University of Kansas

Will progress lead to more points for KU offense?

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart.
Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart. skeyser@kcstar.com

One of Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart’s top priorities of late has been to become a “film junkie.”

For 2-3 hours each night, he’ll bring up clips on his iPad or laptop. If there’s a break in class, he pull out his iPhone for a quick refresher.

There’s good reason for his dedication.

“The game just slows down,” Cozart said following KU’s loss to Oklahoma State last week. “It’s slowing down every time I’m out there.”

As KU prepares to face 16th-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday, it’ll do so with a starting quarterback whose best attribute — at this point — is his preparation.

There were a few times KU coach David Beaty lauded Cozart last week for his ability to “play by the rules” of the offense, which means analyzing the defense before making good decisions.

“If you get your eyes in the right spot and read properly, you can be effective,” Beaty said.

There were plenty of examples of Cozart doing that during a 250-yard passing effort against the Cowboys.

For one, Cozart helped the run game, many times correctly seeing that Oklahoma State had five defenders in the box with five KU blockers across from them. Those numbers usually make for effective running plays, and Cozart choosing to hand it off in those situations (most KU plays have run and pass options) helped the Jayhawks to their first 200-yard rushing game of the season.

Cozart also did a better job of keeping the ball out of danger, even if it might be tougher to see with a stat line that included two interceptions. One pick came on an athletic play by a 310-pound defensive tackle who dropped in coverage for the first time all season, while the second one was the result of a ball that deflected off LaQuvionte Gonzalez’s facemask to a defender behind him.

There was still some offensive progress last week if one looked closely. KU’s 6.2 yards per play was the most against an FBS opponent since 2011, though that still wasn’t enough to help the team remain competitive late in 44-20 loss.

“We got a little bit better last year, but we didn’t score enough points, and we’ve got to find a way to get in that end zone more,” Beaty said. “Four-hundred-fifty-something yards or whatever it was, that looks really good until you look up there at that scoreboard and there’s 20 points on the board, and we have to take responsibility for that poor performance when we’re involved.”

Beaty, whose team leads the nation with 25 turnovers, says it’s vital at this point for KU to have a quarterback who is more game manager than risk-taker.

“It doesn’t have to be about a guy that can win it all the time, but he certainly can’t lose it for you,” Beaty said. “And that’s a lot more common than you think.”

Jesse Newell: @jessenewell

Kansas at No. 16 Oklahoma

  • When: 6 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
  • Records: KU 1-6, 0-4 Big 12; OU 5-2, 4-0
  • Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 97.5-FM; KQAM, 1410-AM
  • TV: FS1

Other story lines

Protect this house: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has racked up a Bill Self-like record at home during his 18 years in Norman. The Sooners are 98-9 while playing at their Memorial Stadium under Stoops, good for the top home win percentage of any Power Five school over that time (92 percent).

Keep the streak: KU sophomore Dorance Armstrong has at least one sack in five straight weeks — the longest streak at the school since linebacker James Holt went six consecutive games with a sack in 2008. Armstrong’s seven sacks also have moved him into a tie for ninth on KU’s all-time single-season list.

Come at me, bro: Brothers Lincoln and Garrett Riley will be going against each other Saturday as members of the two coaching staffs. Lincoln is Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, while the younger Garrett works as a KU offensive analyst. KU coach David Beaty, who described Lincoln as a “dear friend of mine,” says he views the 33-year-old as one of the top offensive minds in the country.

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