The postgame speech was difficult.
Kansas football coach David Beaty spent a few extra minutes in the locker room after his team’s 34-19 loss to Kansas State, telling 25 seniors he was proud of them before complimenting them on their resiliency through their careers.
“He definitely got a little emotional,” KU safety Fish Smithson said. “I could tell when he made some eye contact with certain seniors, it hit him that he wouldn’t be seeing our faces around.”
One line was repeated again: Beaty told the final-year players they had helped to lay the foundation for what was to come with the program.
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Smithson believes that will be success, and he has a reason he thinks that this 2-10 season could be the start of better days.
That begins with Beaty. After each game, regardless of situation, Smithson saw the same demeanor from the coach who walked through the locker-room doors.
“I know certain organizations, if things are going bad, they like to just get up and change — just being erratic,” Smithson said. “After games and losses, he’ll come in and he’ll tell us, ‘We’re not going to change anything. We’re going to keep the path, and we’re going to keep going.’
“I think that showed after the Texas win last week that if we keep the same path and keep going the right direction, then things are going to be good.”
Beaty often likes to talk about the KU rebuild being a process and not an event. It’s often a tough message to deliver for a team and fan base that has gone through more losing than any Power Five team in the past eight seasons.
Yet it’s that steadiness — Smithson calls it “poise” — that makes Beaty’s players believe that he can turn this thing around.
“Last year was definitely different. When we lost, we really took it hard,” KU running back Ke’aun Kinner said. “This year, when we lost or when bad things happen, we come together instead of pointing fingers. That’s what good teams do.”
A half hour after the loss, in the postgame press conference, Beaty was asked if he could learn anything from K-State coach Bill Snyder and his success established over 25 years and 200 victories. Beaty mentioned two staples he’d noticed: a sense of family and also discipline that led to clean football.
While KU appears to be making ground on the “family” portion of the equation, the team remains well behind when it comes to self-inflicted wounds.
A year that started with Beaty preaching the importance of turnovers finished with the Jayhawks more mistake-prone than any other. The Jayhawks, who had three more turnovers Saturday, finished their season with 36 giveaways, a number that led all 128 Division I schools. Not only that, KU had at least two in each game, a feat that no D-I school had accomplished since 2012.
The critical error for KU came in the second quarter, as quarterback Carter Stanley failed to read K-State’s coverage properly and fired an interception directly to Donnie Starks, who returned it 39 yards for a touchdown that made it 20-3.
“We actually had a good little play called there if we’d have read it right, I think it would have been OK,” Beaty said. “Unfortunately, those are the types of mistakes you can’t make in games like this.”
The biggest questions of the offseason will loom around the offense. Is Stanley the answer at quarterback? Though the redshirt freshman doesn’t have amazing arm strength, a strong second half helped him to 302 yards passing, 52 yards rushing and some added respect from teammates after he popped up following every K-State hit.
Also, will Beaty switch offensive coordinators? He named himself play caller in March hoping that would jump-start KU’s offense, though the final results were mixed at best.
Those were questions for a different day, though. Beaty said the first order of business following Saturday’s final game would be to continue the build, working to make sure the players continued to get stronger while coaches stayed diligent in their search for recruits.
Kinner, after playing in his final game, only wished he could be a part of what was to come.
“We love each other. I’d give my all for this team any day,” Kinner said. “They would do the same for me.”
Kansas State 34, Kansas 19
KAN: FG Wyman 34, 10:30
KSU: Dimel 1 run (kick failed), 7:24
KSU: Barnes 31 run (Patterson kick), 13:55
KSU: D.Starks 39 interception return (Patterson kick), 13:12
KSU: Dimel 7 run (Patterson kick), 9:47
KAN: Gonzalez 95 pass from Stanley (run failed), 4:18
KSU: Hubener 1 run (Patterson kick), 14:51
KAN: Zunica 4 pass from Stanley (Wyman kick), 11:29
KAN: FG Wyman 44, 6:30
Time of Possession
RUSHING: Kansas, Stanley 10-52, Kinner 9-25, Herbert 5-13, Martin 3-11. Kansas State, Barnes 10-103, Ertz 12-99, Delton 12-53, Warmack 5-43, Dimel 6-15, Morgan 1-11, C.Jones 5-7, Hubener 5-7, Silmon 2-4.
PASSING: Kansas, Stanley 24-44-2-302. Kansas State, Ertz 4-6-0-59, Delton 0-1-0-0, Hubener 2-4-0-40.
RECEIVING: Kansas, Gonzalez 5-127, Sims 5-41, Patrick 3-64, Zunica 2-21, Kinner 2-20, Barbel 2-16, Martin 2-3, Brewer 1-5, Moses 1-3, Herbert 1-2. Kansas State, Pringle 5-77, C.Jones 1-22.
MISSED FIELD GOALS: Kansas State, Patterson 36.