Big 12 Sports Articles

‘Baby Steps and Small Victories’ the name of the game at Kansas

On Saturday, during a possession early in the game KU had what looked to be a great opportunity. With the game still scoreless, KU receiver Steven Sims Jr. shot past the corner covering him with ease and was on a clear path to the end zone with a decently thrown pass. Unfortunately, what actually happened was quarterback Montell Cozart overthrowing the freshman receiver which would have given the Jayhawks’ an early 7-0 lead and momentum. This play basically sums up the day for David Beaty’s Jayhawks against the Iowa State Cyclones, as they continually missed opportunities and made critical mistakes in big situations.

When asked at the Big 12 football media days in Dallas about what true goals Beaty had set before the season, he specifically mentioned being a smart team. He explained that often times teams lose by beating themselves with costly penalties and that he would emphasize KU being the least penalized team in the nation this year. This was also, unfortunately, not the story for KU on Saturday.  Although the Jayhawks’ only gave up 37 yards from penalties, they totaled 5 of them and multiple proved to be costly. The first penalty was an obvious game changer when KU had driven the ball down to the Cyclones’ 22 yard line and were going for it on fourth-and-one. Before there was a chance to run the play, a false start on senior left guard Bryan Peters moved the Jayhawks’ back to the ISU 27 yard line, which was no longer four-down territory. This led to Beaty electing to have Nick Bartolotta attempt a 44-yard field goal which he was unable to connect on. Once again, instead of having an opportunity for an early 7-0 lead, missed opportunities and avoidable mistakes plagued the Jayhawks’.

But, the mistakes on the offense were far from the only problem for KU, as the defense was once again weak and made mistakes as well. Misunderstanding play calls and misreads occurred often on defense, which lead to ISU players being ridiculously wide open and having far too much uncovered space ahead of them. Even when a player was in position to make a tackle, it usually ended up in a miss or help from others was needed to make the tackle. A great example of this is the fact that Iowa State running back Mike Warren set the ISU all-time freshman record with 175 rushing yards. As a team, ISU pounded out a total of 243 rushing yards against Kansas and averaged a lofty 6.6 yards per carry. Ultimately it was just another disappointing day for the Jayhawks’ on both sides of the ball, as the Cyclones’ would end up winning 38-13 and end what was probably the last realistic possibility of a win for KU in football this year.

If you have trouble with patience and want to work on it, watching this KU football team will be great practice over the next couple of years. KU fans are now faced with the fact that they will realistically have a winless team for the first time since 1954. ESPN ranked the win probability that KU has versus all the remaining teams on the schedule and the highest one weighs in at 6.1% against Texas on November 7th.

It’s also pretty bad when in recent memory, I can remember more rushing yard records set against KU from than total wins. The team that David Beaty took over had deep rooted issues that will take a lot of time to fully fix. The fact of the matter is that Beaty is going to have to rebuild this program back up step-by-step, and he truly does have to start from the bottom. Weis left the program in such a bad position that he basically had to come in and hit the reset button completely.

Although KU is 0-4 and already penciled in as a major underdog for the rest of the season, there have been some positive signs that the program could be slowly making progress. One thing to watch closely is the development of freshman quarterback Ryan Willis. Willis has good size at 6’4 and 215 lbs and has a very strong arm. On Saturday’s game against ISU, Willis saw a good amount of action when starting quarterback Montell Cozart came out of the game with an injury.

Although things started off a little shaky for Willis, he started to look better with every snap and ended up connecting on 8 of 16 passes for 100 yards. After the game Beaty told reporters that Willis will now be starting for KU (at the very least until Cozart is healed). Even though the scoreboard might be disappointing, Beaty can still make major strides during this season if young players, led by Willis, can develop. KU has not had a productive starting quarterback since Todd Reesing graduated. If Willis can play well enough to keep the starting job and take it into next season, it would be a very promising situation.

Throughout the rest of the season there will be plenty of young players getting a chance to play, which will hopefully lead to some real improvement in the roster for coming seasons. A freshman to watch on the defense is freshman cornerback Tyrone Miller Jr. Through the first four games of the season; Miller Jr. has already racked up 36 tackles and forced one fumble. Once again, these are by no means eye popping stats but it is a relevant contribution from a freshman this early in the year and if he can continue to improve, Miller Jr. could be a regular part of the Jayhawks’ team under Beaty for the next 3 years to come.

Overall, it has been a frustrating start to the year and realistically things won’t be getting much better any time soon. But once again patience is the key to building a successful program under head coach David Beaty and looking for the small victories throughout the year is what this team will be graded on in 2015.

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