University of Kansas

KU’s offense was awful against Coastal Carolina. Here are some of the issues

Les Miles speaks after loss to Coastal Carolina

KU coach Les Miles spoke to the media, saying everybody involved with KU football was in 'pain' after a 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina.
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KU coach Les Miles spoke to the media, saying everybody involved with KU football was in 'pain' after a 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina.

Carter Stanley had his ballcap pulled low, doing his best to hide the emotions he knew would come.

The Kansas quarterback, while talking to reporters seated at a table in the Anderson Football Complex following KU’s 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina, had bloodshot eyes. A few times, he paused for a beat when he felt himself choking up.

“I personally don’t do enough. I didn’t execute,” Stanley said. “And then we didn’t get it done.”

Football can be cruel. Stanley, a week after leading his team to a game-winning drive over Indiana State, took the brunt of the responsibility for his Jayhawks’ home defeat Saturday to a Sun Belt team which had lost five in a row.

“That’s a game — that’s a game we should win 10 times out of 10,” Stanley said. “I give credit to those guys. Those guys had a really good game plan. They’ve got some talented guys.

“But just being around these guys and the staff, we should win that game a lot.”

Here’s the harsh reality: There was plenty of fault to go around following Coastal Carolina’s upset victory — the program’s first win over a Power Five opponent in eight tries.

But the bottom line was something the Jayhawks have faced all too often in a previous decade of ineptitude.

The team simply couldn’t throw the ball effectively.

KU’s boogeyman Saturday started out as an ineffective passing game in the first half, though that eventually led to something even worse.

After halftime, when Stanley remained in the game, KU’s coaches lost all confidence in him.

Case in point was KU’s final possession, down 12-7, with just over five minutes left.

KU faced a third-and-2 ... and ran it up the middle with Pooka Williams. Coastal Carolina was expecting it, bringing safety Kameron Burton as a run blitzer.

He made the tackle. One-yard loss.

The Jayhawks had to go for it on fourth-and-3, where they decided to ... run it again. Coastal Carolina had 10 of their 11 guys in the box waiting for Williams this time, as six defenders converged on him for another negative play.

“We did not have great success throwing the football,” KU coach Les Miles said of the fourth-down call. “So the opportunity to go and get a first down rushing the football seemed to fit.”

Kansas running back Pooka Williams apologizes for 'poor decisions in past' in his first KU interview. He was suspended in offseason and for first game after a December arrest on suspicion of domestic battery.

Some outside blame will be cast on Stanley. He was inaccurate early and also seemed to force throws, which led to a pair of interceptions; KU, as a team, finished with just 107 passing yards.

But, to be blunt, the Jayhawks offense doesn’t always appear to be set up for success either, regardless of the signal-caller’s actions.

Miles, through two games, seems to have hearkened back to his old LSU playbook, attempting to establish a run-first, physical-always offense. The problem: KU’s offensive line isn’t good enough to blow opponents off the ball yet — even when facing lower-level schools — and the defensive looks often haven’t been in KU’s favor anyway.

Coastal Carolina no doubt watched tape of Indiana State having success with run blitz after run blitz in the fourth quarter last week, and even with good blockers and talented running backs, it’s difficult to gain yards when a defender is coming through the line with no one to block him.

Miles said his team came into the game with the belief it could expose some areas in Coastal Carolina’s pass defense. Those thoughts changed quickly with the way things played out.

“We really never got on track throwing the football,” Miles said. “We obviously turned to a wider number of runs, and they knew we were going to run it at that point in time.”

It’s obviously not a good look, no matter how KU got there. The Jayhawks, through two games, have appeared both one-dimensional and inflexible offensively, while also suffering from too-frequent situations where play calls are not being communicated to the field effectively.

Even proven playmakers couldn’t break free as KU went scoreless on its final eight possessions Saturday. Williams — an all-Big 12 first team running back who was returning from a one-game suspension — averaged 4.5 yards per carry while totaling 99 rushing yards. Andrew Parchment, who emerged a week ago with 121 receiving yards, also was limited to three catches for 14.

It will be a cause for re-evaluation. Miles promised to pore over film Sunday to figure out what ailed his team while looking for potential fixes.

That could include a quarterback change, as Miles was noncommittal about Stanley for Friday’s road game against Boston College.

“I want to watch this film. I want to see exactly what he saw, why,” Miles said. “I know there was some pressure, but I don’t know that that was the key (to the mistakes). We’ll have to see what we ... what the film brings and allow us to be more finite.”

This much can’t be disputed: Saturday was a huge blow for a program trying to regain momentum following Miles’ hiring in November.

KU, which dropped to 1-1, missed out on an opportunity to go 2-0 for the first time since 2011. It also was easily the Jayhawks’ best chance at another win this season, as they’ll likely be double-digit underdogs in each outing the rest of the way.

“This is a game we should have won,” Miles said. “It’s just that simple.”

Across the field, Coastal Carolina celebrated its victory by smashing a Jayhawk piñata in the locker room. The Chanticleers, for a night, were better than the Jayhawks.

Perhaps the worst part for KU fans: That result didn’t look like a fluke.

“I just want you to know that I’m unhappy,” Miles said. “That’s not how I saw it going. It’s not how our team saw it going.”

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.
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