Kansas vs. West Virginia: Knocking on the Door

Saturday marked Les Miles’ first Big 12 loss as the head coach of Kansas. Football is a complex game that often boils down to the odd bounces of an oblong object filled with air. While the ball bounced “better” for West Virginia, Saturday showed some things for Kansas fans to be optimistic and pessimistic about. We saw vintage Les Miles in all his glory.

Positives

KU outgained West Virginia on a per play basis. They did so by a margin that historically yields a win 98.4% of the time. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s highly encouraging. For years, Kansas was outclassed by their Big 12 opponents and on Saturday they dominated their opponent on a per play basis. While I am not a believer in moral victories, this trend bodes well for the future of Kansas football. 

I thought Carter Stanley’s performance was a mixed bag, but his increased confidence will force defenses to back out of the box and open things for the rushing attack. Each week, he and Andrew Parchment seem to gain chemistry. Pooka Williams still looks like he is playing his way back into shape and showed off some of his highlight ability on a few runs. 

The defense did a good job of getting pressure on Austin Kendall. The Jayhawks recorded 3 sacks and forced a number of uncomfortable throws. Jay Dineen popped and it will be important to see him improve if Prox is out for any significant amount of time (Prox left Saturday’s contest with an injury).

Negatives

Can’t turn the ball over. Carter Stanley needs to be more secure with the football. There isn’t a lot more to it. On the flip side, Kansas hasn’t generated turnovers outside of the Indiana State game. The Jayhawks are currently ranked 120th in the country in turnover margin. While I believe turnover luck can turn around, it’s cost them two games so far this season. 

Kansas also struggled wrapping up and getting to the ball carrier on Saturday. This wasn’t an issue in the first two games but reared its head on Saturday. It seems like the further away from the tackle box runners go the more dicey Kansas’ ability to tackle gets (i.e. run away from Prox and Kyron Johnson).

Takeaways

Kansas absolutely could have won the game. The encouraging thing is that Kansas looked like a competent Power 5 football team. They weren’t blown off the ball. They didn’t throw the ball into the stands or blow assignments. They have things to clean up and the slate doesn’t get easier, but I think you have to be encouraged.

Also while the call was correct (still a gut punch), what an unbelievable play design and call by Les Miles and Mike Ekeler. Scott Chasen of 247Sports breaks it down beautifully here. I mean getting the kicker to fake an injury and bring in the backup to kick an onside kick towards your fastest player is vintage Mad Hatter Les Miles. KU may not win much over their next stretch (at TCU, Oklahoma in Lawrence, at Texas… yikes), but you can expect Les Miles to make it fun.