Expect a Kansas football victory at your own risk.
College football’s second weekend arrived with the Jayhawks feeling encouraged. An opening game victory followed an offseason of positive talk. This was Coach Dave Beaty’s best team. He had a bona fide star in defensive end Dorance Armstrong and an offensive coordinator with an excellent reputation in Doug Meacham.
Signs pointed to progress, and the second game would be the proof. Central Michigan arrived, and expectation for a victory over a FBS opponent was at the highest point in Beaty’s three years. The mood was penned on a sign held by a fan at Memorial Stadium. “Trust the Process.”
Which makes the level of disappointment in Saturday’s 45-27 loss that much more profound.
This was a gut-punch and, as Beaty said afterwards, a reality check.
“We don’t live on perception, you live in reality, and we’re just not there yet,” Beaty said.
Not even close Saturday. Central Michigan was better prepared, and well, just better. Kansas offered little resistance against quarterback Shane Morris, a Michigan transfer who threw for five touchdowns.
The Jayhawks quarterback, Peyton Bender, set a school record with 62 passing attempts, but didn’t show the ability to escape trouble when the Chippewas brought extra defenders.
The game came crashing down on Kansas in the second quarter when they were outscored 24-0 and stunned by a Central Michigan touchdown with 6 ticks remaining before halftime, a dizzying drive that covered 90 yards in eight plays in 65 seconds.
Football wisdom suggests a team with an 11-point lead runs out the clock there, especially on the road. Instead, Central Michigan applied a dagger.
KU showed life after the break with two quick touchdowns, but the deficit was too large to overcome, especially when the Chippewas passing game proved unstoppable. The visitors responded with two unanswered touchdowns, sealing a dismal outcome for Kansas and perhaps changed the outlook on the season.
This had a look of a Kansas team that could begin to change the program’s narrative, that could remain competitive in the tough games longer and could hold its own against teams that looked similar, especially at home.
A 2-0 start, which hasn’t occurred since 2011, could have gotten the attention and attendance of some of the fan base discouraged by the years of futility.
It would have been a boost for Beaty, who inherited a mess from Charlie Weis, and took a step from a winless first year to a second season that included a victory over Texas.
But Saturday’s loss leaves the Beaty record worse than that of his two predecessors at a similar juncture. Turner Gill was 5-19 in two seasons. Weis was 6-22 when he was ushered out after four games in 2014. Weis’ last victory by the way came in Lawrence over Central Michigan.
Beaty is 3-23 with two victories over FCS opponents. It’s time to do more than trust the process, which early on had to be measured in areas other than the scoreboard.
Three recruiting classes are the work of the current regime. The walk-before-you-can-run non-conference schedule is supposed to yield results. But Saturday marked the second straight year the Jayhawks have lost, rather decisively, to a Mid-American Conference team in the second week.
An opportunity to change the tune presents itself next week when the Jayhawks visit Ohio, the MAC team that handled them in Lawrence last season. Maybe the Jayhawks will respond to the criticism they’ll hear this week and take some momentum into Big 12 play.
If that doesn’t happen, and the type of effort that doomed Kansas on Saturday persists, the program could find itself riding the carousel for a new coach once again.
Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff
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