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Stat of the Game: Kansas Passing Game Struggles Against Baylor

Jayhawks again fail to throw for 200 yards in a game.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas football winning streak is over, and the streak of consecutive Big 12 road losses continues (it goes back to October 2008).

Against the best competition the Jayhawks have faced this year—a Baylor team that had its flaws as well, including being called for 13 penalties for 141 yards—KU’s offense could never get any momentum. This was especially true for the passing game, which only threw for 149 yards between the three quarterbacks.

That’s not great. But it’s also not unusual. This has been a struggle for a while now.

The Stat

Kansas is one of only three teams (Illinois and Tulsa the other two) in the country to throw for less than 200 yards with at least 20 attempts in each of its first four games this year.

via Sports Reference

The Breakdown

The passing attempts are key to this stat, because this accounts for and removes offensive systems that focus solely on the running game. Teams like Army and Georgia Tech, whose offense relies on running the ball and only passing a handful of times each game, don’t need to pass the ball for 200 yards to be successful.

Kansas, though, runs a form of the air raid offense that focuses on spreading the ball out with passes from sideline to sideline in a conference with few dominant defenses. The Jayhawks don’t run the triple option or have the luxury of the shutdown defense (although it hasn’t been the problem this year) and dominant offensive line to control the game on the ground and on defense. The passing game is very much a critical component to winning in conference play for this team.

These struggles aren’t new, either. Taking the same parameters (less than 200 yards passing on 20 or more attempts), I looked at how often this had happened to Big 12 teams since David Beaty took over in 2015.

via Sports Reference

The K-State number surprised me at first, but the Wildcats are a great example of the type of team I mentioned above with a great running game, solid defense, and has done just enough through the air to keep defenses honest. That’s why even though KSU has thrown for less than 200 yards 21 times, it is 11-10 in those games.

Kansas can’t keep teams honest. Baylor stacked the box on Saturday, keen on shutting down the run and daring Bender and others to throw it down field.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have more than half the league that has thrown for less than 200 yards less than 10 times. Oklahoma hasn’t done that since 2015 (yet were 2-0 in those games). It’s been since 2016 since Oklahoma State had that happen.

Kansas has improved this year. The defense hasn’t been gashed terribly yet and the running game with Pooka Williams is better. And there’s the caveat that the offensive line isn’t doing the offense any favors. But this shows how valuable a quality quarterback is to the resurgence of a program. If you’re going to run this system in this conference, then the Jayhawks need to either A) find better quarterback play, or B) run a different system that doesn’t rely so heavily on the passing attack.