This game was great for the future of Kansas football. It got the program some positive attention. It showed that they can play with some of the better teams in the country. The fact that it ended in a loss is just disappointing. In the long run very few will remember that the Jayhawks lost. This game was about showing progress under Les Miles.
Les Miles saw what everyone saw through six games. The offense was terrific at Boston College running an RPO attack. They struggled in their other games with a different approach. However, unlike when he was at LSU, Les Miles decided to change and go all-in on an offense that he had seen have a lot of success earlier in the season.
Miles hired an offensive coordinator that is in touch with the way college football is played these days. He fired Les Koenning and hired Brent Dearmon. This game was Dearmon’s first as an offensive coordinator in FBS play. Some think that’s a big deal. Dearmon showed people that football is football and his success is possible at any level of football.
Kansas talks about how they are going to win games. With this offense they will. There are no moral victories, especially when you score 48 points, but this is not an awful loss. This has to bring a lot of confidence to the program. It’s one of those games that will get the attention of recruits who think they can help put the program over the top. It’s one of those games that should let the offense know they can beat anyone left on their schedule if they perform at this level.
So, no. There are no moral victories. Kansas is going to think about how their season would be different if they had started with this offense. They will think about how their season would be different if they had been able to make an extra point instead of having it blocked and returned for two points which happened to be the difference in the game. They will be thankful for a big turnover by the defense late in the game that set up a touchdown but also frustrated with the lack of pressure on QB Sam Ehlinger that allowed him to march his team down the field for a game-winning field goal. So, no. There are no moral victories, but this might have been the very next best thing.
This game didn’t have a clear turning point. Both teams were good offensively and bad defensively. The Longhorns had the last possession and that was the difference. If we decided to give the turning point to the biggest unexpected play it would have to be the blocked extra point that Texas returned for a two-point conversion. That’s a three point swing and Texas won by two.
OC Brent Dearmon opened up the Kansas offense with his RPO attack and it was terrific. For those who say you haven’t done it until you do it at the FBS level they can now sit down. Dearmon has shown he can call an effective game if he has the weapons. They most important weapon is of course the quarterback and he has one that can run his system.
RB Pooka Williams is more effective in the Brent Dearmon offense. He got the ball on the edge and had more space running up the middle. Williams ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He caught four passes for 25 yards.
LB Gavin Potter pushed back a Texas offensive lineman to mess up a fourth down play for the Longhorns. Kansas got the stop. Potter was terrific in this game and he’s just a freshman. The thought of having Potter for four more years to go with some of the recruits Les Miles is bringing in to help him is pretty exciting. Potter led the Jayhawks with nine tackles, six of them solo, 1 1/2 sacks and 2 1/2 tackles for loss.
S Bryce Torneden had eight tackles, five of them solo.
Room for Improvement
K Liam Jones had a bad night. He kicked off three times out of bounds. He missed a field goal, had one blocked and had an extra point blocked that was returned for a Texas two-point conversion. Jones has been decent this year but not what the Jayhawks need if they are going to pull off upsets. He will need to improve for the team to win these kinds of games.
DC D.J. Eliot had a rough time in this game. Now, Big 12 games are notoriously high scoring but it was the approach that was troublesome in this game. When the Jayhawks got pressure on Sam Ehlinger they were pretty successful. But with the game on the line and Texas with the ball with just over a minute to play, Eliot chose to play back instead of applying pressure. Ehlinger tore up the Jayhawk defense. Nothing says Kansas would have won the game if Eliot would have blitzed on that Texas possession but we will never know if things would have turned out differently. Obviously the approach taken did not work.
Although I did not agree with it at the time it turns out that Les Miles’ decision to go for two points instead of kicking the extra point on their last possession of the game was the right one for the Jayhawks. The kicking game had problems. Maybe that’s why Miles made the decision he made. Maybe he wanted to show confidence in his guys. Maybe he didn’t think they could beat Texas in overtime. Likely it was a combination of all of these factors. Although I will continue to believe this was not the right decision, I’m giving Les Miles a ton of credit for making the decision he made and bringing the Jayhawks with a few seconds of winning in Austin, Texas.
Kansas will be at home against Texas Tech on Saturday. Tech is just 1-3 in the Big 12.