Mike Lee jumped three times to get his coaches’ attention, then after the whistle blew, he turned his palms upward toward the sky.
There were less than six minutes left in Kansas’ 26-7 loss against Baylor, and the safety had seen his team’s blunder before any of his teammates.
A quick count confirmed his fear: KU had 12 defenders on the field, with coaches calling timeout to avoid a penalty.
“It’s a simple thing, but that’s important,” Lee said. “If you’re coming from the sideline, you have to scream a player’s name.”
And this is where Lee believes the breakdown occurred. KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen has had success this year using different personnel packages to give confusing looks to opposing quarterbacks.
That takes good communication, though. In this instance, something as simple as a player coming into the game without telling someone else to run off resulted in the use of an important timeout.
“Last week there were some things,” KU coach David Beaty said, “that we have to clean up as a staff.”
And this all is part of a recurring problem for Beaty in Year 4 of his KU tenure: The Jayhawks, for many different reasons, continue to burn timeouts at an alarming rate.
On Saturday, KU used five, with none of them coming as a clock-stopping measure.
“I can assure you we have a plan to get that fixed,” Beaty said. “That won’t happen again.”
Though KU had been mostly clean in this area the last two weeks, it struggled in the season opener as well; fourth-down indecision and offensive confusion contributed to the team taking five other non-clock-stopping timeouts.
Saturday’s issues, according to Beaty, were different.
He said twice — including the time KU had 12 men on the field in the fourth quarter and also another play two minutes earlier — KU had trouble when trying to sub in fresh defensive linemen.
“There’s no excuse,” Beaty said. “You’ve got to get that taken care of, and we just didn’t handle it.”
KU linebacker Joe Dineen also said, while specifically catering to Baylor’s offense, Bowen had put in some new defensive packages last week.
“It sounds fundamental, but just substituting and how you substitute is really important. Obviously, we wasted some timeouts doing it,” Dineen said. “That’s something we can’t have.”
KU stopped play for other reasons as well.
In the first half, Beaty called timeout before a Gabriel Rui 48-yard field-goal attempt on a fourth-and-22. After the break, KU still attempted the kick, with Rui missing.
Beaty also used a timeout late in the first half when Baylor showed blitz on a third-and-8, which left KU’s offensive players scrambling to adjust.
Finally, late in the third quarter, Beaty halted the game while hoping that the replay official would take a look at a potential targeting penalty on Baylor after KU came up short on a fourth-and-9 pass. The play was not reviewed.
“We wanted them to get a look at it because we were down three scores at that point, and we really needed to extend that drive,” Beaty said. “That was a big, big deal for us, so we felt like that was well used there. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
The final two timeouts of the half, for Beaty, weren’t as acceptable. Though timeout usage might not be KU’s most pressing problem, it certainly is one that is difficult to miss, even among the most casual of fans.
It’s something Beaty vows will improve in future weeks.
“That’s a combination of all of us that are involved in that, players included,” Beaty said. “There’s a shared responsibility there, and we’ve got to get it managed better.”