University of Kansas

How miscommunication hurt KU football’s offense in two underwhelming games

KU’s Les Miles on why he’s staying with Carter Stanley at QB

Kansas Jayhawks football coach Les Miles explains why he's sticking with quarterback Carter Stanley for the team's upcoming game against Boston College. Miles spoke to reporters on Sept. 9, 2019.
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Kansas Jayhawks football coach Les Miles explains why he's sticking with quarterback Carter Stanley for the team's upcoming game against Boston College. Miles spoke to reporters on Sept. 9, 2019.

Kansas receiver Andrew Parchment says it started with the first play. And the blame goes to him.

On the first snap of KU’s 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina on Saturday, he ran the wrong route; instead of going deep, he broke to the sideline.

Carter Stanley’s pass was placed well: two yards behind the deepest safety. Parchment says he should have been there to catch it.

“That could have been for a touchdown,” Parchment said. “That could be easily fixed.”

This one example, though, appears to highlight a bigger-picture problem with KU’s offense following underwhelming performances in its first two games.

Parchment repeated one phrase six times in his six-minute interview with reporters on Monday. KU’s players and coaches — more than anything, he said — need to get on the “same page.”

What does that entail? In particular, Parchment says KU has had issues with everyone knowing the playcall and players picking up the correct signal from the sideline.

That cost KU in the third quarter as well.

On Stanley’s second interception, he threw a pass trying to lead receiver Stephon Robinson. The problem there was that KU mistakenly had two receivers in the same area, with Parchment’s defender actually coming away with the interception.

Stanley didn’t shy away from his part of the responsibility — “I’ve either got to look backside to my checkdown or scramble or throw it away or something, but definitely not that,” he said — while also explaining how Parchment misunderstood his assignment.

“It was two words that are pronounced very similar, and they mean completely different things,” Stanley said of the playcall. “I don’t want to get too much into detail about it, but it was a miscommunication. I’ve got to manage that play better.”

Parchment clarified that he failed to take in the correct signal when relayed in from KU’s coaches.

“Like I told (Carter) on the sideline: That was my fault, and I owe him one,” Parchment said.

These aren’t the only hiccups that have come with the introduction of coach Les Miles’ new offense this offseason.

Miles admitted after Week 1’s 24-17 victory over Indiana State that Stanley had been put in difficult situations at least twice when “we had the wristband right but we didn’t give him the calls properly.”

Stanley didn’t expand on what Miles meant by that, but he did express frustration with that occurring.

“Just at the end of the day, we’ve got to be better at communicating on stuff like that,” Stanley said. “That shouldn’t happen one time, let alone one or two or three.”

Though Miles predicted afterward cleaning up that area would be an “easy fix,” similar difficulties seemed to bleed over to Week 2.

It’s resulted in some ugly numbers thus far. KU’s offense, for example, ranks 127th out of 130 FBS teams in ESPN’s SP+, which measures a team’s schedule- and pace-adjusted efficiency.

Installation seems to have played a role in the struggles. When asked Monday, Miles said he believed the factor holding his offense back most was “the newness of the coaches. The newness of what we call it. Getting comfortable with quality execution. It takes some time.”

How does it get fixed? Miles says it starts in practice.

“I think at times we do have that (miscommunication),” Miles said, “and what you do is you make sure that every day that they’re in headset — and I’m talking about the assistant coaches — you signal the plays and you signal the field and you get it from one coach who’s got the script, and the other coaches act as if they were on the sideline on Saturday.”

Here’s how the play-calling works now, according to Miles: Offensive coordinator Les Koenning gives the play from the booth, while also taking suggestions from both Miles and other assistants on the headsets. Then, coaches relay that information to the players on the field via hand signals.

The process, it appears, has yet to smooth itself out through the first two weeks.

“I think we’re not put together at this point, but I feel like we’re very close to being a quality offense,” Miles said. “It’s just ... we gotta stay the course.”

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.