LAWRENCE — Kansas coach David Beaty said Tuesday he remains committed to defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, even through a disappointing start to the season.
“My faith level (in him) is as high as it’s ever been,” Beaty said during his weekly press conference. “I think he’s one of the finest around. He really is.”
Fan criticism of Bowen — a former player who’s been with the staff for 20 years and defensive coordinator for six — has increased each week as the Jayhawks have floundered on that end. KU not only ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in yards per play allowed, it’s also one of only three Power Five schools in the bottom 10 for scoring defense.
Oregon State, which mutually parted ways with coach Gary Andersen on Monday, and Missouri, which fired its defensive coordinator on Sept. 10, are the other two programs.
Bowen, who speaks to reporters on Thursdays, also had players come to his defense Tuesday.
“The thing of it is, it’s not really so much on him,” defensive lineman Daniel Wise said. “I know people are talking about — for some reason — him. It’s really on us.
“He gives us the keys to the game. He gives us the breakdown and what to do. It’s just our job to execute. We don’t put nothing on him.”
KU defensive end Dorance Armstrong — the preseason Big 12 defensive player of the year — also pinned the mental mistakes on himself and his teammates.
“At some point, it’s got to stop,” Armstrong said.
A closer examination of Texas Tech’s three first-quarter touchdowns Saturday showed various errors. On one run play, defensive end Josh Ehambe simply filled the wrong gap, allowing an opening that led to a 47-yard run. On another, safety Tyrone Miller was in the wrong spot, letting a receiver get behind him when his primary job was to stay deep.
The Jayhawks did have a better pass rush, as a reshuffling of the defensive line led to three sacks — a number that matched their total from the previous four weeks combined.
It still wasn’t enough to keep the game close. The 65 points allowed were the second-most given up by a Power Five defense this year, and it also continued the unit’s backslide after an encouraging 2016.
Bowen, who received a raise from $406,000 to $500,000 in the offseason, was in charge of a KU defense that allowed 6.0 yards per play and 37.3 points per game a year ago. Those numbers are up to 6.8 and 44.8 in 2017 — with seven Big 12 games remaining.
Beaty said Bowen’s demeanor hasn’t changed even through this year’s challenges.
“It’s a work in progress, and we’re getting better day by day. A lot of that is attributed to him,” Beaty said. “His leadership and his consistency ... our guys love Clint Bowen. They love him. They would go to the wall for him.”