LAWRENCE — Doug Meacham is a man of many analogies, and what it’s like playing without his team’s most dangerous weapon on offense is no different.
For virtually all of the Jayhawks’ 45-27 defeat to Central Michigan last Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the first-year Kansas offensive coordinator was without dynamic junior wide receiver Steven Sims, who was hobbled with a right ankle injury and shut down in the first half.
Playing without the game-changing Sims, Meacham explained, was obviously limiting.
“I’ll go to my vacuum cleaner salesman analogy,” Meacham said Thursday. “The best salesman is sick and in the hospital, and he’s your best one. Are you going to sell as many vacuums?”
After hearing the obvious “no” response, Meacham shrugged and nodded, an acknowledgment of how the situation relates to the Jayhawks (1-1). And while going without Sims proved akin to a vacuum’s primary function, it was something Meacham stopped short of using as an excuse.
“It’s no factor,” he said. “Next guy needs to just go play.”
With or without the speedster Sims, who head coach David Beaty said he expects to play in Week 3, the KU offense might look a little different in the Jayhawks’ 11 a.m. Saturday contest against Ohio (1-1) in Athens.
Dealing with Sims’ injury and a number of others — “We’ve got so many guys that are nicked up right now it’s unbelievable,” Meacham said — the coordinator has concluded through two games that his current personnel is incapable of running the signature up-tempo offense he implemented at previous stops TCU and Oklahoma State, among others.
“I don’t know if we’re a great tempo team. I don’t know,” Meacham said. “Some of that stuff that’s been fairly effective in my career has not been as (effective). I think it may just be a youth part of it.”
With that in mind, does Meacham plan on sticking with the quick-play schemes?
“I don’t think so. I don’t think so,” he continued. “I think I’d rather (the offense) see it a little bit maybe moreso than maybe fool (the defense) with speed. Our normal tempo is not super slow. It’s OK. So probably a little more of that, I think. Because we’ve burned some plays on super-fast plays and just haven’t hit any of ’em.”
The Jayhawks ran 96 plays against the Chippewas and netted 470 yards, a 4.9 yards-per-play average. While those numbers would be eye-popping in any other recent KU season — the Jayhawks have not averaged more than 360 yards per game in any campaign since 2009 — the offense has not yet reached Meacham’s high standards.
“Everywhere I’ve ever been those plays have been pretty good,” Meacham said. “But our job is to figure out what we can and can’t do as you go. So right now I just don’t feel like it’s like we’re great at that.”
DEFENSE ‘BOTHERED’ BY WEEK 2 SHOWING — After watching Ohio pile up 329 rushing yards in last year’s 37-21 victory over the Jayhawks, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is well aware of the Bobcats’ style.
“Their identity is they want to punch you in the mouth, turn it into a phone booth football game on the front and they’re going to run the ball and physically play that style of game,” Bowen said. “It’s where they start.”
After surrendering 467 passing yards and five touchdowns through the air in Week 2, one might expect a ground-based foe to be a welcome sight for the KU defense.
Not quite, Bowen explained.
“It’s kind of the way things go each week,” Bowen said. “You just prepare for the next opponent. Good or bad, I don’t know where that fits in. It’s kind of the way it is now in college football. Each week is kind of a different monster.”
While it’s doubtful the KU secondary will be tested as much in Week 3, Bowen remains optimistic about the group’s future — “Our kids are physically capable of getting done what we ask them to,” he said.
Still, last Saturday stung.
“It was not a good showing, didn’t play well and I think our kids are competitive kids with pride, and that bothers them,” Bowen said. “It bothered all of us. That’s about the only way you can respond. If you’re a competitor at all, you’re going to show up, go back to work, fix the problems and improve.”