Kansas tries not to get smacked again by MAC

Sep 13, 2017 - 12:05 AM LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Kansas looked lifeless in allowing 24 consecutive first-half points, mounted two quick touchdown drives to begin the second half and then looked spent.

In a nutshell, that was how the Jayhawks looked as they dropped the first game against a Bowl Subdivision opponent, falling 45-27 to MAC visitor Central Michigan on Sept. 9.

The potential bad news is Kansas (1-1) must continue playing MAC opponents by traveling to Ohio (1-1) last Saturday.

But then, virtually anything can be considered bad, especially when the Jayhawks will not be taking any momentum on the road, where they have lost 41 straight and 44 straight counting games at neutral sites.

Afterward, players on both the offensive and defensive units shared blame after the Jayhawks were shredded for 590 total yards, including 467 passing.

That left Kansas to respond to a 24-6 halftime deficit with a one-dimensional attack. Junior quarterback Peyton Bender, in his second start, threw a school-record 62 passes.

Although the Air Raid system is designed to get the most from distributing the ball to multiple targets, more balance is needed to keep opposing defenders honest.

Two interceptions Bender threw contributed to touchdowns. The last blunted any comeback bid.

"It's a shame because I can't tell you how many things we do when it comes to ball security," Kansas coach David Beaty said. "I mean, it's about half our practice.

"So we've got to do a better job of taking care of it. We can't throw it to 'em, we've got to take care of it and we've got to do a better job of creating turnovers."

Again, fallout on both sides of the ball led to a defeat against Central Michigan, which needed three overtimes to tip an FCS team, Rhode Island, in its opener.

Kansas happened to club Rhode Island by 49 points in its 2016 opener.

Bender, who was not told he won the starting quarterback job until the day of the season opener, vowed to improve.

His experience with the Air Raid system began at Washington State under Mike Leach before he played at the junior-college level last year and transferred to Kansas in time for spring practice.

"We just sputtered," Bender said. "We weren't consistent. It's disappointing. We thought we were prepared, and I think we were prepared.

"We just didn't execute for some reason. But we're going to improve on this. We're not going to dwell on it. We're going to be better next week."

There is some hope. Ohio dug a 34-point halftime deficit last week before tumbling 44-21 at Purdue. The Bobcats struggled against the rush and also applied little quarterback pressure.

Their own quarterback, sophomore Nathan Rourke, passed for 224 yards. Junior wide receiver Papi White caught Rourke's only touchdown pass and finished with 98 yards on six receptions.

--TE Ben Johnson caught a career-best five receptions for 57 yards in the loss to Central Michigan and continues to assert himself as a key target in the Air Raid system. The 6-5 Johnson also was used at fullback for blocking purposes.

--LB Joe Dineen, who missed all but the nonconference portion of last year's schedule with an injury, led Kansas in tackles for the second straight game by getting in on 12 stops against Central Michigan. Dineen provides a veteran presence with his range and football smarts.

--DE Dorance Armstrong, who was named the Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year, has yet to make a sack after being neutralized by Southeast Missouri State and Central Michigan. The Jayhawks brought little pressure against the Chippewas and surrendered 467 yards passing.

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