If Week 1 showed any progress for the Kansas Jayhawks, Week 2 showed just how far the program still has to go.
Despite leading for a large portion of the game, KU fell in its second game under coach Les Miles to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 12-7.
It was Coastal Carolina’s first win ever over a Power 5 opponent.
Miles was direct after the game about his feelings, saying
“I just want you to know that I’m not happy and that’s not how I saw it going,” Miles said. “Our guys played with their hearts on their sleeves and did everything they could possibly do to win this game. I told them, ‘We’re all, everyone in this building, in pain right now.’”
Kansas got out to a fast start, with senior running back Khalil Herbert capping off the opening drive of the game with a 41-yard touchdown sprint down the home sideline. That was more than twice the length of the next longest play of the game for KU, though, on a night when the offense couldn’t sustain any drives or develop much positive momentum with the ball.
The running game was the obvious focus from the jump, even beyond the strong start from Herbert. Sophomore running back Pooka Williams made his return in Week 2 and even led the Jayhawks in rushing with 99 yards on 22 carries.
What started as a focus for the offense became an overreliance, however, because the game was ineffective at best, which allowed the Chanticleers to key in even more on the running game.
Late in the game, when KU needed to break off several chunk players in order to stay alive, obvious running packages with 12 and 22 personnel were snuffed out relatively quickly time after time.
The running game played reasonably well as a whole despite the attention from the defense, with a 5.5 yards per carry average when discounting sacks. The air attack’s dismal showing is what constantly limited the Kansas offense.
“What led to the offense’s struggles was a secondary that played some quality zone coverage, and frankly we couldn’t quite beat that,” Miles said.
Last week, senior quarterback Carter Stanley got to fill something of a cult hero role, overcoming three turnovers to lead the Jayhawks to a game-winning drive. Just seven day later, his Week 2 performance left something to be desired. He went 13-of-19 passing for just 107 yards with two interceptions, both of which came on plays with questionable decision making.
Miles wasn’t as exuberant about his starting quarterback’s future as he was while celebrating last week’s victory.
“I want to watch his film, I want to see what he saw,” Miles said. “I know there was some pressure, but I don’t know that that was the key. We’ll have to see what the film brings and allows us to be more finite.”
For as bad as the offense was, there was understandable curiosity in terms of coaching decisions following the game. A microcosm of the befuddling effort from KU’s offense came early in the fourth quarter, with 14:22 left in the game. The Jayhawks called a timeout before a fourth-down play. The Chanticleers responded with a timeout of their own to realign their defense, which was followed by yet another Kansas timeout.
Those were KU’s second and third timeouts of the second half. They didn’t convert on the eventual play.
“They lined up and they had an alignment that wouldn’t have benefitted us, so we called a timeout,” Miles said. “We felt like we had a good call, a better call, and it didn’t turn out that way.”
Defensively, while aided by two missed field goals and a missed extra points, Kansas held Coastal Carolina to just 12 points after limiting Indiana State’s offense in Week 1 to just 10. They were good on pressure downs in particular, limiting CCU to just 1-of-9 on third-down attempts.
“I definitely feel like we should have won that game,” junior linebacker Dru Prox said. “They made less mistakes than we did.”
Senior safety Bryce Tornedon, a team captain, spoke after the game and tried to keep the message positive going forward.
“Keep your heads up, no point in hanging our heads,” Tornedon said was the message to his teammates. “We’ve got a long season left ahead, just wash it and move forward to Boston College.”
The vibes weren’t all optimistic following the loss, with Miles admitting that this particular game is going to sting.
“I’m going to stew over this one for quite some time,” Miles said.
The Jayhawks won’t have much time to fret the loss, as they have a short week ahead before a Friday night game against Boston College on the road. The Eagles are 2-0 this season with home wins over Virginia Tech and Richmond.
Click below to hear what Les Miles and the Jayhawks had to say following their loss to Coastal Carolina.
Les Miles press conference