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There wasn’t any sugar-coating this feeling.
Kansas coach Lance Leipold stood at the lectern about a half-hour after his team’s 45-7 home loss to Baylor and, while giving responses, mostly kept his gaze toward the floor.
“I’m highly disappointed,” Leipold said.
One could certainly understand why.
KU, which entered as a 17-point underdog, trailed just 14-7 at half before everything fell apart over the next 30 minutes.
Baylor scored 31 unanswered points. The Bears averaged 9.9 yards per play after halftime. Meanwhile, KU compiled more punts in the second half (five) than it did first downs (three).
“We have to own it,” Leipold said of the final result.
Here was the discouraging part: This wasn’t a contest where Leipold could point to a single play or momentary lapse that swung the final outcome.
This, to put it simply, was a beatdown ... and the numbers reflected it too.
Baylor had 8.3 yards per play; KU had 3.3. The Bears had six 50-plus-yard drives; KU had just one go further than 30.
Leipold’s discussion of fixes for this KU team, then, wasn’t about repositioning duct tape to fix a trickling leak. This was about a complete rethinking of the boat’s structure to keep it from sinking this way again.
So start with the offense, where Leipold cited “multiple breakdowns” from his view on the sidelines. KU again couldn’t get things going with its running game, which averaged 3.3 yards per carry and had just 49 combined rushing yards from its backs.
That put pressure on quarterback Jason Bean to make plays, though it was made difficult a second straight week because he was rarely protected. In particular, Leipold said his team struggled with blitz pickups, especially in the first three quarters.
“There’s no rhythm,” Leipold said of his offense. “You don’t get a chance to get a rhythm going, and it just snowballs on us.”
Defensively, again, Leipold spoke in macro when self-diagnosing. KU’s defensive linemen weren’t getting enough push on run plays, while linebackers were timid filling their lanes.
Too often, Leipold said, KU was making first contact with Baylor running backs 5-7 yards past the line of scrimmage. Add in missed tackles, poor pursuit angles and a lack of aggressiveness, and the recipe was there for the second-half onslaught.
“I just still think we’re so tentative when we blitz and do things,” Leipold said. “I don’t know if it’s a confidence issue, if it’s an experience issue, if it’s a strength issue, or where we’re at. That needs to be continued to be evaluated.”
Take a further step back, though, and Leipold knew in the locker room it was important to communicate to his team leaders. He wants each of his players to take responsibility for the loss, while also pledging to learn from it in film sessions throughout the week.
“Of course we’re frustrated,” KU junior safety Kenny Logan said, “but we’re just ready to go back to work, put our hard hats back on and continue to chop that wood.”
This actually looms as an important moment in KU’s season.
KU’s most winnable game left looms Saturday at Duke. The Blue Devils — like the Jayhawks — remain mired as one of the nation’s worst Power Five programs, meaning the Vegas spread shouldn’t be overwhelming as KU looks for a potential trajectory-changing victory in Durham, North Carolina.
The Jayhawks won’t get that, though, if they start to lose faith in the process here. Not only that, KU is less likely now to be a trendy upset pick after Duke defeated Northwestern at home on Saturday.
Leipold, more than anything, would like to see his players accept culpability the next few days while not pointing blame at teammates.
“I told them that I need to do a better job for them, and we all do,” Leipold said. “So if we all take ownership of it, I think we’ll continue to move in a direction we want to be.”