It’s a good thing for the Kansas offense that football scoreboards don’t have negative numbers.
If we’re being honest, the Jayhawks’ effort early was worse than zero in a 49-7 loss to No. 11 Baylor on Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium.
The Jayhawks didn’t just get shut out in the first half, which would have been bad enough. They also had four turnovers in the first 31 minutes — and five in the game — while becoming the nation’s leader with 22 giveaways.
“Offensively, we’ve got to get better in a lot of ways,” Kansas coach David Beaty said. “We made some strides last week, and then today, we took several steps back. That’s my responsibility. I’m the one that has to manage that and make sure we’re productive on that side of the ball.”
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The number of turnovers has to be one of Beaty’s biggest disappointments as his team hits the midway point with a record of 1-5. All offseason, he preached that three factors would be most important to help KU become competitive this season: turnover margin, penalties and special teams.
While the latter two areas have seen improvement, the offensive mistakes have become more frequent. Kansas has nine giveaways in its last two games, including four from the first half in a 24-23 home loss to TCU last Saturday.
“We’re working diligently to try to prevent those things,” Beaty said. “Very disappointing, but when you turn over the ball that much, you usually lose and you usually lose big.”
The offensive struggles on Saturday started with a Ryan Willis interception on KU’s first drive. Baylor’s Ryan Reid stepped in front of a throw from hashmark to far sideline for a 64-yard pick-six.
“The guy made a really good jump on it. Hats off to him. He made a really good play,” Willis said. “It’s a long throw, but we need to complete those. We need to be better as an offense. I need to be better.”
The other interceptions weren’t pretty either. Willis’ second came after he threw behind Bobby Hartzog over the middle, and a third just after halftime came when Willis failed to read Baylor safety Orion Stewart, who dropped immediately for double coverage on receiver Steven Sims before catching the pass down the left sideline.
“A majority of the mistakes we’ve made from a quarterback standpoint has been the inability to read and just locking on (a receiver) and thinking, ‘I’ve got this,’” Beaty said. “When you do that, you usually pay the price.”
KU’s offensive issues extended beyond the quarterbacks.
On one play, Kansas center Joe Gibson started to snap, stopped, then fumbled his next attempted snap, with Baylor recovering the ball inside the Kansas 5-yard line. Beaty reported after the game that Gibson became confused when Baylor’s nose tackle called out the snap count.
The Jayhawks offensive line was overwhelmed repeatedly, with one example coming in the second quarter when seven KU blockers failed to hold back four Baylor rushers as Willis was taken down for a sack.
The loss only continued KU’s misery away from Memorial Stadium. It was the Jayhawks’ 38th straight road defeat, which is the second-longest streak all-time according to College Football Reference. KU passed Wichita State, which lost 37 consecutive road games from 1964-71.
Western State’s top position for most consecutive road defeats now appears to be visible on the Kansas horizon. KU needs a win in one of its next six away games to avoid tying the record of 44 straight set by the Mountaineers from 1926-36.
“I definitely want to get that my senior year,” Kansas safety Fish Smithson said of a road victory. “I think that is one thing that is dwelling over the program, getting a road win.”
The Bears continued their recent dominance over the Jayhawks, winning the last seven meetings by an average of 38 points. That included on Saturday a solid effort from quarterback Seth Russell, who originally committed to KU before former Kansas coach Charlie Weis decided to look elsewhere at the position. Russell, who had four combined touchdowns with 212 combined rushing and passing yards, played only one half after Baylor built a 42-0 lead at the break.
A week after he set a career high with 348 passing yards, Willis mustered just 89 passing yards for Kansas, with no touchdowns to his three interceptions. KU totaled 134 passing yards overall.
“There’s no steps you can skip at the quarterback position,” Beaty said. “But hey, at the end of the day, I’m coaching those guys, and that’s my fault. I’ve got to get better at that. There’s nobody else to blame but me.
“I would be upset at me too, because I haven’t gotten it fixed, and we’ve got to get better at it.”
No. 11 Baylor 49
BAY: S.Russell 5 run (Callahan kick), 11:55
BAY: Reid 63 interception return (Callahan kick), 8:40
BAY: S.Russell 26 run (Callahan kick), 2:47
BAY: Cannon 59 pass from S.Russell (Callahan kick), 6:26
BAY: Linwood 4 run (Callahan kick), 5:49
BAY: Zamora 4 pass from S.Russell (Callahan kick), 1:45
BAY: T.Williams 7 run (Callahan kick), 11:00
KAN: Herbert 2 run (Wyman kick), 1:22
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Kansas, Kinner 15-49, Herbert 9-34, T.Martin 7-23, Evans 1-2, Long 1-0, Stanley 4-(minus 1), (Team) 1-(minus 3), Gonzales 1-(minus 7), Willis 9-(minus 14). Baylor, S.Russell 7-68, Linwood 10-46, Schrepfer 9-39, Hasty 6-34, T.Williams 8-33, Platt 1-8, Hawthorne 1-5, Heard 1-5, Lynch 1-4, Bucey 2-4, Z.Smith 3-0.
PASSING: Kansas, Willis 10-19-3-89, Stanley 3-8-1-45. Baylor, S.Russell 9-22-0-144, Z.Smith 4-8-0-63.
RECEIVING: Kansas, Gonzales 5-29, Sims 2-40, Barbel 2-17, Booker 1-27, Fairs 1-8, Hartzog 1-7, Harrell 1-6. Baylor, Cannon 3-75, Stricklin 2-51, Hawthorne 2-42, Platt 2-17, Lynch 1-7, Feuerbacher 1-6, Atkinson 1-5, Zamora 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: Baylor, Callahan 36, Callahan 34, Galitz 48.