Jayhawks must put opening loss behind them Saturday at Central Michigan
There were so many requests for Jeff Long to comment on the future of the Kansas football program after a humiliating loss to Nicholls State that the Jayhawks‘ new athletic director made the rare but practical decision to issue a statement.
It didn’t exactly give embattled coach David Beaty a vote of confidence.
“We all expected a different outcome Saturday,” Long’s statement read, “but I continue to support our student-athletes and coaches and ask all Jayhawks to do the same. Our evaluation of the program is ongoing without a predetermined timeline.”
The next chance to evaluate comes Saturday at Central Michigan.
Still smarting from their overtime loss to a Football Championship Subdivision opponent — at home, no less — the Jayhawks will try for their first road win since 2009. They’ll also be trying to turn around a season that is already threatening to run off the rails, and perhaps show Long enough progress in Year 4 of the Beaty regime to take some heat off their coach.
Or at least turn the temperature of his seat down from searing.
“That one definitely hurts, the game everyone’s expecting you to win,” Jayhawks quarterback Peyton Bender said this week. “You can’t change it now. There’s nothing you can do about it. Just have to learn from it and just move on. It’s over with.”
Besides, the Jayhawks have had plenty of trouble with Mid-American Conference opponents, too.
They lost to the Chippewas at home last season, then lost to Ohio on the road. They also lost to the Bobcats at home the year before that, which means Beaty is 0-3 against the league.
Central Michigan lost its opener to Kentucky last week but was competitive. It trailed 21-20 at halftime before falling 35-20. The Chippewas also return plenty of starters from a team that won eight games, tied for second in the MAC West and played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last season.
“They’re coming off a difficult loss at home, one where they made mistakes, which were costly,” Central Michigan coach John Bonamego said. “You have to understand who you’re playing. They could be dangerous. We need to take care of our side of things and focus on us.”
Central Michigan safety Devonni Reed made a splash in his debut, making a team-high 14 tackles and returning a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown against Kentucky. The freshman was one of the top defensive back prospects coming out of Detroit last year.
Bender is expected to start again for the Jayhawks, even though he was just 19 of 35 for 187 yards against Nicholls State. But keep an eye on athletic sophomore transfer Miles Kendrick, who got some snaps in the opener and could see more playing time if Bender continues to struggle.
SPEAKING OF QBS
Sophomore quarterback Tony Poljan made his first career start against Kentucky and was just 17 of 27 for 137 yards. Central Michigan finished with just 255 yards in the game, though part of that was due to 12 penalties for 106 yards.
The Kansas offensive line, which included three starters that arrived over the summer, allowed six sacks and plenty of pressure last week. New center Alex Fontana, a transfer from Houston, also had trouble with a handful of snaps.
“Every one of those guys took it personally that they didn’t play their best game,” Beaty said. “And the good news is they’re all willing to make those changes, which is good. I know that we have a long way to go there, but I have a lot of confidence.”
Whichever team does a better job of forgetting about last week will likely have a better chance Saturday.
“We really don’t pay attention to the past,” Bonamego said. “Our challenge with this team, and every team, is to be committed to the process.”