KU football quarterback Peyton Bender: ‘I’ve got to play better’

Jayhawk signal-caller battles inaccuracy in Week 2 defeat

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender, left, looks to pass downfield as Central Michigan’s Carlos Clark approaches from behind during the first half of Saturday afternoon’s game at Memorial Stadium. Bender finished 32-for-62 passing for 323 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the Jayhawks’ 45-27 defeat. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)

LAWRENCE — The idea may have gained steam on social media from Kansas fans and at least one notable former player.

 

But the thought of making a switch at quarterback at any point during the Jayhawks’ 45-27 defeat to Central Michigan on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, David Beaty said, never crossed the KU coach’s mind.

“No, we didn’t talk about it,” Beaty said. “We didn’t talk about it at all.”

Starter Peyton Bender, who won the job over sophomore counterpart Carter Stanley in the final week of fall camp, was largely ineffective in his second start for the Jayhawks (1-1). The junior was 32-for-62 passing with 323 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

While Beaty said he didn’t contemplate making a switch at the position — Stanley has yet to appear this season and his health status is uncertain — that doesn’t mean the KU coach was pleased with his junior quarterback.

In particular, Beaty was puzzled by Bender’s two first-half interceptions.

“I thought we made a couple really, really rough throws early in the game there that went into turnovers,” Beaty said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball. We can’t be throwing the ball to the other team.”

Bender’s first mistake came on the third play of the Jayhawks’ third possession.

With KU facing a third-and-long situation from its own 25 and the Chippewas blitzing, Bender made an ill-advised pass down the middle that was picked off by CMU’s Josh Cox and returned to the KU 34.

“That first interception was terrible,” Bender acknowledged. “I can’t do that. You’ve just got to eat it. I got pressured off the left edge and sometimes you’ve just got to throw it in the dirt.”

Analyzing that interception, Beaty said Bender has to “be smarter than that.”

“That’s something I expect out of Peyton,” Beaty said “He’s a really good player and he’s a smart guy. He made a mistake there and he’ll learn from it. He just can’t put it in jeopardy like that.”

Bender’s second pick wasn’t necessarily a mistake so much as it was harsh luck.

The KU quarterback, again facing heavy pressure after a breakdown on the right side of the Jayhawk offensive line, delivered a deep pass to freshman wide receiver Quan Hampton, who had the ball in hand but saw it ripped way by defender Tyjuan Swain at the CMU 10.

“I was pressured up the middle it seemed like,” Bender said. “Quan ran a good route. I tried to put it in a good spot — maybe put it a little behind him, could’ve led him up the field a bit. They just made a good play on it, you know?

“It’s unfortunate how it happened, but we’ve got to be better at executing that.”

Both Bender interceptions led to CMU touchdowns, the last making it an 18-point game.

“It’s a shame because I can’t tell you how many things we do when it comes to ball security,” 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.”

Bender’s 62 pass attempts were the most from a quarterback in KU history, a dubious honor given the game’s outcome.

“You know, we put ourselves in that position today where we had to throw it around to get back into the game,” Bender said. “Usually you don’t want to throw it 62 times, but that’s how it went today.”

Inconsistency and accuracy, Beaty said, were Bender’s two biggest issues on the afternoon. The third-year coach would also like to see his quarterback use his legs more when the defense dictates it — Bender had one carry for 1 yard against the Chippewas.

“Everybody’s accounted for except for the quarterback, so he can’t just stand there and hold it forever, you know,” Beaty said. “He’s going to have to understand that there’s an opening, go and get his five (yards) and then live with that. I thought we put (ourselves) in a little bit of a bad position by holding it for so long because our reads shouldn’t take that long unless people are getting held up.”

Bender did orchestrate a pair of touchdown drives coming out of the half that cut the Jayhawks’ deficit to four, but the KU offense couldn’t string together many meaningful plays from that point forward, finishing with three rushing touchdowns and a pair of field goals.

As was the case after his impressive Week 1 debut, Bender was left wanting more.

“I’ve got to play better,” Bender said. “I’ve got to be more accurate there in the first half. I thought we just had some missed opportunities. Like I said, if we make the most of those opportunities, who knows? I think we left 21, 28 points out there on the scoreboard we should’ve had.”

Despite the defeat in what is likely to be the last game KU will be favored in this season, the even-keeled Bender remained upbeat ahead of the team’s Week 2 matchup Saturday at Ohio (1-1), which will now kick off at 11 a.m. due to NCAA schedule changes spurred by Hurricane Irma.

“We just sputtered. We weren’t consistent. It’s disappointing,” Bender said. “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.”

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