In his last season as Kansas coach, David Beaty is about to do something his two predecessors couldn’t: He’s about to lead an offense that won’t finish last in the Big 12 in scoring average.
KU, amazingly, has not been outside the cellar in this category since 2009, which was coach Mark Mangino’s last season. The point-per-game total in six of those eight seasons was below 20 and peaked in 2011 at 22.3.
With help from an offensive outburst in Saturday’s 55-40 loss to Oklahoma, KU appears set to end this ugly streak.
The Jayhawks, at 24.5 points per game, rank eighth in the Big 12, ahead of both TCU (24.1) and Kansas State (21.1). Even if KU is shut out in its season finale, it will finish with 22.4 points per game, which will be the best mark in the last nine seasons.
In a year where Beaty didn’t perform well enough to keep his job, he definitely can be proud about this.
Here are grades for all three units, a highlight from Saturday’s loss and a look ahead.
Play of the game
Pooka magic: Though he ran for a career-high 252 yards, Pooka Williams’ best highlight came on a short reception.
Quarterback Peyton Bender threw a third-quarter pass to Williams late with a defender already draped on him at the line of scrimmage. Williams spun away once, lowered his shoulder to deliver a hit, spun away from a defender again, reversed field and sprinted ahead for one of the most impressive eight-yard gains of the season.
Offense: A+. The 40 points were the most scored by KU in a conference outing since 2010. Williams had his best game … and that’s saying something considering how good he’s been this season. The Jayhawks offensive line flourished for the second straight week, opening up holes while keeping Bender clean. KU’s receivers also were solid, securing some difficult catches to keep the team in manageable third-down situations. This even was a low-possession game … and KU managed to score touchdowns on five of 10 non-end-of-half possessions. It’s too bad for Beaty that the team didn’t show this type of offensive ceiling sooner.
Defense: C: Oklahoma has the best offense in the nation, so we should be grading on a curve here, but KU’s defense failed to force a punt or even a field goal attempt on a night when its offense chewed up clock and provided plenty of rest. The Jayhawks get credit for two turnovers — a first-quarter Mike Lee strip and Shakial Taylor interception — but the other Oklahoma non-kneeldown possessions looked like this: TD, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD, TD.
Special teams: D. Gabriel Rui continued his strong season with a 45-yard field goal, but the special teams night was marred by an Oklahoma blocked punt and return for touchdown. In a game that actually was close in the end, that type of mistake turned out to be costly. The Sooners also had a 34-yard punt return which flipped field position in the third quarter.
KU will end its season with an 11 a.m. home game against Texas on Friday. The Longhorns should be motivated, as they still have a chance, with a win, to earn a berth in the Big 12 championship game.
Texas defeated KU, 42-27, in Austin last season.