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DOWN IN THE VALLEY: Kansas postmortem

ISU falls short in 24-17 loss at Kansas

Kansas head coach Les Miles, left, and Indiana State head coach Curt Mallory part ways after shaking hands following their NCAA college football game Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 24-17. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Because I can't be in two places at one time, I rarely get to talk to the opposing coaches or players at an Indiana State football (or men's basketball) game most of the time, so I didn't get to hear Kansas coach Les Miles postgame comments until later on Saturday when they were posted online.

In his press conference opening, Miles called the 24-17 Kansas victory over Indiana State as "a start". Not a "great start" or "bad start", but merely a start.

Smart words. And I think they apply to ISU's game too.

I'm not sure anything was seen from ISU that was unexpected. Quarterback Ryan Boyle was mostly effective and used his feet well to improvise. ISU's receivers were solid. ISU's offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage at times. Linebacker Jonas Griffith showed why he's one of the best in the MVFC, etc.

ISU was, for the most part, pretty good, but they weren't excessively good, and apart from an outstanding day from defensive end Kaleb Brewer. It was a baseline performance from a good team.

I guess I bring this all up because while ISU's baseline is pretty good, can the Sycamores rise above their baseline? Kansas represented on Saturday, more or less, a good FCS team. They're not going to be a threat in the Big 12. They're just getting started under Miles.

But ISU is going to see teams with the talent level of Kansas all season long. ISU's baseline wasn't bad - with a few breaks going a different direction, ISU likely wins this game - but it wasn't above and beyond the call. And ISU is going to need a few efforts this season where they rise above themselves.

Can ISU do it? We'll see. Saturday was just a start for ISU in the same way Miles meant for Kansas. It wasn't a "dazzling" or "disapppointing" start, just merely a start.

Hopefully, it's the start of something good.

A look at the game

Passing game – Boyle was hard on himself after the game knowing that Kansas scored directly off of one interception and indirectly from his other.

Still, Boyle was excellent otherwise. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 219 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to Dante Jones II. He also rushed for 21 yards.

The interceptions hurt, but it's hard to fault Boyle's overall effort.

Running game – Titus McCoy was averaging 6.3 yards per carry until he suffered his devastating second half knee injury. McCoy's left leg was immobilized. What a terrible blow that is for ISU.

Peterson Kerlegrand rushed for 31 yards in McCoy's place.

Blocking – ISU's line seemed to do better when run blocking than pass protection. Boyle was sacked three times, but hurried even more. Still there were other times were the line was dominant. Kansas did create problems when the Jayhawks brought outside pressure. We'll see how that translates to a lesser Division I foe.hh

Pass rush – ISU's pass rush - the Sycamores had two sacks and two hurries was the most pleasant surprise of the day.

Almost all of ISU's big defensive plays was a result of Stanley being pressured. Whether it was the fumble recovery touchdown by Inoke Moala, a first half turnover off of a backwards pass, etc.

Though one could hardly say Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley was under the gun either. He threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Credit where credit is due too. Stanley throw to Daylon Charlot was perfect.

Run defense – Kansas averaged three yards per carry, so that's a positive for the Sycamores. Griffith helped a great deal by stuffing holes long before the ball carrier knew he had to hit the hole in the first place.

Pass coverage – Stanley threw for 241 yards, so it's hard to say this was a strength, but ISU's corners were out-sized at times and Kansas was smart enough to takes advantage of it. I did think safety Michael Thomas, cornerback Keawvis Cummings - both new to the ISU secondary - acquitted themselves well.

Special teams – Not a great day for special teams. Jerry Nunez missed two field goals. One, a 51-yarder, I can understand as that's a long distance in college. The other, however, was a 45-yarder and Nunez is capable of clearing that distance.

ISU didn't get much from its return game. Travis Reiner was OK with a 39.5 punt average.

Kept it short this time as I have traveling to do. Thanks for reading.

Todd Aaron Golden has been Sports Editor and Indiana State beat writer since September 2004. Born in Milwaukee but an Indiana resident most of his adult life, he previously worked in Jeffersonville, Columbus and Eau Claire, Wis.

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