Kansas football vs. Iowa State report card: Jayhawks trounced by Cyclones in Big 12 matchup

Jordan Guskey
Topeka Capital-Journal

AMES, Iowa — Kansas football lost its fourth-straight game Saturday with a 59-7 defeat against Iowa State.

The Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2 in Big 12 Conference) weren’t competitive in the first half as they had been in past games this season. The Cyclones (3-2, 1-1 in Big 12) took a commanding, 28-0 lead in the first quarter alone and never looked back. Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and company now head into an open week with some extra time to prepare before they face Texas Tech (4-1, 1-0 in Big 12) on Homecoming in Lawrence.

►RELATED:Re-live the Kansas Jayhawks' 59-7 loss against the Iowa State Cyclones

Here’s how the Jayhawks graded out from their most recent defeat:

Offense: Struggles compound, lead to lackluster performance

Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Jake Hummel (35) tackles Kansas Jayhawks talent Torry Locklin (12) as Iowa State hosts Kansas at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

This didn’t look like the same Jayhawks offense that showed potential a week earlier against Duke, and while Iowa State is a much better opponent one wouldn’t have expected a step back quite like this.

Redshirt junior quarterback Jason Bean rarely found success passing the ball, and only finished 10-for-20 with 120 yards and that interception in the end zone that killed a potential scoring drive. Eventually redshirt senior quarterback Miles Kendrick received some playing time, likely because the game was that far out of reach. And Bean also had that fumble in the first quarter that he said occurred because he was running with the ball in the wrong hand and it hit his leg and bounced away.

The Jayhawks weren’t very effective on third or fourth down, which has been an issue all season long. They only averaged 4.6 yards per play. The Cyclones didn’t sack Bean or Kendrick at all, but did get into the backfield for six tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.

Without redshirt sophomore Torry Locklin’s 12-yard touchdown run Kansas wouldn’t have any points. Freshman running back Devin Neal finished with 83 yards on 15 carries as the Jayhawks totaled 175 yards on the ground.

A four yard completion from Bean to super senior wide receiver Kwamie Lassiter II in the first quarter shouldn’t be forgotten, as it’s an example of how Kansas can’t afford to leave opportunities on the field. Lassiter was stopped short of a first down on the catch. On the next play Neal was stopped on a fourth-and-short attempt near midfield, and the play after that Iowa State scored its third touchdown of the game.

Grade: F

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Defense: Jayhawks allow the most points they have all season

Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Joe Scates (9) catches a touchdown pass during the first half of the game against Kansas at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

One could add up Iowa State’s point totals from its games against Northern Iowa, Iowa and Baylor earlier in the season and the answer would only exceed what the Cyclones put up against the Jayhawks by a field goal. Kansas is now allowing an average of 43.8 points per game, and that total rises to 51.3 points per game if only games against FBS opponents are included — given the fact South Dakota, which scored 14 against Kansas in the opener, is a FCS program.

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy threw all four of his touchdown passes in the first quarter in a game in which he became the sixth player in Big 12 history to tally 10,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a career. Iowa State running back Breece Hall rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in a game in which he set the Cyclones record for career rushing touchdowns. The Jayhawks went up against an offense with experience and unquestionable talent, and couldn’t put together many stops.

Iowa State finished with 564 yards of total offense and averaged 9.4 yards per play. It took advantage of the absence of Kansas junior safety Kenny Logan Jr. in the first half, and eventually was able to get backup quarterback Hunter Dekkers some experience in the second half. There were a few times that the Jayhawks didn’t do their own defense any favors with the field position the Cyclones started with, but there wasn’t much of an indication over the course of the game worse field position did much to affect Iowa State.

Kansas super senior defensive end Kyron Johnson nearly forced a turnover with a strip-sack in the second quarter. It was recovered by Iowa State, which then proceeded to make a field goal as time expired in the first half to go up 38-0.

Some of the Cyclones’ scores came with such ease, like the 44-yard touchdown pass to Joe Scates after Neal was stopped on that fourth down — a play in which it looked like Iowa State knew exactly what was coming. There was no defender close to Scates when he caught the ball.

Special teams: Blocked field goal looms large

Iowa State's special team blocks Kansas field-goal during the first quarter at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Down 21-0 late in the first quarter, the 34-yard field goal attempt redshirt sophomore Jacob Borcila lined up for appeared as if it would provide the Jayhawks their first points of the game. The deficit would still be a significant one, but at least it’d be a bit smaller. Maybe there’d be some momentum Kansas could build off of from it.

Then the Cyclones’ 6-6 and 320-pound Eyioma Uwazurike deflected the kick. Then another defender caught the ball and returned it to the Jayhawks’ 32 yard line. Then four plays later Iowa State scored another touchdown.

Sophomore Reis Vernon punted well for Kansas for the most part, Lassiter had a 24-yard punt return and sophomore Tabor Allen was effective on kickoffs. It’s just another week that the most memorable special teams play for the Jayhawks was one that they’d probably like to forget. The blocked kick definitely overshadows the punt Vernon had that was downed at the Iowa State 1 yard line.

Grade: C

Coaching: Jayhawks are trending in the wrong direction

Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) runs the ball during the first half of the game against Kansas at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The progression Kansas was looking to make was to take itself from a team that was competitive in the first half to a team that was competitive all game long. While the Jayhawks had lost their previous three games, one thing that couldn’t be said about them was they never went into halftime with momentum and a chance at a win.

The first quarter against Iowa State wiped that trend away. Maybe it can return against Texas Tech, and the process Leipold and company are working through can lead to more promising results. But this is another loss that’ll sting and potentially sting more than any previously this season.

The Jayhawks didn’t have many answers for what the Cyclones threw at them. The chances that Kansas gets its first Big 12 win since 2019 this season are looking slimmer and slimmer. Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell can praise Leipold’s hire and people can say it’ll take time for Leipold to build the program up, but the consistency Leipold and his staff are looking for when it comes to execution — like with tackling — seems pretty far off.

Leipold, Johnson and Bean said all the right things postgame, although Bean’s comment that the team didn’t play as poorly as the score indicates is questionable. More losses like this will further test Kansas’ resolve, and that of recruits deciding if they want to be a part of the Jayhawks’ rebuild.

Grade: F

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