Things were supposed to be different.
Jeff Long. Les Miles. A new era of Kansas football.
And for a while, things went well. Miles salvaged the recruiting class. He even has a full class for next year (2020), put together before the season started - all verbal commits, of course. And of course, we heard all the right things from those in charge.
“We’ll give you a program to be proud of.”
“We’ll play dominant football.”
“We’re well on our way to playing in significant games.”
Fan enthusiasm was up. Energy in the stadium for the first two games was something we haven’t seen since early in the Turner Gill era.
Except we all forgot one thing. This is Kansas football. We aren’t allowed to have nice football things for some reason.
We got the first hint that maybe things weren’t so different from recent regimes when Les Miles elected not to announce his starting quarterback until the offense took the field in game one. Then, the Jayhawks struggled offensively, scoring just 17 points against FCS foe Indiana State. (The defense provided a pick-6.)
One week ago, Carter Stanley was the man. “You betcha,” was the response from Les Miles when asked if Stanley would be the guy going forward. Now, Miles is saying he needs to wait “to watch this film” before addressing Stanley’s status as QB1.
Kansas used two timeouts on a fourth down call (and Coastal Carolina used one) before calling a run play up the middle - straight into a run blitz. What?
That series of events is a microcosm of the Kansas offense in 2019. I have so many questions. You have a mobile quarterback, why aren’t there more RPO plays being called? Why is the offensive line being pushed around so badly? Where are the misdirection plays? Why aren’t playmakers getting the ball in space? Why can’t the QB make an audible at the line of scrimmage when he sees a blitz or a defense he doesn’t like?
Let’s illustrate the point a bit more. 10 months ago, KU and K-State were in apparently similar positions. Both fan bases had coaches they didn’t want anymore. The two teams played a 21-17 game that saw the KU quarterback fumble while a wide open receiver streaked down the field for what could have been a game winning pass.
Now, Kansas State is back to beating down opponents while KU continues to struggle. The Wildcats have obliterated Nicholls State (does that name sound familiar?) and Bowling Green with a roster that, on paper, can’t be that much more talented than KU’s.
Or, consider North Carolina. The Tar Heels went 2-9 last year, losing to East Carolina in the process. They hire Mack Brown, regarded by many as a similar hire as Les Miles, and promptly knock off South Carolina and Miami. Admittedly, UNC hasn’t been historically awful like Kansas has been over the past 10 years, but they are coming off back-to-back 9-loss seasons.
I’m done with the platitudes. I’m done with coach speak. I’m done looking for silver linings in losses.
I want results.
18 wins in nine years. This program has been an embarrassment since 2010. It sucks going to work on Mondays in the fall, especially if you live in Kansas or Missouri. It sucks being the laughingstock of Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and college football in general.
This home loss was worse than Central Michigan (2017). It was worse than Rice (2012). Worse than North Dakota State before the Bison were good (2010). Worse than Bowling Green (2002). Worse than San Diego State (1999). Worse than Utah (1993).
And if you weren’t even alive in 1993, don’t you dare to presume to tell me how to feel or act as a fan.
I haven’t re-watched the Coastal Carolina game yet (and probably won’t), but it seems to my memory that KU ran one misdirection play - and scored a touchdown. Kansas moved the ball with ease on its first drive. The Jayhawks then reverted to football circa 1999. It was infuriating.
Sure, that style of football worked for Les Miles at LSU. That style works when your guys are bigger, stronger, and faster than everyone else. But apparently someone needs to tell Les that it isn’t 1999 anymore, and he isn’t at LSU anymore.
This is a game Kansas should have won by multiple touchdowns. The Jayhawks had the most electric player on the field, but instead of scheming around his strengths and getting him the ball in space, they tried to pound him like he was Leonard Fournette.
All of the momentum Kansas had built up coming into the season is gone. It just is. Even if the Jayhawks somehow, some way, win another game the rest of the way, it won’t do anything to get it back.
To Jeff Long: Maybe now you kinda know what it’s like. Maybe now you have an inkling of what the Kansas football fan has been through over the last 10 years. Four coaches have come and gone since our last winning season. That’s how many times we’ve been promised that things were going to be different.
We are tired of losing to MAC schools, FCS schools, and Sun Belt schools. More than that, we are tired of a football team that looks disorganized and incompetent against such competition.
Winning begets fan support, not the other way around. I’ll still be there every week (because apparently I’m a glutton for punishment), but it’s not cool to keep asking fans to come out and support this program. It’s time for this program to support the fans who do come out. Invest in your fans; don’t ask them to invest in you.
If you would like to come chat with me about it, I’ll be at Boston College next week. Come find me in Section O, Row 12. I know I’m just a blogger who doesn’t have $50 million to donate, but I don’t think you can afford to lose very many of your true football fans.
Or maybe you can. After all, if this program ever wins six games again, you’ll have plenty of t-shirt basketball fans that will be more than willing to take my place. Not that I plan on going anywhere soon, but just know - the thought has crossed my mind more than once recently.
Maybe this isn’t fair, I don’t know. It’s probably too early to draw conclusions two games into a coach’s tenure, and it’s probably unfair to Miles. There have just been A LOT of reminders of the previous coaching staff over the last three weeks or so, and it’s difficult to shake the feeling of “here we go again.”
Oh well I guess. We’ll always have Rutgers. At least that was fun.