On Saturday night in Lawrence, Kansas won its third conference game since Mark Mangino left town following the 2009 season. Mangino, of course, was at Memorial Stadium for the proceedings, watching Clint Bowen’s defense hold his Iowa State offense to two touchdowns in Kansas’ 34-14 victory.
The goalposts came down. Bowen, Kansas’ interim head coach, bathed in blue Gatorade in the final minutes. Kansas senior linebacker handed Bowen the game ball and then made his case for Bowen to become Kansas’ next full-time head coach.
So what exactly happened on Saturday? Kansas improved to 3-38 in the Big 12 since the start of the 2010 season. The Jayhawks gained more than 500 yards for the first time since 2011. They scored 34 points in a Big 12 game for the first time since 2012. They played a game without punting in the first quarter for the first time since 2012. They picked 20 first downs in a first half for the first time since 2009. They gained more than 330 yards in a first half for the first time since 2007.
OK, you get the point. But here are a few things you might have missed:
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A look at the coaching search
In the next four to six weeks, Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger will hire the school’s next full-time head football coach. Since arriving at Kansas in 2011, Zenger has fired one coach, hired another, and then fired that coach earlier this season.
Here’s Blair Kerkhoff on Kansas’ ongoing coaching search.
A look at the secondary
Kansas senior cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald spent most of the night playing man coverage on the outside. Kansas coach Clint Bowen said the Jayhawks needed to pay extra attention to tight end E.J. Bibbs in the middle of the field, and that left Shepherd and McDonald alone on the flanks.
They were up to the task. Shepherd finished the game with five pass breakups and an interception, while McDonald had four pass breakups.
“Just having faith in those two young men,” Bowen said. “JaCorey and Dexter play very well. “We felt that they could hold up. Iowa State has two big guys on the outside, two good receivers, but Dex and JaCorey both have good size to them.
“So we felt like we had a good matchup, and with Bibbs on the inside, we needed to pay some attention to him.”
A look at Michael Cummings
There are a few ways to quantify quarterback play, but here’s one. Adjusted QBR is a statistic that measures quarterback efficiency and takes into account the competition. The average is close to 50.
Last month, before Kansas fired Charlie Weis, we looked at the best KU quarterback performances since Weis arrived in 2012.
Here’s what it looked like:
Best Adjusted QBR: 52.6 vs. Iowa State on Nov. 17, 2012.
Best Adjusted QBR: 58.2 in a 59-10 loss to West Virginia on Dec. 1, 2012.
Best Adjusted QBR: 51.8 in a 35-13 loss at Texas on Nov. 2, 2013.
Best Adjusted QBR: 57.2 in a 34-28 victory over Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 6.
Now here’s a look at Cummings’ Adjusted QBR during his last three games.
Oct. 18, at Texas Tech, 57.9
Nov. 1, at Baylor, 73.1
Nov. 8, Iowa State, 67.1
So put another way, Cummings, who played sparingly as a freshman, sat the bench behind Heaps as a sophomore, and started this season as the backup, has the four best quarterback performances of the last three seasons — and three of them came in the last three weeks.
“You kind of always look at football players,” Bowen said, “and there’s certain guys that when you look in their eyes, you know that they're going to compete and fight, and I never had any doubt about that with Mike.
“He always had that presence in my mind when you look at the guy. I never saw him with his head down, never saw him be that guy that didn't come out and battle every day. Those kind of guys you can win with.”
A look at the goalposts
It’s easy to look at the KU students, the ones that tore down the south goalpost after a 20-point victory over a 2-6 Iowa State team, and chalk it up to one thing: #College. The Kansas football program won its third conference game in five seasons on Saturday, and the Jayhawks did it in convincing fashion. If Kansas students want to run on the field and rip down the goalposts, why not?
Yes, doing so will likely draw some criticism. And yes, it might seem like a curious decision; Iowa State was winless in the Big 12, entered the day 2-6 overall, and had lost the previous week to Oklahoma 59-14. Then again, it’s worth pointing out that Kansas once tore down the goalposts three times in one season (2005) and they came down last year after a victory against West Virginia snapped a long Big 12 losing streak. Yes, this happens a lot in Lawrence.
But still, there was even a more curious moment in the postgame press conference. The question began like this:
“Earlier in your career,” a reporter began, directing a question to Bowen “when you were an assistant coach (at Kansas), you saw goalposts come down here seemingly on a regular basis. What's it like to have the first one where you can say, yeah, that was mine?”
Bowen paused for a second, gathered himself, then said:
“Well, I hope to get where we win enough games that it’s what we expect to do.”