The key: After Kansas’ first drive stalled, Rhode Islands’ Harold Cooper made a mental error, trying to field a bouncing punt in heavy traffic. He fumbled, KU’s Chevy Graham recovered at the Rhode Island 13, and the Jayhawks scored their first touchdown of the season five plays later.
The key: After watching Steven Sims drop a long touchdown pass, Montell Cozart went right back to him the next play, threading a pass between two defenders down the sideline for a 35-yard score.
The key: Steven Sims told reporters he worked on his speed in the offseason, and that showed as he burned down the sideline on a receiver screen for a 71-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Willis.
The key: Chase Harrell showed he could be a weapon in the red zone, extending his 6-foot-4 frame to catch a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carter Stanley during garbage time.
The Jayhawks weren’t able to clear as many holes in the running game as they would have liked, but the grade remains strong thanks to an effective passing game. Kansas quarterbacks were accurate, and the receivers gave reason for hope in 2016.
The Kansas defense was solid against a truly bad offense. The Jayhawks didn’t give up big plays, though, and also had a nice highlight with Bazie Bates’ deflection-turned-interception.
Unlike 2015, this wasn’t a glaring weakness on Saturday. Yes, there was a short missed field goal and late punt-return fumble by backup returner Derrick Neal, but an early forced fumble and 17-yard punt return were welcome sighst for a team that needed improvement.
Hard to criticize too much, as KU covered the four-touchdown point spread easily and was never really threatened by Rhode Island. Game and clock management remains a concern, though, as head coach David Beaty and company burned through too many timeouts and had too many mental mistakes with delay of games and illegal substitutions, even for game one.
Player of the game: Steven Sims showed playmaking potential that Kansas lacked a season ago, as his 124 receiving yards topped the Jayhawks’ best mark of 2015 (Tre’ Parmalee, 115).
Reason to hope: Kansas had an effective passing game — something that has been a rarity lately. The Jayhawks’ 399 passing yards were the team’s most in a game since 2009.
Reason to mope: Kansas once again fell victim to situational blunders. A delay of game before the first play from scrimmage? Two timeouts before a fourth-and-1 call, then putting 12 men in the huddle for a penalty after the second stoppage? Those types of mistakes shouldn’t happen with a Big 12 program.
Looking ahead: The Jayhawks will return home, where they will play host to Ohio next Saturday.