Kansas Football: Jayhawks lost at Coastal Carolina but gained fan optimism

Sep 10, 2021; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Kansas Jayhawks wide receiver Luke Grimm (11) runs the ball past Coastal Carolina Chanticleers safety Shi'Heem Watkins (25) at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2021; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Kansas Jayhawks wide receiver Luke Grimm (11) runs the ball past Coastal Carolina Chanticleers safety Shi'Heem Watkins (25) at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports /

Kansas football may have lost by 27 points to Coastal Carolina, but fans had plenty of reasons to feel optimistic for the future after last night’s game.

That optimism started on the first drive of the game for the Jayhawks when they drove the ball down the field and scored three points, something that hasn’t happened often in the last ten years. On the following drive, they scored a touchdown.

This was a massive improvement from Week 1 when the Jayhawks punted the ball on their first five possessions. In fact, the Jayhawks only punted the ball a total of two times in the entire game against the Chanticleers.

It’s not that the South Dakota defense was much better than that of Coastal Carolina, either. Actually, the Chanticleers returned 19 of their 22 starters from last year on a team that went 11-0 in the regular season and with a defense that finished 20th in the nation in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed per game.

On paper, the Jayhawks shouldn’t even have scored a touchdown against Coastal Carolina, at least if you compare the stats from the South Dakota game. But they put up 22 points and racked up 421 yards of total offense–238 passing and 174 rushing. Against South Dakota, the Jayhawks could only muster up 245 total yards.

The bright spot of the offense, though, was the new starting quarterback, Jason Bean. It wasn’t just his throwing ability that impressed; it was his legs. It’s one thing to talk about how fast Bean is, but seeing his speed live puts it into a whole new perspective.

And he didn’t burn the Coastal Carolina offense just once; he burned them twice and almost made it look easy.

This is a weapon the Jayhawks will have on offense throughout the season, and it could really open up a whole new level of offensive production for the team. Not only will the opposing defense have to account for Bean’s throwing ability–which is also pretty impressive–they’ll have to account for his speed and find a way to spy the quarterback without giving up too much coverage on the wide receivers.

Outside of Bean’s impressive performance, and some solid outings by a few wide receivers, the offense still has some work to do in the run game. Take away the quarterback’s 102 rushing yards, and the running backs only had a total of 72 yards on their own.

The fault doesn’t solely lie on the running backs–although it did appear Velton Gardner was hesitant at times, and he tried to make too much happen by running backward on a few occasions. These are things that can easily be fixed, though.

What isn’t so easy to fix is the blocking on the offensive line–most notably the tight ends. On many occasions, it appeared the tight ends had a hard time finding someone to block. That’s not what an offensive coordinator wants to see. If a tight end or offensive lineman isn’t blocking a guy, then he’s not where he needs to be.

Even with the improvement needed on the offensive line, the Jayhawks still managed to put on a show on offense. And that’s a solid building block for the future.

And if you take away the blocked punt for a touchdown, add in a few 4th down conversions, and if the refs didn’t pick up the flags from the penalties they called on Coastal Carolina, this game could have been much closer. That’s how close the Jayhawks were to really making this a game against a 17th ranked team on the road, who returned over 85 percent of their starters from last season.

As for the defense, they had a tough task from the beginning of the game. Coastal Carolina’s defense is good, but their offense is even better.

That’s not to say the Jayhawks don’t have a lot to fix on defense. Their secondary left wide receivers open all night, and the linebackers missed too many easy tackles. All of these are fixable, but with time.

Regardless, fans came away impressed with the Jayhawks. The spread was 26.5 points, and they lost by 27 points, but it felt more like a 17 point game. Take away a lot of the team’s silly mistakes, and that’s exactly what could have been.

And as new head coach Lance Leipold put it, “Our margin for error’s very small right now.”

Meaning, if Kansas wants to compete, they’ll have to do it without making mistakes. Because given their situation, they can’t afford many mistakes. And we saw that last night against Coastal Carolina.