The destruction was done and finished, the shrapnel littered the grass at Wallace Wade Stadium. In the moments after Kansas’ 41-3 loss to Duke on Saturday evening, Charlie Weis limped toward the south end zone, on his way to a locker room tucked 150 yards away, on the other side of a Duke practice field.
There Weis sat, projecting a aura of calm, preaching a message of accountability, trying to shoulder-shrug and explain his way through another debacle. He used worlds and phrases he has said before. In the locker room after the game, for instance, he asked his players the following question: “What’s it gonna be?”
“I wasn’t calm about 10 or 15 minutes ago,” Weis told reporters.
It was the latest brutal loss for a program that had sincere hopes of momentum in year three under Weis. Here at Duke, in front of a subdued crowd of 25,203, the Jayhawks’ latest offseason renovation crumbled in disastrous fashion.
“(I was) a little surprised,” said senior receiver Nick Harwell, who was held to just two catches. “I thought we were better than that. I know we’re better than that.”
From a bookkeeping standpoint, it was the Jayhawks’ 25th straight loss on the road — the 28th straight defeat away from Lawrence. But at this point, those are just numbers, like a metronome that keeps count of the program’s disarray.
Here are some more numbers that illustrate how bad it was on Saturday:
▪ Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart completed just 11 of 27 passes for 89 yards and two interceptions. Cozart looked rattled under pressure and came under heavy fire from Duke’s blitzes.
“It just seemed like when I would be seeing somebody open, the ball wasn’t being delivered,” Weis said. “Remember now, I’m not calling the plays. So on every play, I don’t know exactly who they would want the ball to go to.”
▪ Duke true freshman Shaun Wilson had touchdown runs of 45, 68 and 69 yards — and he did not appear on the Blue Devils’ depth chart last week. Wilson had 245 yards on 12 carries, setting Duke’s single-game record.
“All they were running were inside zones,” Weis said, blaming a lack of gap discipline from his players. “Next thing you know, they’re bouncing their head off the goalpost.”
▪ In the last seven quarters under new offensive coordinator John Reagan — including last week’s 34-28 victory over Southeast Missouri State — the Jayhawks’ spread offense has managed just 13 points. Is the problem the quarterback? The offensive line? The coaching?
After the game, Weis spoke of accountability.
“From me right on down,” Weis said.
KU did not make Cozart available to speak with reporters after the game.
▪ Two years ago, Kansas averaged more than 18 points per game and ranked 115th nationally in scoring. One year ago, the Jayhawks averaged 15.3 points and ranked 118th nationally. Every year, a new quarterback. Every year, the same problems.
“If we don’t throw and catch it better than that,” Weis said. “it’s going to be a problem.”
▪ Finally, a brutal hit. With less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Cozart took a monster shot to the ribs and exited the game for backup Michael Cummings.
It just kept getting worse.
The Jayhawks, of course, entered the day as a double-digit underdog, so the fact they left Wallace Wade Stadium with a loss was not stunning. But this was a dumpster fire, the latest sign that the Kansas football program is not moving forward. If Weis wanted to offer promise after two underwhelming seasons, if Kansas wanted to prove it was ready to make progress, if Kansas fans were ready to stem the tide of jokes and snark that flood the internet every Saturday, this was certainly not that.
This was another hard kick to the gut.
The Jayhawks trailed 17-0 after 10 minutes, 20-3 at halftime, and signs of life in the second half were mostly relegated to linebacker Ben Heeney and cornerback JaCorey Shepherd. The passing attack was futile. The defense tired in the second half. Cozart had trouble holding onto the ball, starting with a bad snap on the first play. This could have been Kansas football in 2010 or 2011 or 2012 — or really at any moment over a dismal five-year span.
In the weeks before the season, KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger said this would be a season to show “momentum.” For two years, Weis laid a foundation. He had also gone 4-20. Now it was time for some wins.
“It’s just human nature,” Zenger said last month. “That’s why there’s a scoreboard.”
On Saturday night, the scoreboard said Duke 41, Kansas 3.
Now Kansas will regroup to face Central Michigan, hoping another season does not spin out of control. As Weis spoke about the future on Saturday, he sounded remarkably calm.
“Other than the punter, who had a pretty good day,” Weis said, “I think there’s going to be plenty of blame to share.”