The first offensive play bothered David Beaty.
In last week’s 37-21 loss to Ohio, the Kansas coach noticed something subtle on film after KU quarterback Montell Cozart’s pass was knocked down by Ohio’s Kurt Laseak.
“I can just see some winds go out of our sails a little bit for some reason,” Beaty said. “And we got it back, but that play, I showed to our guys and said, ‘Look, hey, you know what? Hey, we’re going to be able to do it on the next play. You’ve got to believe in that.’ ”
It’s the kind of lapse in focus and energy that Beaty is hoping his team can avoid in Saturday’s road game against Memphis.
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Beaty repeatedly harped on the importance of a better beginning during Tuesday’s press conference after KU was outgained 193-4 in the first quarter against Ohio.
“A fast start usually bodes well for a team,” Beaty said, “and they did that and we didn’t.”
Beaty has tried to help his players by using a method he learned from Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. The team goes through a “Fast Start” drill right after opening stretches, with coaches’ whistles blaring and the team’s first-unit offense and defense going against each other at the start of practice.
The coach says he likes to set up specific down-and-distance situations. Oftentimes, that’s second-and-8 or third-and-short, with both the offense and defense knowing their exact goals.
“We don’t get a lot of snaps, but we as coaches, we say that tells us whether we are ready to go or not, because it happens really early in the practice,” Beaty said. “So that’s been a big part of what we do, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Cozart believes the drill gets players’ adrenaline going quickly.
Safety Bazie Bates admits his heart rate accelerates.
“It’s like chaos,” Bates said. “You’ve got to react in chaos.”
There will be more to getting a fast start than practicing it, though.
Part of it for Kansas will be a better game plan, as the team was slow to respond to Ohio’s offensive and defensive sets when falling behind 25-0 in the second quarter. The Jayhawks’ defenders spoke afterward of not being ready for Ohio’s quarterback run game, with Greg Windham rushing for 110 yards in the first half.
Offensively, KU also didn’t test Ohio’s young secondary with deep passes until after halftime.
“Ohio came in prepared, ready for everything we were trying to do. Just giving us different looks,” Cozart said. “As we made the adjustments, we started to get things clicking and get things rolling.”
The hope for Kansas coaches and players is that success comes a little quicker this week.
“That’s something we’ve been focusing on since Saturday,” Cozart said, “starting fast and the mentality of getting out there and focusing.”
Kansas at Memphis
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Liberty Bowl, Memphis
Three story lines
1. SAME TREE: Kansas coach David Beaty and Memphis coach Mike Norvell have a tie: Both were given their first full-time college assistant roles by Todd Graham. Beaty was hired by Graham as receivers coach at Rice in 2006, while Norvell was also named receivers coach at Tulsa in 2009. “His mind, offensively, is ridiculous,” Beaty said of Norvell. “I mean, he’s a smart guy, sharp guy, so we’re going to have to definitely be ready.”
2. KEEPING THE STREAK? Steven Sims caught two touchdown passes in each of KU’s first two games, becoming the first Jayhawks receiver to do that since Kerry Meier in 2009. Sims, who also topped the 100-yard receiving mark against both Rhode Island and Ohio, is in a four-way tie for the national lead with his four receiving TDs.
3. KNOCKING IT DOWN: Though KU has struggled with run defense, it has shown some early positive signs when defending the pass. The Jayhawks have 16 pass breakups in their first two games, which is 10 short of the team’s entire total from the 2015 season. Memphis, meanwhile, had no problems throwing against KU during the team’s matchup last season. Quarterback Paxton Lynch completed 22 of 25 passes for 354 yards with two touchdowns, as the Tigers racked up 651 total yards during a 55-23 victory in Lawrence.