David Beaty pointed to the videoboard, then barked at the line judge a few steps away.
His message wasn’t getting through. The Kansas football coach flung his right hand in the air, spun his body, then screamed toward the center judge in the middle of the field.
It didn’t do any good. Though Nicholls State punt returner Damion Jeanpiere had taken three steps out of bounds starting at the 26, then one step inbounds before going out again at the 33, the spotting of the football at the 35-yard line was not going to change — not after Beaty yelled at everyone within earshot, and not even when the videoboard showed a replay of Jeanpiere’s foot hitting the sideline over and over.
It was a helpless feeling that didn’t have to be. This was late in the second quarter of KU’s 26-23 overtime loss to Nicholls State, and though a replay official could have stopped the play for a review, Beaty also could have challenged the play himself.
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He could have, that is, if KU had any timeouts remaining.
In this instance, the Jayhawks had previously called timeouts:
- Before a third-and-6 play
- After an incomplete pass and before the ensuing fourth-and-6; kicker Gabriel Rui was on the field before the timeout, and after thinking more, Beaty still elected to try the field goal, with Rui making the 54-yarder
- On the first play of an offensive possession following a media timeout and touchback; after the stoppage, tight end Mavin Saunders was flagged for a false start
The examples above are just a sample of the gameday management struggles that have continued to plague Beaty in his fourth season at KU.
Notable strange things have happened in the past too. Take the 2016 season opener, for example. KU — on its first offensive play of the season — took a delay-of-game penalty. Later on, Beaty took two timeouts to decide what to do on fourth-and-1, then after choosing to go for it, the Jayhawks were flagged for having 12 men in the huddle.
Perhaps that could be shrugged off more in Beaty’s second year, when he might’ve still been adjusting as a first-time college head coach.
But on Saturday? In Year 4?
The indecision and questionable sideline decisions weren’t limited to the first half, either.
In the fourth quarter, with KU down 17-12 and 9:54 left, Beaty took another timeout ahead of a fourth-down choice. Though he had the options of going for it on fourth-and-9 or attempting a 54-yard field goal with Rui (going the same direction the kicker made the first one), Beaty elected for a punt.
He explained his thought process earlier this week.
“That’s one of those very unique places on the field where you have really three decisions that you could make,” Beaty said. “And you’re not always sure which one’s going to be the right one, but you gotta play the percentages and know how you’ve been doing offensively, how have you been playing defensively, if you’re going to give it back to them, and then how has your kicker been kicking?
“And then, if you do make the kick and you still have to score again, what does your field position look like, if you’re going to trade 3 for 7 possibly? And sometimes those are just chances that you have to take as you look at the statistics and analytics that go into it.”
In this case, Beaty said the wind had died down since the first half, so he wasn’t as confident trying a long field goal the same direction. And even though Rui’s first kick had extra distance, Beaty said that was as well as he’d ever seen Rui strike a field-goal attempt.
“Those (long field goals), even with him, are about 50-50 at best,” Beaty said. “So just because he hit the first one doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to hit the second one, and you also have to think about field position.”
In the end, this all — in a roundabout way — worked out about as well as it could have for KU, as the two teams traded empty possessions before a muffed punt gave the Jayhawks the ball at the Nicholls State 10.
A later timeout, however, didn’t go as planned.
Nicholls State stopped play with 52 seconds left to set up a 42-yard game-tying field goal. Lorran Fonseca lined up for the kick, and just before the snap, officials blew their whistles.
Fonseca went through with the kick anyway: wide left. It didn’t count, though, as Beaty had called timeout as an icing mechanism.
It didn’t work. Fonseca’s next kick went straight through, tying the score at 20-20 and putting KU in a tougher spot offensively with only one timeout left.
A second available timeout might have helped KU its next possession. After a kickoff out of bounds, the Jayhawks took over on their own 35, but after an incompletion, quarterback Peyton Bender was sacked on second down with 40 seconds remaining.
With an extra chance to stop the clock, KU might have had a wider playbook for first and second down. It also might’ve taken a timeout after that second down, knowing it had more options available with a potential conversion on third and long.
Instead, Beaty elected to not even try another play in regulation, watching those 40 seconds tick off while accepting overtime. A portion of KU fans booed loudly enough that it was clearly heard on the Jayhawk Network television broadcast.
“We’re not going to just burn those things if we don’t have to,” Beaty said of timeouts. “They’re very, very valuable in that second half.”
And, at least in this game, they might have been useful in the first half as well.
Beaty would have been able to do something more helpful than hollering: He could have challenged a call that was obviously missed.