A self-described “super positive guy,” frustration finally got to David Beaty on Saturday — twice, actually.
On the wrong end of a surprisingly close yet nevertheless sloppy tilt Saturday at West Virginia, time may be running out for the fourth-year Kansas coach to put together more than moral victories.
The Jayhawks, four-touchdown underdogs to the No. 9-ranked Mountaineers, tested WVU and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Will Grier, but ultimately fell 38-22 in Morgantown, W.Va. The defeat represents the 42nd straight for the Jayhawks in Big 12 road contests and Beaty’s 29th conference loss in 30 tries.
Beaty’s nationally-televised frustrations began early in the fourth quarter, the Jayhawks (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) driving to cut the Mountaineer (5-0, 3-0) advantage back to just one score.
Facing an expiring play clock, KU was forced to take a timeout ahead of a second-and-10 situation from its own 41-yard line. The ESPN2 broadcast showed Beaty, who shouted into a second headset before ripping it off forcefully and returning it to an assistant. That drive ended with a punt.
The KU defense — which performed admirably against the high-octane WVU offense — caused havoc on the Mountaineers’ ensuing drive, with defensive tackle Daniel Wise recording back-to-back sacks to force a three-and-out and a WVU punt from its own end zone. KU punt returner Kwamie Lassiter, however, muffed the ensuing return attempt at the WVU 41-yard line, and the Mountaineers regained possession.
A seething Beaty, now shown following the fumble sans any headset, appeared to drop an F-bomb. The Mountaineers capitalized with a 49-yard field goal and, later, Grier’s fourth and final touchdown pass to ice the outcome.
Speaking with a somewhat hushed tone in his postgame radio remarks, a more tranquil Beaty lamented the missed opportunity to shock the college football world.
“We’ve got to win these games,” said Beaty, whose record fell to 5-37 as a head coach. “We’ve got to be able to win these games, and we weren’t able to get it done today.”
The game was within one score early in the third quarter as a 31-yard rushing touchdown by Khalil Herbert capped KU’s first drive of the second half and made the deficit 21-14, but WVU regained its two-touchdown edge on a 12-yard receiving touchdown by Martell Pettaway on the final play of the third quarter, setting up the moments of visible frustration from Beaty on the ensuing two drives. Had Lassiter simply fair caught the football and set his offense up in WVU territory, the game perhaps would’ve played out differently.
Beaty said he would’ve liked to have seen the play reviewed — he thought his squad regained possession of the fumble — but added there’s no excuse for the pivotal gaffe.
“It was uncalled for. There was absolutely no reason,” Beaty said. “... There’s some things that we’ve got to make sure we don’t let them show up. (Lassiter) has done a really, really good job up until that point. Just a poor decision to make on that play.”
The KU defense posted five sacks and forced four takeaways, including three first-half interceptions of Grier in the end zone or near the goal line, but the Jayhawk offense got just seven points off those turnovers. Grier recovered to finish with 332 passing yards and four touchdowns, in addition to the three picks and a lost fumble.
KU, which is entering its bye week, was outgained in total yardage 509-286 — “Offensively, not a whole lot that we’re just terribly happy about,” admitted Beaty.
Carter Stanley drew the start at quarterback for KU on the heels of his strong showing last weekend against Oklahoma State but struggled early and ceded most playing time to former starter Peyton Bender, who finished 16-for-25 passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Stanley, meanwhile, finished 5-for-8 passing for 15 yards. Both quarterbacks threw an interception, the first picks tossed by KU signal callers this season.
Beaty said Bender was told during the week that his number may be called “fairly early.” He praised the senior’s performance, though the Jayhawks’ quarterback carousel appears ongoing.
“Both of those guys I think have done a good job preparing and not letting necessarily the noise bother them,” said Beaty, who didn’t name a starting quarterback for KU’s Oct. 20 contest at Texas Tech. “They’ve been getting ready to go. We’ve got to find a way to get those guys to drive us all the way to the end zone. That’s what quarterbacks do. We’ve got to finish that way.”
Herbert, who had 294 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries last year versus WVU, finished Saturday’s game with six carries for 46 yards. The Jayhawks’ electric true freshman running back Pooka Williams was held in check, finishing with 46 rushing yards on six attempts.
Playing in a shorthanded secondary without safeties Mike Lee and Ricky Thomas, Hasan Defense stepped up to record two of the Jayhawks’ three picks, with Davon Ferguson hauling in the third. It’s a silver lining to be sure, but not one Beaty was shouting from the top of Milan Puskar Stadium.
“I was probably most proud of that (secondary) group, but we didn’t win, so it’s hard to be just ridiculously proud of anything,” Beaty said. “We grew, but we didn’t win. We’ve got to win these games. We expected to win that one.”
Back to Beaty’s frustrations, which weren’t directly addressed in his postgame remarks but were hinted at in praise of defensive end Brian Lipscomb.
Lipscomb had a sack in his most significant appearance and playing time as a Jayhawk and, as Beaty indicated, fielded in-game criticism well.
“The thing I like about Brian is he’s coachable. I mean, you can get after him,” Beaty said. “He doesn’t lose his cool. He takes it and he works to get better. And really, the whole team did that today, because we were pretty intense on that sideline today.”
Much like Beaty’s postgame radio interview, though, that intensity cooled down and was replaced with solidarity in the postgame locker room. Asked for the message to his players at the halfway point in the season and the heels of a tough loss, Beaty emphasized that very attitude.
“I tell ’em, first of all, I believe in ’em,” Beaty said, “and I love ’em, man.”