The Jayhawks were just a few plays away from seeing a different fate in their 47-27 loss to Kansas State, as the special teams units for Kansas had some unforgiving mistakes.
“We got beat in every area of special teams,” said Lance Leipold, Jayhawks head coach.
The bleeding started for the Jayhawks after they opened the game with a three and out, by way of a stop from sophomore safety O.J. Burroughs.
Burroughs dropped back to receive the subsequent Kansas State punt, but it went way over his head. He set up to field the ball inside of the 10.
“That’s a missed number nowadays that you let a ball go over your head,” said Leipold.
Once Burroughs retreated, he slipped and fell as he was finally in position to field the punt as the rain poured in Manhattan. He ended up being unable to field the punt cleanly, muffing it as a swarm of Wildcats came in to recover the ball at the five yard line.
The next play, Kansas State found the end zone on a jet sweep to senior wide receiver Malik Knowles to go up 7-0.
Leipold said that he and the coaching had Burroughs too far up the field.
“We had him back at 47 yards, the guy hit a 62 yard punt… it’s hard to get upset at the guy (Burroughs),” said Leipold.
Leipold mentioned that Kansas averaged 38 yards per punt compared to Kansas State’s 62.7 mark.
He also alluded to the kickoff return yards, as the Jayhawks managed just nine yards per return, while the Wildcats averaged 33.8 yards per return.
Both of those kickoff return averages had a significant outlier. For Kansas, it was when redshirt-junior Trevor Wilson received the kick a few yards into the end zone and hesitated on bringing it out.
He only made it to the nine yard line, but an illegal block in the back penalty on redshirt-sophomore tight end Trevor Kardell moved the start of the Kansas drive to the five yard line.
That ended up being costly as the Jayhawks would be flagged for holding in their own end zone, resulting in a safety for Kansas State. The Jayhawks then had to kickoff from their own 20, boosting Kansas State’s field position to start their touchdown drive that put them up 23-7.
The outlier in Kansas State’s 33.8 yards per return was Knowles’ 69 yard return to the Jayhawks’ 31 yard line. This return came after the Jayhawks showed signs of life after bringing the score within 10 at 37-27.
Kansas State would get a field goal out of the return, and the Jayhawk offense was never able to pick up again afterwards.
Overall, 19 points have the potential to be pointed back to getting outplayed on special teams. The Jayhawks may have found themselves in a better position to win had they been able to limit the damage.
The Jayhawks will have about a month of practice to look closer into special teams as they await the news of where their bowl game is. The loss to Kansas State drops them to 6-6 to end the season.