LAWRENCE — Les Miles hasn’t been in this position often throughout his Hall of Fame-caliber career, the Kansas football head coach tasked Saturday with delivering a postgame address to a locker room of players on the wrong end of a blowout.
With the way this season is unfolding, though, it may soon become old hat for the "Mad Hatter."
The Jayhawks were routed for a third time in three games, this time dropping a 47-7 decision to No. 17 Oklahoma State at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. An anemic offense and a defense susceptible to giving up big plays proved a lethal combination for KU, which was outgained in total yardage 593-193.
The Jayhawks (0-3, 0-2 Big 12) have now been outscored 132-44 this season, dropping each outcome by at least 15 points. To put that into perspective, consider this: Across the 197 games he coached before accepting the KU job a year ago, Miles had just 19 such defeats, and only eight by that margin since the start of the 2006 season.
So, then, what is a national championship-winning coach to say?
"We’re in pain, but in my opinion, we’re going to continue to work hard," recalled Miles, revisiting his postgame comments to players. "You’re going to be something. This is going to be a good football team."
In these moments, Miles said he seeks to strike an "honest and optimistic" tone.
"It’s fundamental for me to tell you that I am going to award and enjoy people," Miles said, "as opposed to kick ’em in the tail and treat ’em roughly."
The only tail-kicking done Saturday was by OSU (3-0, 2-0), particularly in the first half.
The Cowboys sextupled the home squad in total yardage, 362-60, across the game’s first two quarters en route to a 31-0 advantage at intermission. KU, which punted seven times in the opening half, didn’t cross midfield until late in the second quarter, and two plays after it did, quarterback Miles Kendrick chucked an interception into double coverage for the Jayhawks’ first turnover.
OSU, which deploys star running back Chuba Hubbard, did its biggest damage through the air in the first half. Quarterback Shane Illingworth, starting in place of the injured Spencer Sanders, hit wideouts Braydon Johnson and Tylan Wallace on back-to-back second quarter possessions to make it a 24-0 game — Johnson’s reception went for 66 yards on the first play of the Cowboys’ fourth drive, while Wallace took advantage of busted coverage for a 55-yard strike.
No KU defender was within 15 yards of Wallace when Illingworth threw the ball.
"I can’t wait to meet (Sunday or Monday) with some of these coaches and find out where that went (wrong)," Miles said of Wallace’s wide-open score. "Yeah, I didn’t see any coverage."
Wallace hauled in a 14-yard touchdown on OSU’s first possession of the second half, and on KU’s subsequent drive, Pooka Williams was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 play that turned the ball over on downs at the Jayhawk 35 — the preseason All-Big 12 pick finished with 14 carries for just 32 yards. The Cowboys capitalized with a 22-yard field goal and a 41-0 lead.
Velton Gardner’s 1-yard touchdown plow early in the fourth quarter represented the last gasp for an otherwise pulseless Jayhawk team.
"I didn’t feel like they were overwhelmed," Miles said. "I felt like, should we continue to go on the course that we’re going, I think we’re going to be fine. I like us. I like our team. I think we’ll work together and do things that this school has done before."
Kendrick, who took over for injured starter Jalon Daniels (3-for-5 passing for 2 yards), finished 11-for-19 for 90 yards and the interception. Illingworth was 17-for-23 for 265 yards and three touchdowns, and Hubbard had 20 carries for 145 yards and two scores.
After a week off, KU will return to action against West Virginia on Oct. 17 in Morgantown, W.Va. The Jayhawks' next home game won't come until a Halloween date versus Iowa State.
"They’re resilient, they want to win, they’re competitive," Miles said of his team. "I’m going to believe in them, and that’s my choice, and I think it’s the right thing to do because I think they will overcome."