So was that great defense or bad offense? In a game that was almost as boring as Georgia-Clemson (which is surely being lauded as a great defensive battle), Kansas beat South Dakota 17-14 Friday night in Lawrence.
And the score indicates the struggle was real was for both offenses. Combined, KU and USD put up 508 yards of total offense.
I’m gonna let that sink in for a moment.
At the beginning of the second quarter, KU had more penalty yards (20) than total offense (18). The first half saw KU punt six times, while South Dakota had four punts of their own plus a turnover on downs. The second half wasn’t much better, with three punts combined but four drives ending on downs, two for each team.
Kansas kept trying to establish its zone read run game, but found very little running room. The revamped offensive line struggled with penalties early, but did get better as the game went on. While they never did dominate the line of scrimmage, at least plays weren’t constantly getting blown up behind the LOS, which was a big issue last year. That said, they didn’t get any push, either, which resulted in some horrific rushing numbers.
Overall, KU gained 82 yards on 41 rush attempts, which is a 2.0 yards per carry average. However, it was even worse than that, as 54 of those yards came from QB Jason Bean rushing/scrambling. That means that KU running backs combined for 30 yards on 25 carries, or 1.2 ypc. The Jayhawks have talented backs, which means there’s still a lot of work to be done up front. (Note: Hickson and Hishaw are both dealing with injuries from camp, and Hishaw will now miss the rest of the season.)
All told, Kansas gained just 3.6 yards per play on the night. South Dakota struggled as well, but put up a slightly better 4.1 yards per play.
As those yards per play numbers might indicate, both teams faced constant third-and-long situations - and again, both teams struggled to convert. USD was just 3-13 (23.0%) on third down, while KU was 5-17 (29.4%). The Coyotes failed to convert on fourth down, going 0-3, while KU was 1-3.
Neither team turned the ball over (other than on downs), although South Dakota did have three fumbles, all of which they ended up recovering.
Kansas won the type game that it hasn’t won very often over the past 10 years. When adversity struck, the Jayhawks rallied instead of folding, and there’s something to be said for that. Still, you don’t apologize for winning at this level. When Kansas needed a touchdown, they went down the field and got it - admittedly, aided by a targeting penalty - and then the defense closed the game with a four-and-out.
Also, I’m going to shout out the defense here. We aren’t that far removed from giving up 41 points to South Dakota State, or 26 points to Nicholls State. This wasn’t a shoot-out, “what are we doing on defense” with an FCS team. It was the best performance by a KU defense since... Rutgers? While I would have liked to have seen KU get to the quarterback a little more, the defensive ends (Malcolm Lee, Kyron Johnson) played well and the secondary was always in a position to make plays. Even on the few occasions when South Dakota had receivers running free behind the secondary, the quarterback was never comfortable enough to be able to find them.
The offensive line definitely wasn’t good. But they also definitely weren’t horrible. They were just kinda... there. When compared to last season, they probably weren’t even “bad” per se, but, the rushing numbers disagree. Additionally, did Kansas even take a single deep shot down the field? QB Jason Bean’s longest completion was just 20 yards, and I don’t recall any deep posts, seams, or fly route attempts, which to me speaks to a lack of trust in the line to protect the quarterback on such plays.
I already talked about it above, but, let’s just suffice it to say that there’s A LOT of room for improvement regarding the rushing attack.
Jason Bean was publicly announced as QB1 about six hours before kickoff. He played the entire game, completing 17-26 passes for 163 yards and 2 TDs with zero INTs. Bean added 54 rush yards on 15 carries. He’s not the most accurate passer, but he didn’t turn the ball over and he made plays down the stretch to win the game. He’s a playmaker, and should only get better and better (along with, hopefully, his offensive line).
Velton Gardner led the Jayhawks in rush attempts with 19 carries for 21 yards.
Torry Locklin got 5 carries, all in the second half, and picked up 8 yards.
Devin Neal got just 1 carry, picking up 1 yard.
TE Mason Fairchild had maybe the catch of the year already while hauling in four passes for 58 yards.
Trevor Wilson, the Buffalo transfer, added five receptions for 50 yards.
Lawrence Arnold had just three receptions for 33 yards, but two of them went for touchdowns.
Kwamie Lassiter and Steven McBride each had two receptions, Lassiter for 12 yards and McBride for 8 yards.
Kyron Johnson had 7 tackles, one of which was a strip-sack that caused a fumble.
Gavin Potter added 7 tackles.
Kenny Logan had 7 tackles as well as an 83-yard kickoff return that set KU up in the red zone. Unfortunately, KU couldn’t convert, turning the ball over on downs.
Jacob Borcila hit his only field goal attempt, a 30-yarder.
Reis Vernon booted 7 punts with a 40.1 yard average.