University of Kansas

Grades from KU football’s 29-24 loss to West Virginia and looking ahead to TCU

Kansas coach Les Miles has been nicknamed “Mad Hatter” thanks to some crazy coaching antics he’s pulled off in the past.

KU fans — at least the ones paying close attention — saw some of that during the Jayhawks’ 29-24 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.

Here’s the scenario: Liam Jones is KU’s field goal kicker, but Jacob Borcila is the team’s best at onside kicks.

So how could the Jayhawks get Jones to take a 23-yard field goal attempt while still getting Borcila on the field for a planned trick play on the kickoff?

Simple, if you’re Miles: Have Jones fake an injury.

This will not win an Academy Award. Jones makes the field goal, starts to celebrate, then appears to remember the acting role he’s supposed to pull off. He grabs his left hamstring, but smiles as he returns to the sideline ... where no KU players seem even the slightest bit concerned about him.

In any case, Borcila made his way on the field, KU attempted the onside kick, and the Jayhawks recovered only to be flagged for a controversial catch interference penalty.

Jones, if you were wondering, attempted two PATs later in the game for KU, making both.

His fake injury, in other words, didn’t keep him out long.

Here are grades for all three KU units, a highlight from Friday’s win over Boston College and a look ahead.

Play of the game

KU’s AP: Receiver Andrew Parchment continued his excellent start to the season, pulling down two touchdowns, including a 75-yard snag late in the third quarter.

On a windy day, KU struggled to pass the ball downfield for much of the contest. That’ll be important in the future, though, as opponents continue to scheme up ways to slow down the Jayhawks’ explosive running attack.

Grades

Offense: C. I have no idea what to do with this grade.

KU’s offense made two costly mistakes, as a lost fumble by quarterback Carter Stanley and fourth quarter interception both had huge impacts on the outcome. The Jayhawks also seemed to waste too many first down plays trying to establish the run with heavy personnel, which left the team scrambling to extend drives after that.

Still ... KU was at 7.4 yards per play, its second-highest total against a Big 12 opponent out of 81 games this decade. Most days, that’ll be good enough for a win no matter the circumstances.

In short, the underlying signs for KU’s offense following this loss are probably better than what the final result indicates.

Defense: C+: KU’s defense was on the opposite end of the spectrum: It held down West Virginia’s per-play average (4.6) but didn’t come through enough during important downs. The Mountaineers were 9 of 18 on third downs, and though KU’s offense didn’t always play complementary football because of its numerous three-and-outs, the KU defense also didn’t help itself out as much as possible while failing to win the money snaps.

There’s still plenty to be encouraged about here. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot’s group has looked organized, has mostly avoided penalties and appears to be disciplined when stopping the run.

It’ll be worth watching injuries moving forward, though. Linebacker Dru Prox missed a lot of the second half, and though Miles said after the game he expected this wasn’t a serious ailment, the Jayhawks’ lack of depth at that position was exposed quickly as the Mountaineers marched during fourth quarter possessions.

Special teams: C-. Punter Kyle Thompson wasn’t his reliable self, averaging only 38 on five punts while often trying to manage a difficult wind in his face. The aforementioned onside kick, meanwhile, was executed well, but in the end, the read that a West Virginia player would not be in that area was incorrect and cost KU valuable field position. Jones, for his part, was perfect on three short kick attempts (one field goal, two PATs).

Next up

KU will continue Big 12 play with a road game against TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday. The contest will be televised on FS1.

The Horned Frogs, who entered the week ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll, are 2-1 following a 41-38 home loss to SMU on Saturday.

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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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