an assistant to pass up a career move upwards. Let's make it more difficult for them to make that move.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Jim - That would be Bandwagon Bryce. See above.

Hmmmm, I wonder if Whizz on Iowa scores 48 pts for the season.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brian Wilson

Matt, <br><br>
I certainly don't want to take anything from Kotelnicki or from Daniels but IMO what I am seeing is how good the OL is doing and wondering from where the transformation is coming. Isn't HC Leipold a so called Offensive Line Guru? IMO, KU could have the best Offensive Coordinator, with the best game plan, calling all the right plays, as well as have the best Quarterback.. but if our Offensive line stinks, you can't execute the plays, or protect the Quarterback, and we lose. You didn't mention the Offensive line much in this article. Do you have any insight as to how much HC Leipold has specifically worked with the OL and responsible for it's transformation or is this all Kotelnicki, his OL and his play calling?

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Len Shaffer

Well said, Brian. I've been amazed at how good the o-line has been this year, and I was thinking something similar: that as great as the play calling has been (and no doubt it has been tremendous), it wouldn't look nearly as good without the tremendous protection from the line.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Pamela Shanks

I agree!! There were times that Jalon could have checked email, Titter, and Instagram before making a decision!! Great play! Still #1 in the Big 12 and up to #3 nationally this week. Since we've had 2 games where the opposition's defense was flustered (to the point of blows yesterday) and penalty prone, I wonder how much of what the offense is doing is leading to all the defensive penalties and frustration? Thoughts anyone?

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Tait

No doubt, Brian. I did, however, mention in the story that the KU O-Line did not give up a sack for the third game in a row... They keep this up, they'll get more love. But they did get some here, too.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brian Jahelka

I think the defense is fun to watch too. I LOVE that Kenny Logan. Flat out stud. So glad he isn't leading us in tackles this year!

(the OL has been flat out beast mode! Give em some props!)

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Brian - Scott Fuchs is the OL Assistant Coach and has gotten a lot of credit for his transformation of that group. From being pushed around by FCS SD to start last year to pitching back to back to back 0-fers in sacks to start this year against 2 DL that were supposed to be pretty good if not nfl caliber players.

I’m wondering if we’re also watching a similar transformation on D? Obviously, half the 2-deep was here previously, but a whole bunch of those 22-ish players got their first taste of this D during fall camp. It took the team an extra month or so to pickup on what these coaches want. It seems that there has been continued improvement on that side of the ball. Some of it might be the offense enthusiasm carryover that Matt mentions, but I’m wondering if it’s also a matter of all the pieces just getting to that critical point of understanding to reaction without thinking.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

This stuff is imaginative, electric and a whole lot of fun.

Just rewatched the game. The (Houston?) announcers seemed to spend a lot of time saying essentially the same thing.

At the same time, one of those lingering thoughts was a comment someone else made guarantying the extra RBs and other transfer players who aren’t touching the ball enough would be transferring out at the end of the season.

There were a couple plays that stood out to me. One was in the red zone, and Emilien was in the huddle. He’s one of the transfers I cheer for a bit extra. He didn’t catch a pass on that play - Jalon ran it in for a TD, but Doug got grimy. Had a great block to seal the edge and allow JD to get to the corner. DE spent a lot of time during a preseason interview talking about that. The favorite part of his game was getting grimy. Some people are only be happy if the spotlight is shining on them. DE seemed super happy regardless. Coach K has emphasized the point of the grimy plays being key to success. My guess is the coaches will celebrate Emilien during film session on that play.

A little later, Sevion got the ball going around the right end for a big gain. The announcers commented on how little used he had been. In some ways it was similar to Locklin’s 60 yard TD. Little used player, buried on the depth chart, makes a big play when given the opportunity. The part that stood out to me though was when he was catching his breath on the sidelines, and Emilien and Ky were hanging out with him celebrating. They were having a lot of fun with a non-starter after a big play.

This stuff is imaginative, electric and a whole lot of fun. A strength of Lance’s is celebrating the accomplishments of others. I think there are a bunch of non-starters that are having a whole lot of fun on this team. Maybe they’ll transfer or maybe they’ll say it’s a whole lot of fun to build something bigger than themselves.

Hope the basketball team is at the Duke game in full force.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Andy Godwin

I have learned from watching Andy Reid coached offenses for over 20 years (in both Philadelphia and KC) that offensive movement is unsettling for the defense. KU has developed an offense a bit like the KC Chiefs (but with more running plays) where all the players seem to be on the same page. Shifting multiple players and putting players in motion have clearly confused their first 3 opponents. And to the players credit, all while avoiding illegal motion and formation penalties! As everyone has posted, it is fun to watch when the KU offense is clicking on all cylinders and when the defense is uncertain who will receive the ball. We have Andy Reid's offensive schemes in Lawrence Kansas. Clearly the other Andy (Kotelnicki) is pretty darn good, and KU has a dynamic quarterback, a solid offensive line, a bevy of talented running backs, and wide receivers with speed and size. Most importantly, players are playing as a team (unlike Houston who imploded). The running backs and QB benefit from excellent blocking by the wide receiver and Casey coming out of the backfield. There is a lot to like about this offense.

Okay KU fans who have given up on KU football (below is the W/L record since Mangino and coincidentally since we moved back to Kansas and renewed our season football tickets), show up for the next three home games and fill Memorial stadium. Clearly, we have an excellent coaching staff with players who have dedicated themselves to rebuilding a "morbid" football program. Show your support. Rock Chalk.

KU wins by season
2010: 3
2011: 2
2012: 1
2013: 3
2014: 3
2015: 0
2016: 2
2017: 1
2018: 3
2019: 3
2020: 0
2021: 2
2022: 3*

* — in 3 games

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jeff Coffman

They were realistically talking about 6-0 prior to the OU game.

Duke, TCu and ISU.

If KU gets Gameday this week, would we get college gameday twice, one on the road?

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Charlie Gaughn

One other person that needs to be given some credit is Les Miles and his staff for their recruiting efforts. They stuck to their plan to recruit freshmen and the team is reaping the rewards for that.

Having said that HCLL is a perfect fit for KU. His ability to motivate and the toughness he’s developed on the team is very refreshing!

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Edward Daub

Charlie, that is a good point. It would be interesting to evaluate the list of players on the current roster that were actually recruited to KU by Les Miles.

I have a friend in Lawrence who asks this question about HCLL. "I know he can coach, can he recruit Big12 Talent?"

With the HCLL transfer portal success, the answer to this question appears to be "Yes!"

Meanwhile, Bryce Landon should stick with his Iowa Hawkeyes.

Rock Chalk!

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Jeff - “They” were also talking about us being 1-2 at this point and we’re predicting we wouldn’t get 3 Ws for the entire season. I think they are also saying we won’t win any of the 3 after that. I wouldn’t drink too much of what “they” are selling. So glad we get to watch the games played on the field.

The next 3 teams coming in are all also undefeated. Glad the guys are getting good national attention.

2 months, 2 weeks ago

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