Pictured above: An interception by Texas Tech.
College football is so dumb sometimes. Why do we watch this? Three weeks ago, knock off top-10 Oklahoma. Follow that up with a conference road win over a team with a winning record. Follow that up with... whatever this was over a team with a losing record.
Texas Tech is not good. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad, but - they’re not good. Especially the defense. Consider Tech’s ranks coming in to the game (out of 130 FBS teams): Total Defense (67), Scoring Defense (65), S&P+ Defense (53), Red Zone Defense (114), Sacks (104).
That’s... not good. It’s quite literally average in some categories to downright bad.
Tech’s defense had been giving up yards at 5.26 per play. Opponents were averaging over 25 points per game. And, opponents were converting in the red zone at a 90.6% clip.
This is a team that has losses to Wyoming, West Virginia, and BYU.
But Saturday was a different story. Because of course it was. Granted, Kansas was down to its third-string, true freshman, walk-on quarterback early in the second quarter. So that can and does explain a lot of the offense’s struggles. But still, even before that, Kansas just wasn’t going anywhere offensively. In the first three drives of the game with Jason Bean, KU went 3-and-out, 3-and-out, turnover on downs.
For the game, Kansas averaged just 4.9 yards per play. Take out Devin Neal’s 60-yard TD run, and suddenly it’s a much more pedestrian 4.1 yards per play. Notably, the defense stepped up in a major way and held Tech to just 4.5 yards per play. Tech RB Tahj Brooks rushed for 70 yards against KU in the first quarter, but got just 63 more the rest of the way. Overall, the Jayhawks outgained and out-snapped the Raiders.
So what doomed the Jayhawks? Dare I say it out loud? Before I do, let’s look at a couple of things.
Kansas held Tech to 4-14 (28.6%, good!) on 3rd down, while converting 7-15 (46.7%, average) of their own attempts. However, KU was 0-2 (bad!) on 4th down, while Tech was 2-2 (also bad!). Consider: KU ran 10 plays in goal-to-go situations; they had a net gain of 12 yards on those snaps (h/t Shane Jackson). That’s bad! On three red zone possessions, the Jayhawks would turn the ball over on downs once and kick two field goals.
Insert “Not great, Bob!” dot gif.
The end of both halves were time mismanagement master classes by Leipold and Co. Someone needs to take that NIL money and hire a Clock Management Specialist or something. In the first half, Kansas had 3 timeouts and the ball at their own 28-yard line with 28 seconds to play, trailing 10-0. After a handoff to Devin Neal up the middle, KU trotted off the field - to the consternation of many in the crowd, although I doubt it was audible on television.
But even worse, the second half. Trailing 13-10 with 2:20 to play, the Jayhawks drove right down the field. With 51 seconds left, on 1st-and-Goal from the 10, Devin Neal went up the middle for three yards. Timeout Kansas with 43 seconds to play.
What? Absolutely the wrong call there. Force Tech to take a timeout, or let the clock run down and THEN call timeout. You’ve got 2nd-and-Goal from the 7. No reason to call a timeout there. Like, at all.
Hindsight is obviously 20/20, especially considering what happened next: second down run, Tech timeout, third down halfback pass incomplete, kick the field goal on 4th down, and Tech had 28 seconds to try to get into field goal range.
Which, of course they did, and won the game. All because KU gifted Tech an extra timeout. So in identical situations at the end of each half, Tech was aggressive, while Kansas was not. Scared money don’t make money, as they say.
To his credit, Leipold took the blame for the loss in the post game presser. Which is good, because I have no problem placing the blame for this loss squarely on the coaching staff. (And to be fair, I remind you yet again, we were warned about this.)
I suppose its difficult to be too upset. Yes, I believe this team should be 8-1 despite the injury to Jalon Daniels, with a decent chance to be 9-0. They’ve certainly put themselves in position to be 8-1, they just haven’t converted against Oklahoma State and now Texas Tech. On the flip side, they did convert against Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Nevada. And that’s something we haven’t seen out of this KU football program for 15 years. So again, it’s difficult to be too upset.
I keep telling myself that we are less than 3 years removed from a winless season, and from the worst decade any college football program has ever seen. What Leipold has done here will (hopefully eventually) go in the history books as a top-5 turnaround in college football.
Still, I just can’t help but want more. Is it too much to ask to understand proper timeout usage? Or to do better than 4-14 (28.6%) on 4th down over the course of a season? There are literally only seven teams in FBS that are worse on 4th down; that said, none of them have a top-25ish offense like Kansas does. I just can’t wrap my brain around it.
The defense had a day with 3 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception, grinding down the Tech offense and holding it to 3.7 yards per play until...
... the final three plays of the game. Give Tech QB Behren Morton credit, he made the plays when it counted, but that completion to set Tech up for the game winning field goal will haunt Kansas fans (and moreso Mello Dotson) for a while. Those three final plays bumped up Tech’s offense to its final stat of 4.5 yards per play.
You earned this, Lance. Credit to coach for taking ownership in the postgame, but still, take your choice between playcalling and Time/Score management. A halfback pass on 3rd-and-goal. Not getting any points, not even a field goal, after a 98-yard drive. You can even question the two field goal attempts KU made as to whether or not the Jayhawks should have gone for the TD on fourth down. Or how about taking three timeouts with you into halftime. But the worst decision of the day was definitely the timeout with 43 seconds left in the game.
Jason Bean started, leading three drives before he left the game with what would later be called a head injury by his head coach. Bean completed just 1-4 passes for 13 yards while rushing 3 times for 17 yards.
Cole Ballard showed some moxie, grit, and inexperience in his 2+ quarters leading the offense. The true freshman walk-on was good enough to earn the third-string job in fall camp, but is still a true freshman walk-on. He showed promise, but I’d be lying if I said anything other than, “I don’t want to see him take another snap until 2025.”
Ballard finished 9-20 for 124 yards with an INT that frankly was simply an amazing play by the Tech defender (lead photo). Ballard did get away with throwing into traffic a couple of times, but he also had some receivers with a case of butterfingers at other times, so that probably evens out. He added 47 rush yards on 10 carries, but suffered 3 sacks for -27 yards - sacks that a more experienced quarterback probably doesn’t take.
Still, for a first outing for a true freshman walk-on, there are enough positive takeaways that I’m optimistic about KU football after Jalon Daniels.
It felt like Devin Neal was bottled up most of the day, but ended up with 137 yards on 19 carries and a TD. He had one monster run of 60 yards; take that away and he still averaged 4.2 ypc. Neal added 2 receptions for 12 yards.
Daniel Hishaw never got going, picking up 41 yards on 13 carries, a 2.7 ypc.
Lawrence Arnold led Kansas receivers with 44 yards on 2 receptions.
Quentin Skinner added 32 yards on 2 receptions.
Mason Fairchild had 2 receptions as well, for 20 yards.
Luke Grimm was held without a catch on 2 targets.
Jared Casey (pictured above) was also held without a reception on 3 targets.
Tanaka Scott may have had a worse day than the coaching staff, seeing 3 targets and just simply dropping all of them.
Kenny Logan led the KU defense with 9 tackles.
Mello Dotson had 8 tackles, including a sack on a neat CB blitz, but had a forgettable ending to the game.
Rich Miller added 8 tackles with a sack.
Austin Booker had 4 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble.
OJ Burroughs had 3 tackles and an INT. Burroughs was credited with an additional 2 PBUs as well.
Damon Greaves had a rough day, booting 4 punts with just a 33.0 average.
Seth Keller bounced back in a good way, converting both of his field goal attempts (24, 22).