University of Kansas

Grades from KU football’s 45-20 loss to Oklahoma and looking ahead to Texas

Kansas coach Les Miles has been unlucky ... probably.

With the Jayhawks failing on both of their fourth-down conversion tries in Saturday’s 45-20 home loss to Oklahoma, the team — halfway the season — is 0-for-7 on fourth downs.

“It’s a little bit more pressure situation,” Miles said after Saturday’s game, “but I think our guys will handle that. Yeah, I think they will.”

Tight end James Sosinski had the best chance to end the skid, but he dropped a well-thrown ball by quarterback Carter Stanley on fourth-and-2 in the second quarter.

As you might guess, what KU has accomplished so far is rare. No other FBS team has failed to convert a fourth down this season (NCAA average in 2019 is 51%), and only one team in the last four years has ended the year with only one fourth-down success.

That squad? None other than 2016 LSU ... the last team that Miles coached before he took the KU job this season.

Here are grades for all three KU units, a highlight from Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma and a look ahead.

Play of the game

What a throw: KU took an early lead thanks to an impressive 98-yard first quarter drive, and that was capped by the Jayhawks’ best play of the day.

Stanley delivered a near-perfect throw down the sideline, hitting receiver Daylon Charlot in stride for a 22-yard score.

“That’s just trust and repetition,” Stanley said. “He’s probably the best 50-50 receiver I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s got incredible hands, so he just did a great job of walling off that defender and he gave me enough space to make that throw.”

Grades

Offense: B. Sure, two touchdowns came in garbage time, but this overall was a good showing by KU.

The Jayhawks averaged a healthy 6.0 yards per play — the team has only hit that mark in 10 conference games since the 2010 season — and also did a nice job of controlling tempo in the first half while playing keep-away from Oklahoma’s high-powered offense.

KU converted some long third downs to stay on the field, and Stanley had one of his best games of the year. Running back Pooka Williams looked particularly motivated during a 137-yard rushing day, and Stephon Robinson also emerged with 131 receiving yards and a pair of scores.

Most importantly, KU appeared to transition back a bit more to run-pass option/spread looks, which has been the team’s most effective package so far. A bit more of that, and there still could be better days ahead for a KU offense that appears talented at many of the skill positions.

Defense: D: lt wasn’t all bad here. KU did a nice job slowing down Oklahoma’s run game early, and with better time management, it would have held the Sooners to 14 in the first half.

Big picture, though, KU still allowed touchdown drives on five of Oklahoma’s first seven possessions before the Sooners let up a bit. The Jayhawks did get their first takeaway since Week 1 — a third quarter interception by Najee Stevens-McKenzie — but the loss of linebacker Dru Prox to injury continues to be a bit of adversity that is difficult to overcome.

Special teams: D-. One of KU’s costliest decisions was not putting a returner back on a punt by Oklahoma late in the second quarter; the Sooners downed the kick at the 2, which led to conservative KU offensive play-calling and eventually another Oklahoma touchdown just before the break. The Jayhawks also allowed a punt return touchdown for a second straight week, though this one was brought back by an Oklahoma holding call. Add in a Liam Jones missed extra point, and Kyle Thompson (43-yard punt average) is the only one saving KU’s special teams from a failing grade.

Next up

After a bye week, KU will continue Big 12 play with a road game against Texas at 6 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. The contest will be televised on Longhorn Network.

The Longhorns, who are ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll, are 4-1 following a 42-31 road victory over West Virginia.

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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.
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