Unfortunately, it is that time of year again. It felt like just yesterday the Big 12 football season was kicking off and within the blink of an eye it’s gone. Of course, some fans don’t mind when the season is flying by because when your team is bad, you are likely wanting it to be over as soon as possible. Now that isn’t the case for every team in the Big 12 but for these four teams that I will recap in the next two weeks, it appears to be that way. So, for Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia and TCU, you are the first four teams in line for my season recaps before the bowl season gets here. I know there is still time before the season is “officially” over, but for these four teams that time has already come. First up, are the Kansas Jayhawks who finished the 2019 campaign at 3-9.
While the Les Miles era didn’t start off in stunning fashion, it did start off with a win which is something that hasn’t happened often in Lawrence, Kansas. The Jayhawks squeaked by Indiana State for the season opener before they got the wake-up call of the season when they lost to Costal Carolina at home in a sloppy 12-7 loss. That kick in the rear got the team in gear apparently because just one week later, Kansas football took out years-worth of frustration on the road against Boston College as they thumped the Eagles 48-24 snapping their long power five road losing streak.
Heading into Big 12 play with a 2-1 record, Kansas would finish their conference slate at 1-8 with their only victory over Texas Tech. While they were getting blown out in most of their Big 12 games, they did have three close conference games which hasn’t happened in a while. They lost to West Virginia by five at home to open Big 12 play and then they had a two-game streak where they were playing some good football. Those two games were against Texas on the road where it took a game winning kick by Texas to win and obviously the next game against Tech where they won their only conference game of the year to finish Les Miles first season as Kansas head coach at 3-9.
It’s not often you can say Kansas had a “high point” in a football season but I truly felt like there were two cases where I could make an argument for that. Obviously, the Boston College beatdown in Boston was by far the most impressive victory Kansas has had in probably about ten years as they won 48-24. That snapped a Power Five road losing streak dating all the way back to 2008 for crying out loud.
The other peak moment of the year was when Les Miles decided to make a change at offensive coordinator as he promoted Brent Dearmon from an offensive consultant. Dearmon proved to be a spark that Kansas desperately needed, and it paid off in a big way for two weeks as Kansas nearly knocked off Texas in Austin and beat Texas Tech the following week. In those two weeks Kansas put up a combined 85 points which is a rarity when talking about Kansas football.
This one is easy. After starting off the season with a win, the Jayhawks fell flat on their face as Coastal Carolina came into Lawrence and pulled off the upset in an ugly 12-7 loss. The Chanticleers finished 5-7 in the Sun Belt and without a doubt it was the worst loss of the season for the Jayhawks. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise because the very next week, Kansas pulled of a HUGE upset against Boston College. Whether it was a wake-up call or not, that doesn’t excuse the loss.
What Went Right
There we some players from the offense that deserve some credit this season. I’ll get more into here in a bit, but the offense had to carry the team nearly all season long. Quarterback Carter Stanley put together his best year in a Kansas uniform throwing 24 touchdowns having the best statistical year since Todd Reesing in 2009. Not to mention, Kansas had two solid receivers this year in Andrew Parchment and Stephon Robinson Jr. who each had over 720 receiving yards this season and combined for 15 scores. Of course, I saved the best for last with running back Pooka Williams Jr. who rushed for 1,042 yards and 3 touchdowns. Keep in mind, Pooka only played in eleven games and probably could have boosted his numbers a bit against Indiana State. The bottom line here is that Kansas finally has some offense for once. They just need to be more consistent.
What Went Wrong
Defense, defense and defense. Kansas ranked near the bottom of not just the Big 12 but in the country for nearly every major defensive category. The Jayhawks gave up over 36 points per game and gave up 225.7 rushing yards per game which was in the bottom ten of the entire country. The pass defense was better but still it was probably only better because opposing offense were just eating Kansas up on the ground. That was just part of their problems because as bad as they were struggling to stop the run, they also couldn’t force many sacks this season (17) and turnovers. Probably the most eye-popping stat of all is that the defense allowed their opponents to convert 52.3% of their third downs. Defensive Coordinator Clint Bowen has some work to do.
While Kansas returns their top back (Pooka Williams Jr.) and their two leading receivers (Andrew Parchment and Stephon Robinson Jr.) next season, the question surrounding the offense will be the quarterback position. With Carter Stanley gone, who will be the crucial piece of this offense? Not to mention the offensive line will need to be patched up as well. This is small potatoes compared to the issues on defense. While the Jayhawks have plenty of guys up front coming back, they lose their two leaders in the secondary in safety Mike Lee and corner Hasan Defense. But again, it was the defensive front that needs the work and with some guys that have experience under their belts now, can it be better in 2020? While the future of Kansas football looks better than it has been in a few years, it still isn’t where it needs to be. Hopefully 2020 will be another step in the right direction.
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