David Beaty wanted to put his best foot forward Saturday in his season debut as play caller.
Instead, the Kansas football offense couldn’t stop tripping over its own feet.
KU fell 48-16 to Texas Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas, the team’s fourth straight defeat and 14th consecutive loss in conference play dating back to the 2016 campaign. The Red Raiders used a 45-6 run and a pair of 21-point quarters — the second and the fourth — to seal the outcome.
The numbers tied to the Jayhawks’ offensive struggles Saturday were telling.
KU (2-5, 0-4 Big 12) failed to convert its first eight third-down attempts and finished 4 for 15 in those scenarios. Peyton Bender was mostly ineffective in his first start in three weeks, finishing 18-for-41 passing for 221 yards, two touchdowns and an ugly end-zone interception. Pooka Williams had a game-high 70 rushing yards but lost a fumble at the Red Raider 2. KU punted nine times.
Beaty, who last week fired offensive coordinator Doug Meacham for, among other reasons, failing to capitalize on the defense’s nation-leading 18 takeaways, on Saturday oversaw a Jayhawk attack that scored just three points off three takeaways, two of which set KU up in first-and-goal scenarios.
The fourth-year coach later called it one of the stats from the game that leaves him “most disappointed.”
“You expect to win and get in the end zone down there,” Beaty said. “On the 10-yard line, your odds of getting in there, you’ve got to feel pretty good about that, right? And that’s just on us as a group. We’ve got to convert and get in the end zone.”
"Obviously,” Beaty said, he felt hiss players had a “firm understanding” of the game plan, that “everybody felt comfortable” offensively and the group was “engaged the entire time.” It was a matter of execution, he said, particularly in a first half where KU punted five times, lost possession on Williams’ fumble and mustered only a 20-yard field goal on a drive that started at the Red Raider 9-yard line.
“It was just a matter of connecting on some of those throws early in the game that were contested, heavy-box stuff that we’ve seen on tape,” Beaty said. “We’ve just got to put the ball on that guy, give him a chance, because that turns into big plays, right?
“You score on that first drive and then you score on the one that we (get a takeaway), might be a different game, you know. It might be a different game. But you don’t get to go back, right. You have to go convert on them. You have to convert on that.”
Williams, the Jayhawks’ true freshman superstar, busted a 20-yard run but was mostly held in check on his team-high 16 carries. The lost fumble, which came with the Jayhawks down 10-3 early in the second quarter, proved to be a decisive moment in the eventual blowout.
“Hey man, listen: He’s human. He made a mistake. They got their hand on it and it came out,” Beaty said. “But we’ve got to be able to pick him up because he’s picked us up so many times, right? I thought he played his rear-end off. He never really flinched as a result of that. ... I loved his resiliency. He’s a tough dude.”
Steven Sims brought in a 30-yard touchdown reception on an athletic diving catch in the third quarter, and Stephon Robinson rounded out KU’s scoring with an 18-yard reception with 11 seconds left.
As for Bender, Beaty said the senior “definitely, definitely” showed the best grasp on what the team was trying to do offensively over the last two weeks of practice, which led to his return to the starting lineup. Bender played every snap for the KU offense — a rarity for a Jayhawk squad that has leaned on three signal callers this season — and Beaty said his confidence in the quarterback isn’t affected by Saturday’s performance.
“He’ll continue to improve and get better, there’s no doubt about it,” Beaty said. “I think that kid has got a lot more resolve than maybe people give him credit for, a lot better leader than what people give him credit for.”
The Red Raiders (5-2, 3-1) won for the fourth time in six games and snapped an eight-game home losing streak in conference play. Freshman quarterback Alan Bowman returned from a collapsed lung suffered in Week 5 and completed 36 of 46 pass attempts for 408 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The Jayhawks next return home for the first time in nearly a month, hosting TCU for a 2 p.m. Oct. 27 contest at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
“We’ve got to find a way,” Beaty said on his postgame radio interview, “to go and get that ball in the end zone.”