Kansas football: Three things I learned from the South Dakota game

Sep 3, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jason Bean (17) throws a pass against the South Dakota Coyotes during the first half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jason Bean (17) throws a pass against the South Dakota Coyotes during the first half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

Kansas football sealed its first victory on Friday night with a win against FCS opponent South Dakota 17-14. It didn’t quite go to plan with the coaching staff and players making a handful of mistakes, but the Jayhawks still walked away victorious.

It’s games like these the Jayhawks will learn from the most, though. If they had beaten South Dakota by three or four touchdowns, the same urgency wouldn’t be there to tune things up. And a win that convincing can often hide or mask the teams weaknesses.

But now that the coaching staff knows what they’re working with and how certain players perform under the lights, they can get down to making the necessary adjustments.

And with that, I’ve listed three things Kansas fans learned from the Jayhawk’s first game under new coach Lance Leipold.

1. The offensive line still has a lot of work to do

Before the game, it appeared the offensive line might be the most improved unit of the Jayhawks team of last season. Armed with a new offensive line coach in Scott Fuchs and Buffalo transfer and former Joe Moore Award finalist Mike Novitsky, things were heading in the right direction.

But on Friday night, reality set in that this process is going to take a while. Clearly, it takes more than a few offensive line transfers and a new offensive line coach for things to drastically improve.

This is a new staff teaching a new offense, and these things take time. And as Jesse Newell with the KC Star reported, the new “wide zone” offense is a rare scheme that requires the offensive line and running backs to fully understand their roles.

This shouldn’t be a huge concern at the moment as it’s the first game of the season, but if after the bye week the offensive line still hasn’t improved, then the concern will settle in.

2. Jason Bean is a gamer

Not everything new starting quarterback Jason Bean did was perfect. In fact, there were many mistakes, but what makes him different is his ability to mask those mistakes with his athletic ability.

Often Bean would pull the ball down and run after only making a few quick reads. And a hand full of those times, he had a guy wide open. This can be attributed to first-game jitters, and when a quarterback feels the line collapsing in on them, it’s hard to remain calm in the pocket. This is something he’ll learn with time and repetition.

But, what was more impressive was Bean’s fight when the team faced adversity. He didn’t give up or fold when the Jayhawks lost the lead; he went back out on the next series and marched the Jayhawks down the field for a game-winning touchdown.

One of the biggest knocks on Bean is his quiet demeanor. As a starting quarterback, the coaches want him to be louder and more outspoken. On Friday night, he took that challenge, and when faced with adversity, he rallied his team together.

“Hey, let’s go. We’ve got to get this,” Bean said. “We’ve got to get this for this team. We’ve got to get this for the school. We’ve got to get this for this city.”

This is exactly what the team needs from a quarterback. He doesn’t have to be the loudest in the room or the most outspoken, but when it matters most, he is willing to say what needs to be said and lead his team to victory.

3. Wide receivers better than expected

I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t high on the wide receiver group going into the first game of the season, but I walked away impressed after the game. One thing is for sure, wide receiver coach Emmett Jones has these guys ready to make some big plays.

It wasn’t just the route running that was impressive, but these receivers came down with some big-time catches in clutch moments of the game.

The two names that stood out the most were wide receiver LJ Arnold and tight end Mason Fairchild. Both players made big-time plays, and they’ll likely be doing it all year.

Arnold hauled in two touchdown passes and was only a few inches away from a third. The first catch was at the end of the endzone, and he had to stretch out to grab it. Then while stretching his entire body, he had to have the mind to keep a foot down in the endzone.


Arnold’s second touchdown required him to use his feet more, and as he spun around after the catch, he sent the defenders into each other, opening an open space to the endzone. This would end up being the game-winning touchdown.


Although Fairchild’s catch wasn’t a touchdown, it was easily the most impressive catch of the night. The pass almost didn’t look catchable, but Fairchild stretched his body and hauled the catch in with one hand while keeping the mind to stay in bounds.

If the wide receivers and tight ends can keep up this type of play, it’ll make the transition to the new offense for Bean much easier.


Obviously, this game against South Dakota wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. And the Jayhawks will take it, given the circumstances.

One thing is clear, though, it’s going to take the new coach time to fix the program and get Kansas football back to respectable. Kansas fans must remember that Leipold had less than 30 practices before their first game because the new coach wasn’t brought in until after the spring game.

It will take more than 30 practices to fix the 10 years of bad coaching that ruined this once-successful Kansas football program. But I’m confident Leipold will eventually get the job done.