KU Jayhawks football’s last loss had a statistical anomaly. What Leipold made of that

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Some of the responses were expected.

When Kansas coach Lance Leipold was asked Tuesday what encouraged him after watching the film from KU’s 49-22 loss to Coastal Carolina, he spoke about quarterback Jason Bean’s athleticism and progression in the offense. He also mentioned true freshman Devin Neal adjusting well to his extended role at running back.

Before going further, though, Leipold stopped to talk about something he found interesting.

“We lost by 27 points and we punted twice and we didn’t turn the ball over. Think about that,” Leipold said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a game like that.”

Leipold, at least at the Division I level, has not. That’s because no coach in the last two decades has.

According to College Football Reference’s Play Index, only 53 teams since 2000 have lost when punting twice or less while committing zero turnovers, and none have them had lost by more than 23 points ... until KU did on Friday against Coastal Carolina.

Going further, teams are 857-53 since 2000 if they have fewer than two punts and no turnovers in a game. The worst loss before Friday, under those circumstances, was in 2019 when Middle Tennessee lost to Duke, 41-18.

This isn’t to say KU was completely unlucky with its result. One of its punts was blocked, which led directly to a Coastal Carolina touchdown. The Jayhawks defense allowed 7.5 yards per play, while the offense was 0-for-5 on fourth-down conversions, which included a failure on fourth-and-1 and a critical dropped pass on a separate fourth-and-short.

“Obviously, field position, going for it fourth down, doing certain things like that ... that’s encouraging. We’re doing some things there,” Leipold said, “But now we’ve got to finish. We’ve got to be better.”

Leipold repeated Tuesday a message he had immediately after Friday’s defeat: This KU team has little margin for error. It means even small mistakes at this point in the team’s development can be especially magnified on game days.

KU still at least put itself in position to at least have a chance as a 25 1/2-point underdog against 17th-ranked Coastal Carolina last week. Following Bean’s third-quarter touchdown run, the Jayhawks trailed 28-22 before the Chanticleers scored 21 unanswered points.

KU’s competitiveness can partly be traced back to its minimizing of self-inflicted damage. The Jayhawks have the third-fewest penalty yardage in the Big 12, while they’re also the only league team that has not yet turned it over this season.

“It’s been a high point of emphasis wherever we’ve been. We emphasize it weekly and daily in everything that we do with, with ball security in different ways,” Leipold said of his team’s zero turnovers. “We did put it on the ground Friday night, and fortunately, we were able to get on it.”

Leipold, who was asked twice about his team’s zero turnovers during Tuesday’s press conference, knocked on the wood lectern both times after the topic was brought up.

“We want to keep making great decisions with the ball,” Leipold said. “Our players have bought into that, and fundamentally, they’ve been doing a great job with technique and securing the football and making good decisions with it.”

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