If you read our predictions heading into the game, there were two major beliefs: the Kansas defense would be unable to contain WVU and the offense would struggle to put up points.
The 38-17 score line reflected this, though I’m not putting this loss on the defense. The Jayhawks forced a few turnovers, made some key stops, and held the Mountaineers to 24 points through three quarters. It wasn’t always pretty, but there were some reasons for optimism from the defense and it gave the offense several opportunities to make a push. In the end, the offense failed to make enough plays to give the defense hope (and a break on the sideline).
The offense, on the other hand, is still hopeless. It only saw one touchdown drive the entire game, while not even reaching 200 yards of offense, and got the first three points thanks to great field position by the defense causing a fumble. And now the Jayhawks are a historic pace for the wrong reasons.
Kansas has racked up just 1,045 yards on 267 plays through the first four games of the season. In the past 20 years, which has included some bleak seasons, KU’s 2002 squad is the only one to put up fewer yards—1,035 on 283 plays. Expanding it even further, there have only been 58 FBS schools to put up fewer yards in their first four games having had at least 200 plays since 2000 (keep in mind we’re talking about between 115 and 130 teams each year, so this would be out of approximately 2,500 teams) and only 25 were power 5 schools in the year their struggles happened.
This is not what fans were expecting. Sure, the quarterback position was a question mark, but with Pooka Williams in the backfield, Andrew Parchment and Stephon Robinson at receiver, and Brent Dearmon calling the plays, the offense was not expected to struggle this month. And yes, it’s a weird year in the midst of a pandemic. There were fewer non-conference games against supposedly inferior opponents. That should be noted. There was no spring to prepare. So a little rust was expected. This, though, is more than just a little rust.
That 2002 Jayhawk team went just 2-10, but the offense did improve over the course of the season. In the fifth game of the year against Tulsa, the Jayhawks put up 523 yards of offense and 43 points, and then had more than 350 total yards in another four games. So maybe we’ll see some of that as the season goes on and either Jalon Daniels or Thomas MacVittie can get and stay healthy.
If we want to stick with the optimism, maybe the best way to look at it is that it doesn’t have to last long. A year after that ugly 2002 year where KU averaged 20 points per game (96th out of 117), the Jayhawks went 6-7 in 2003 while scoring 29.5 ppg (36th of 117).
But for that to happen—both improvement this year and massive growth a year from now—Kansas has to find an answer at QB and hope whoever it is stays healthy.