The Jalon Daniels era at Kansas football started with a bang.
It proved the only meaningful firework, however, on an evening that was otherwise a dud.
Daniels, a true freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start, orchestrated a touchdown drive on the Jayhawks’ first possession of Saturday’s game against Baylor, but the Bears responded by scoring 40 straight points en route to a comfortable 47-14 victory at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.
Les Miles said his players were "a little sick to (their) stomach" by the outcome.
"I told them that right now you’re going to deal with an ugly feeling in the pit of your stomach, but you’re going to have the opportunity to change that," the second-year coach said. "So I tell you, I like the team that’s coming back. I like a team that will play hard until the bitter end, period."
After appearing in mop-up duty in his team’s season-opening defeat to Coastal Carolina, Daniels handled the entirety of the Jayhawks’ conference opener. The former three-star recruit finished 19-for-33 passing for 159 yards and rushed 14 times for 23 yards — Daniels was sacked four times.
Miles praised Daniels’ ability to improvise on the ground but also stressed that the 6-foot, 200-pound native of Lawndale, Calif., needs to develop into a more balanced player.
"What he does is he pulls it down and runs and shows everybody in the stadium that he’s an athlete and is strong and capable. But we’re not going to play with just a one-dimensional quarterback," Miles said. "What we’re going to do is we’re going to make that man just what we anticipate he can be, and that is talented at both run and pass and a guy who’s got leadership and can step in and do some special things. I’m not displeased with him in any way."
Just five of Daniels’ completed passes resulted in gains of 10-plus yards, but that doesn’t tell the full story — the quarterback overthrew a streaking and wide-open Andrew Parchment on what would’ve been a 54-yard touchdown strike, and sophomore running back Velton Gardner dropped a pass near the sideline that almost certainly would’ve resulted in a 33-yard scoring connection.
Both of those missed opportunities came in the first quarter.
"You probably saw his arm. You didn’t see the highlights of his arm," Miles said. "We got stuck, and we know the highlights that he is capable of producing. So I mean that’s why we started him."
Senior quarterback Thomas MacVittie, who started in Week 1 and split playing time with junior Miles Kendrick before leaving that game with an injury, dressed for Saturday’s contest but was unavailable, said Miles, who added the team may reassess its quarterback room ahead of its 2:30 p.m. Oct. 3 matchup with No. 15 Oklahoma State in Lawrence.
Kendrick "might" receive another opportunity, Miles continued, and the coaching staff "might rethink" its decision to go with the 17-year-old Daniels.
"I’m going to meet with the staff (Sunday). We’re going to look at this film and we’re going to go through it and kind of rethink some of the decisions that we made," Miles said. "I think we could certainly (start Daniels against Oklahoma State). We’re going to want to give him a chance to have a good, quality week of practice."
KU junior Pooka Williams carried the ball 14 times for 76 yards and accounted for both of the Jayhawks’ touchdowns, his first coming on a 21-yard scamper on the game’s opening series to hand the visitors a 7-0 advantage.
Williams, though, didn’t find pay dirt again until midway through the fourth quarter, and by that point the outcome was no longer in question. The standout running back’s 16-yard score cut the KU (0-2, 0-1 Big 12) deficit to 40-14 with 7:03 remaining.
Baylor (1-0, 1-0), meanwhile, showed no rust in its season debut, nor any growing pains in its first game under head coach Dave Aranda, a former defensive coordinator under Miles at LSU.
Senior running back Trestan Ebner finished the game with nine carries and 36 of Baylor's 203 rushing yards. He also accounted for four touchdowns — a 1-yard run for the Bears' first points, an 18-yard reception that made it a 17-7 game, a 100-yard return on the second half’s opening kickoff and an 83-yard return on a free kick that followed a safety and capped the home squad’s unanswered 40-point rally.
Miles, who hangs his hat on special teams efficiency, said he couldn’t recall any of his prior teams ever surrendering a pair of return scores in a single game.
"It’s surely not any fun in any way to finish second in a football game. But we can fix it," Miles said. "I think that we’re not talking about repopulating or taking personnel and sitting them aside. What we want is we want those guys that have potential to get better. Right now I don’t know that they’re happy with that. ...
"If you get a good look at what we’re playing with, we’re playing with some really ... capable guys. They need to grow and they need to experience college football. But they’re going to be good players. We’re excited about it."