LAWRENCE — In its first game under new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon, Kansas football spread the wealth.
And at nearly the half-century mark in points scored, there was plenty of prosperity to go around.
Nine different Jayhawks caught passes in the team’s 50-48 defeat Saturday at No. 15 Texas, a multi-pronged attack that made significant contributions to the near upset for the 21-point underdog. Stephon Robinson led the charge with seven receptions for 67 yards and a pair of touchdowns, one of six KU players with multiple catches.
Somewhat surprisingly, the player who facilitated it all indicated nine isn’t enough.
“We’ve got a lot of talented guys in this offense. I think honestly we can get even more (involved),” said quarterback Carter Stanley, who finished 27-for-47 for 310 yards and four touchdowns. “But no, I think that’s pretty cool, and something we’ll do moving forward.”
Other pass catchers included Kwamie Lassiter (five catches, 66 yards), Pooka Williams (four catches, 25 yards), Andrew Parchment (three catches, 83 yards, one touchdown), Daylon Charlot (three catches, 47 yards), Velton Gardner (two catches, 8 yards), Takulve Williams (one catch, 7 yards, one touchdown), Jack Luavasa (one catch, 5 yards) and Ben Miles (one catch, 2 yards).
Les Miles credited Stanley for keeping everyone involved, which he said offers additional perks.
“I think we’re doing the things that we need to do and I think (Stanley) is facilitating that extremely well,” Miles said. “You get the ball to nine guys, those nine guys, it makes their game jump a little. I think you’ll find that there will be another and another and another, what would be a game with multiple receivers.”
Led by Pooka Williams’ 25 carries for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns, five Jayhawks notched at least one carry against the Longhorns in a rushing attack that scampered for 259 yards. Keeping everyone engaged through the passing attack, Miles theorized, only buoyed that number.
“It’s team,” Miles said. “When you have that and you demonstrate it, the young guys that get to participate, it becomes a lot easier to block after you’re out there catching the ball. And I think it was, I think it was truly a team effort. Those nine guys plus others stepped in and made big plays based on the fact of a connective feeling of team.”
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the new-look offense was Charlot, a senior wide receiver, former four-star recruit and Alabama transfer.
With the Jayhawks trailing by seven midway through the fourth quarter, Charlot made a circus catch on the sideline on a fourth-and-10 to extend a drive that eventually resulted in a game-tying touchdown. Then, with 1:11 left, Charlot hauled in a successful two-point conversion in the back of the end zone that gave KU a 48-47 lead.
Stanley called Charlot’s fourth-down grab “unbelievable,” but added it’s “what he does.”
“We’ve got some very capable receivers, but he tends to be my guy for one-on-one coverage in crucial situations like that,” Stanley said. “... He’s probably got the strongest hands I’ve ever witnessed in all my years of playing football. He’s just an incredible competitor. When you match those two together you’re going to get a pretty good receiver.”
Another beneficiary was Takulve Williams, a 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore wideout from New Orleans. Williams made the most out of his first reception of the season, scoring a 7-yard touchdown that gave KU its first lead of the evening, 17-14, midway through the second quarter.
That play also gave the Jayhawks their first lead in Austin since 1997.
“Another very passionate football player,” Stanley said of Williams. “He might not be the fastest or the biggest or anything, but he just loves the game, busts his butt week in and week out. I think this offense, he’s going to get some opportunities.”
So what was different this go-round?
Miles pointed to similarities and dissimilarities in Saturday’s offense with what the team displayed through its first six contests — “It’s just the approach (that) is different. I think Mr. Dearmon is doing a great job pushing connectivity, team and physical play,” the head coach said.
Stanley cited improved energy, confidence and “just the feel of the ability to be able to score on every single drive,” reflected as the Jayhawks (2-5, 0-4 Big 12) put up 24 fourth-quarter points.
“It was cool,” Stanley said. “I’m proud of our guys. Really happy for coach Dearmon and definitely the rest of the staff. ... I know I can be better in some areas and we left a few points on the board there, but I’d say it’s a good start.”
KU next plays host to Texas Tech (3-4, 1-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday. If the Jayhawks enter that game with a renewed sense of confidence, the group that still openly talks about bowl game aspirations also carries a virtually nonexistent margin for error into the clash.
“We’re going to prepare pretty much like it’s our Super Bowl because that’s the way we’ve got to treat the rest of the season,” Stanley said. “They’re a great football team. We’ve got to have a great week of preparation and execute on Saturday.”