LAWRENCE — It was a simple gesture, but it meant a lot to Carter Stanley.
Early Monday, two days after the Kansas football senior quarterback was benched at halftime of the Jayhawks’ 31-13 defeat at Oklahoma State, Stanley received a phone call from Brent Dearmon. The offensive coordinator wanted to reiterate his message from after that outcome — that, despite struggles in back-to-back games, Stanley was still the guy for KU behind center entering the season's final two contests.
“Coach Dearmon is just an incredible coach, an incredible influence on this football team,” Stanley said. “Again, he called me this morning and said, ‘Let’s have a great week. Let’s put it behind us. Let’s move forward.’ ”
Part of moving forward for the Jayhawks (3-7, 1-6 Big 12), though, includes analyzing the past, a window Stanley provided during an insightful media availability Monday.
After amassing 85 combined points and 1,096 total yards across Dearmon’s first two games as offensive coordinator, KU has in its two most recent contests mustered just 23 combined points and 531 total yards, beginning with its 38-10 home defeat to Kansas State on Nov. 2. To the naked eye, the unit's approach appears different over these last two games, with more power formations, fullback appearances and largely ineffective toss plays to running backs featured.
One such example of all three came in the first quarter of Saturday’s game.
Trailing 7-0 and facing a third-and-2 from the KU 44-yard line, Stanley executed a toss play to running back Pooka Williams, who was swallowed up for a 2-yard loss. To make matters worse, Williams was running into a loaded defensive box on that play, with at least seven defenders on that side of the field. Stanley said he didn’t have the power to audible out of it or even switch the run to the other side.
There appears to be no rhyme or reason to which plays he’s allowed to change and which he is mandated to run as called.
“It’s definitely one that right before the ball was snapped I’m sure everyone on the offense wished it could’ve been changed,” said Stanley, who returned in the fourth quarter to finish the game 22-for-37 passing for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. “But no, it’s just kind of random. ...
"It’s tough. It really depends. There’s some plays in those heavy sets where I make the check and I make the call. On that particular one, again, I wasn’t able to do anything about it. I still had trust in our guys that we could get it done and get the 2 yards or whatever it was.
A preseason All-Big 12 pick, Williams struggled to find traction all afternoon, finishing the game with just 26 rushing yards on 12 carries.
“It just all kind of depends on the look," Stanley said of his freedom to audible. "When we’re in the spread sets I think I definitely have more freedom to check out of it or check a route or something.”
Stanley didn't know who was responsible for that particular play call, but historically, the KU offense's bigger sets have been more head coach Les Miles' plays, he said. Dearmon's fingerprints were all over the Jayhawks' more spread-heavy look, deployed while the team played from a 31-point hole against the Cowboys.
The quarterback indicated KU’s success in that final quarter was no fluke.
“It’s not like we kind of just threw in some new stuff. It was all plays that we’ve repped,” Stanley said, "and our guys just continuing to fight for 60 minutes.”
Miles remains “a very good amount” involved in working with the offense during practices, Stanley added, with the head coach present and providing instruction on aspects such as blocking and running back angles.
Stanley said Dearmon and Miles "work well together for sure."
“Coach Miles, I’d say he’s more run-game oriented and like I said earlier big-set oriented," Stanley said. "They work together and it’s a good deal.”
After the game, Dearmon delivered a message to the offense that previewed what he’d tell Stanley less than 48 hours later.
“Just one of those things where it’s back to work. It wasn’t our week,” Stanley recalled hearing from Dearmon. “We definitely came up short. I still have full faith in this coaching staff and these great people we have in this building, but it just wasn’t our week.”