July 20, 2024

Lance Leipold looking for answers after Kansas falls short on road

Kansas Jayhawks Football

Kansas Coach Lance Leipold reacts after a failed extra point attempt during the second quarter against Oklahoma State Saturday October 14, 2023 at Boone Pickens Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

STILLWATER, Okla. — The Jayhawks were out to change the narrative on their second-straight 5-1 start when they invaded Boone Pickens Stadium, but everything didn’t pan out like they had planned.

Kansas traded blows with Oklahoma State throughout the afternoon, but failed to deliver in the clutch, and lost the game 39-32. Coach Lance Leipold understands that offensive shootouts can go either way, depending on which team has the ball last. That’s why it frustrated Leipold that his team generated a season-high of total offense in Big 12 play, and averaged 7.9 yards per play, but couldn’t finish the job.

“We had a lot of explosive plays, I think we showed sometimes offensively our ability to be balanced, and how we can move the ball in a lot of different ways,” Leipold said. “But the consistency wasn’t there, and we had trouble slowing them down.”

Although it’s the Jayhawks’ sixth-straight loss in Stillwater, there are some positive aspects to build on approaching the bye-week. There’s no denying Kansas (5-2) played well enough on offense to win the game. However, it became obvious in the second half that Leipold’s defense was a liability with several missed tackles, and blown coverage.

After all, the Cowboys led the 23rd-ranked Jayhawks in plays, yards, first downs and time of possession. Kansas’ two turnovers didn’t help either, especially on the road. Oklahoma State quarterback threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Ollie Gordon eclipsed the century mark in rushing and receiving yards. Not to mention wideout Rashod Owens hauled in a game-high, nine catches for 112 yards.

The game was as entertaining as a Big 12 matchup gets, with four lead changes. Once the smoke cleared though, Kansas couldn’t answer the bell down the stretch and was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys exposed several weaknesses on the Jayhawks’ special teams too, which forced Leipold to alter his game plan. He wasn’t happy with the officiating. Leipold tried to be aggressive because of it, but failed on two fourth down attempts.

“I’m still proud of them, we got a lot of ball to play, we played better especially in the third quarter than we did in the first half,” he said. “But we have to win some things, and ultimately I told them that it’s my fault we went for it on fourth and five, that was my decision.”

Leipold doesn’t regret the risks he took in the close battle, especially on the road. He believes there are several aspects of the game that tie into a coach’s decision.

“Being aggressive, analytics play a small part, flow of the game, our ability to slow them down, and that we were in decent rhythm there even before the penalty,” the 59-year old coach said. “A lot of things that I thought we could convert.”

Quarterback Jason Bean completed 23 of his 34 passes for 410 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Protection from the big boys up front wasn’t consistent, and Oklahoma State sacked Bean four times. Devin Neal was held in check for the most part, and only ended p with 66 yards on the ground. Wideout Quentin Skinner and tight end Mason Fairchild caught two touchdowns apiece.

On defense JB Brown and Austin Booker each tallied nine tackles. Patrick Joyner Jr., and Kenny Logan Jr., made the Alan Bowman eat grass. Regardless, the Jayhawks’ defense was on the field for 79 plays, and fatigue set in late in the fourth quarter, which led to big plays from the Cowboys. Oklahoma State (4-2) racked up a season high in points, and yards on Kansas’ defense.

Now Leipold has to go back to the drawing board, and iron out all of the wrinkles during the bye-week. The third-year coach is confident that the Jayhawks are still alive and well in the Big 12 race, but will have a slim margin for error the rest of the way.

“Obviously the road is not going to get any easier playing Oklahoma, so we’ll start on that prep by practicing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, a weight room day on Friday, off Saturday, we’ll practice Sunday night and get ready.”