In the days after Kansas’ season-opening loss to South Dakota State, first-year offensive coordinator Rob Likens huddled with quarterback Montell Cozart to review the offense’s first performance of the season. For Likens, the game film offered a mix of optimism and disappointment. Among the good: Cozart threw for 291 yards and rushed for another 94 while guiding a unit that rolled up 576 total yards. Among the bad: The Jayhawks reeled off 90 plays, the seventh-most in the country this past week, but Likens believed it could have been 100.
One moment, though, stuck out: Early in the second quarter, with Kansas trailing big, Cozart scrambled to his right and fumbled the football while absorbing a shot to the head.
“He got hit pretty good, got hit in the face there, and he could have laid on the turf,” Likens said Tuesday. “And he could have found a very convenient way to get out of the ballgame at that point. And that dude got off the ground and put all of it on his shoulders. And went back out there and played really well.”
After two early turnovers, Cozart responded by leading the offense to one of its most productive days this decade. On an otherwise disappointing afternoon, the offensive performance lifted the spirits of first-year coach David Beaty, who has been consistent in his effort to build a program identity based on an up-tempo offense.
“I've got to take my hat off to our team, Montell Cozart and Rob Likens,” Beaty said Tuesday. “Those guys did a tremendous job of really accomplishing a personal goal that I don't know that I spoke about, but I wanted to see happen, which is creating an identity for us offensively.”
From here on out, the competition will only stiffen, starting with Memphis at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. But Beaty said he was pleased with the first data points from the Jayhawks’ Air Raid attack.
“I could see our identity,” Beaty said, “and that's probably what made me most excited for (Likens) … you could see our identity.”
More snaps for Ryan Willis?
Beaty said Tuesday that in an ideal scenario he would like to find more playing time for freshman quarterback Ryan Willis, who made his debut against South Dakota State.
But it remains unclear how that desire will play out on the field. Beaty was encouraged by the performance of starting quarterback Montell Cozart and it appears that Willis, who like Cozart is a graduate of Bishop Miege, is still working through the usual freshman adjustments.
One thing is clear: Barring some sort of injury, Willis’ redshirt options are gone after playing two snaps in the season opener.
“I still think he has some time to get ready for,” Beaty said of Willis. “It was what we said the other day: It was the next step in his progression, his maturation of trying to become a quarterback at this level. We would like to get him more snaps, absolutely. But right now Montell Cozart is our starter and he did a good job of leading us back the other day.”