Stillwater, Oklahoma — Kansas football coach Lance Leipold had no problem venting his frustrations about what he believed was a missed offsides call late in the Jayhawks’ 39-32 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
But the man who might’ve been most impacted by the play said the mistake rested with him.
Kansas quarterback Jason Bean, who made his fourth start of the season for injured starter Jalon Daniels — and third in a row — was asked after the game if he was affected by the activity and commotion along the Oklahoma State defensive line that had Leipold hot on the field and again after the game. Rather than blaming the officials, Bean took the blame for what became a game-changing fumble.
“It didn’t really have anything to do with me,” he said. “I’ve just got to make a better play. My offense gave me enough time. My O-Line gave me enough time, and I’ve just gotta protect the ball and try to make a better play than I did.”
“Days like this are tough,” Bean added. “But I feel like a day like this is going to be something we look back on and feel like it made us better. It opened our eyes on the things we need to correct. We played pretty good, but, we just, I missed out on a couple opportunities and it’s totally my fault and I take full responsibility for this.”
The fumble, which led to a nine-play, 50-yard touchdown drive that gave Oklahoma State the lead for good, came at the end of a third consecutive KU series that ended with a Bean turnover.
Earlier in the quarter, he threw an interception near the end zone when KU was driving to add to its 32-27 lead. And then, on the next drive, a Bean pass that was batted into the air at the line of scrimmage was corralled by an OSU defender, keeping KU from adding potential points and yards to its big offensive afternoon.
While those two stung, the bigger play was the fumble, which created the controversy and Leipold’s frustration.
After electing to go for it on fourth and five from the OSU 40-yard line — Leipold said it was punt or go at that point — the Jayhawks lined up with Bean in the shotgun and watched as OSU’s Collin Oliver appeared to cross the line of scrimmage a hair early off the left edge.
At the same time Oliver was moving, nose tackle Justin Kirkland also took an early step to his right. Although Kirkland did not appear to cross the line of scrimmage, his movement surely added to the chaotic nature of what turned out to be a huge moment in the game.
KU led 32-30 at the time with 7 minutes to play. A touchdown on that drive, would’ve put OSU down two scores with precious little time remaining.
Instead, the touchdown went the other way and put Kansas in position to try to mount a comeback while racing the clock.
Kansas tight end, Mason Fairchild, who enjoyed a breakout day with 5 receptions for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns, was on the field for the game-changing play, and he said he was “actually to the side where that guy was kind of a little early.”
Like Bean, though, Fairchild said the onus for preventing the back-breaking play still fell on the Jayhawks.
“I think we have full confidence in what we can do and, you know, we have to get open and we have to execute in those moments,” Fairchild said.
Both Bean, who finished with career-highs in completions (23), passing yards (410) and touchdown passes (5), and Fairchild said they liked that Leipold made the decision to stay aggressive and go for the first down.
“Yeah, definitely,” Bean said. “I love when Coach Leipold shows his trust in us and, once again, I’ve just gotta make a better play.”
Added Fairchild: “We have to validate coach’s belief in us.”
If a flag had been thrown for offsides, the Jayhawks would have had a first-and-10 at the OSU 35. Instead, Leipold was left racing around the sideline asking anyone in stripes who came near him what happened on the play.
“Oh, we thought the guy was offsides,” Leipold said. “I guess that’s what you’re asking, if the guy was offsides, right, because everybody’s nodding their head in the room almost. It’s baffling. Baffling, sometimes.”
He continued: “When you talk to the official and it happens on the far side, it’s, ‘Well, it’s not mine, it’s his, it’s that, talk to the official, it’s his call.’ He goes, ‘I didn’t see it. Well, the white hat doesn’t make an offsides call.’ Whatever. I can’t change it. And I just gotta look at it. And if I’m wrong, then we’re all wrong, right? But there must’ve been a reason why you asked the question.”
Saturday’s loss dropped the Jayhawks to 5-2 on the season and 2-2 in Big 12 play. A win would’ve sent them into the bye week at 6-1 and 3-1 in conference, with a showdown with No. 5 Oklahoma looming on Oct. 28 in Lawrence.
Now, the bye week will still come, the Jayhawks believe it will help heal their bumps and bruises and the Sooners will still show up in two weeks.
Sulking over this one until that happens is not something the Jayhawks are interested in doing.
“We can’t let this loss turn into another one,” Fairchild said. “We’ve got a bye week to get things straight, but don’t let one loss turn into two.”
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