If you are looking for anything to take away as a positive after the Jayhawks 56-34 loss against West Virginia there are two things that jump out.
The first is the 291-yard rushing performance by Khalil Herbert with a lot of help from a revamped offensive line. David Beaty said during the week of game-prep the offensive staff felt they could put a plan together to move the ball.
“When you're game planning, you take a lot of different things into account, number one, where your strengths lie, where your strengths lie up front,” Beaty said. “Then where you feel like you can exploit what they're doing schematically, and that's kind of where that game started. We felt like we might be able to do that early.”
The Jayhawks just didn’t do it early they did it all game. They finished with a team total of 367 yards on the ground which is the most they have recorded in a game since 2012 against Texas Tech. Herbert’s effort was the third-best game ever from a Kansas running back. He passed Gayle Sayers in the record books by eight yards into third place.
“We've been working on it all week,” Herbert said. “The O-line has been doing a great job and today we just came out and executed."
Last week in the Ohio game Zach Hannon and Andru Tovi took over at right tackle and left guard. This week both earned a start and that move seemed to energize the offensive line.
Hannon and Tovi didn’t report to campus until this summer and this is both players first year in the program. Beaty credited offensive line coach Zach Yenser for developing Hannon and Tovi and mixing them in over the last week.
Through four games the team played their best quarter of football today. That came in the third quarter when they played complimentary team football for 15 minutes.
When the second half started the Jayhawks trailed 35-13. When the third quarter ended it was a 35-27 game and the momentum was with the home team. For that 15 minutes the Kansas offense and defense looked like a legit Big 12 team.
They outgained the Mountaineers 210-73 in the third quarter and held them scoreless over four possessions. It was a different look from the defense compared to the first half.
“I'm glad we got out of here with a win,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They (Kansas) had a lot of momentum.”
The Jayhawks defense that gave up 35 first half points showed a glimpse of promise getting three, three-and-outs in the third quarter.
“They made some adjustments (at half),” said West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. “They came out in the third quarter, played really hard and beat us on some stuff. Their defensive line was really good. Our O-line did some good stuff and we adjusted in the fourth quarter.”
West Virginia pulled away in the fourth quarter for a comfortable road win. It is another loss for Kansas but they did prove during that 15 minutes if the offense and defense click together they have the ability to compete with Big 12 opponents.
The coaches need to point to third quarter from today’s game as a teaching moment. When the defense can get off the field and the offense sustains drives it all looked pretty good. Now they have to do it together for more than 15 minutes.