Kansas football: Instant analysis on the Jayhawks' close win against South Dakota

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal

LAWRENCE — Kansas opened its 2021 football season with a 17-14 victory against South Dakota at home, starting the Lance Leipold era with a 1-0 record. 

Here are five quick thoughts from that:

Jason Bean's mobility is vital for this Kansas football offense

The Jayhawks’ struggles offensively — especially in the running game — forced redshirt junior quarterback and starter Jason Bean to often use his mobility to create chances in the passing and running games. When he chose to throw the ball, hurried or not, he was pretty effective and connected on 17 of his 26 attempts for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Bean helped deliver Kansas' first touchdown this season with an eight-yard pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Lawrence Arnold. He also connected with Arnold for a 16-yard score that gave the Jayhawks the final lead.

Kansas redshirt junior quarterback Jason Bean throws out a pass in the first half of Friday's game against South Dakota at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

A win is nice … but there are some reasons for concern as well

Kansas’ defense didn’t allow South Dakota to threaten a lot in this one but it was likely too much for comfort for Jayhawks fans against a FCS opponent. Outside of the two touchdown drives, there were two main other drives that nearly ended in points. For one, there was the missed field goal by the Coyotes from 46 yards out in the first quarter. Secondly, there was the field goal South Dakota made but didn’t have count in the fourth quarter because of a timeout. The latter drive ended with Kansas stopping South Dakota on fourth down and short.

Run game may limit offense

Designed running plays for someone on Kansas not named Bean failed to create many explosive opportunities. It’s part of why Kansas only had four first downs through two quarters and an average of 2.4 yards per carry in that time. By game’s end, the Jayhawks had 82 yards rushing on 41 carries for a two-yards per carry average, and Bean’s total in that was 54 yards on 15 attempts.

Kyron Johnson, Kansas defense line show promise

The Jayhawks’ defensive line did well to create pressure on South Dakota’s quarterback and not let the Coyotes’ offensive line have its way in the running game. Super-senior defensive end Kyron Johnson’s sack and forced fumble that ended the first quarter and led to another punt by South Dakota is a great example of this. The lack of other sacks and more quarterback hits isn’t a true indication of how that group did.

Survive and advance … 

Kansas survived this one. With a three-point victory, thanks in part to a 30-yard field goal by redshirt sophomore kicker Jacob Borcila in the third quarter, there wasn’t a lot of room for error. Add on top of that Kansas was out-gained by South Dakota by 18 yards, and it’s clear this offense needs to make a lot of strides for this team. There are a number of offenses the Jayhawks will see in the weeks to come that’ll likely be far more high-powered than the Coyotes’.

Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at jmguskey@gannett.com or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.