LAWRENCE — Just how unprepared was Kansas football early in its season opener Saturday?


That question could be directed to senior leader Thomas MacVittie, but there’s perhaps a more fitting recipient of the inquiry: the equipment manager that sent the starting quarterback out in a jersey that incorrectly read "MacVitte."


Indeed, the Jayhawks found themselves off-kilter from the jump.


KU was backhanded and brushed aside early in the eventual 38-23 defeat to Sun Belt foe Coastal Carolina, the second straight season the Chanticleers have left David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium with an upset victory. Unlike last year’s 12-7 outcome, however, there would be no late-game drama in Saturday’s late-night affair — by the time KU (0-1) mustered its first points of the season, Coastal (1-0) had already laid claim to a four-touchdown lead.


"We met as a team right after the game," said second-year KU coach Les Miles. "It’s not something that one guy has to fix. It’s something the team has to take ownership of and work through. I think there are some sick people right now because it certainly was a game that could’ve gone another way. I like the team that I coach because I think they want to play and I think they want to be excellent."


The first half very well could’ve been the worst 30 minutes in the history of the beleaguered Jayhawk football program, an irredeemable stretch that unfolded inside an empty stadium but in front of a national audience watching along on FS1.


Coastal quarterback Grayson McCall was 7-for-9 passing for 85 yards and three touchdowns in the opening half, also notching a helicopter-style rushing score en route to the 28-3 advantage at intermission. The Chanticleers ran the ball at will on the KU defense in those first two quarters, piling up 112 yards on 12 carries.


MacVittie and Miles Kendrick, meanwhile, took turns being largely ineffective at signal caller during that same stretch, though their wide receivers didn’t help much — the Jayhawks’ first drive ended on an interception after a MacVittie pass attempt clanked off freshman Lawrence Arnold; Takulve Williams fumbled on the team’s second possession, with fellow wideout Andrew Parchment pushed back into him to jar the ball loose.


A Kendrick interception accounted for KU’s third first-half turnover.


"The poor start with the first five possessions, three of them turning into points (off turnovers) for the opponent, that knocked us out," Miles said. "We had the opportunity to come back and worked toward that but did not have the good fortune with some of the plays that were really big plays that went against us."


The Jayhawks finally got on the board on a 47-yard field goal by Jacob Borcila as time expired in the second quarter, a conversion that did little to dent the surprising deficit for the 6½-point favorite.


"Les Miles" was a trending topic nationally on Twitter midway through the second quarter — for all the wrong reasons, obviously.


"I think we were adequately prepared. I think that we came into the stadium with the right mindset," Miles said. "The issue being we can’t turn the ball over. If you turn the ball over like that, you’re not going to win games. Our guys understood that."


On the other sideline, Coastal Carolina could do no wrong early on, best personified by defensive tackle C.J. Brewer — the redshirt senior caught a touchdown on a trick play for the Chanticleers’ second score, then sacked Kendrick to help doom the Jayhawks’ next possession.


The Jayhawks finally found life in the third quarter.


Kendrick hit the standout senior Parchment on a 12-yard scoring strike on fourth-and-5 and connected with Kwamie Lassiter on the subsequent two-point try to cut the Coastal advantage to 28-11 with 2:29 left in the penultimate period. Then, after a Chanticleer three-and-out, sophomore running back Velton Gardner went 61 yards for a touchdown to make it an 11-point game with three seconds left in the third period.


But KU failed on an unconventional two-point try, leaving the score at 28-17 entering the final period. And McCall was brilliant again on the Chanticleers’ subsequent possession, capping a clock-chewing drive with a 3-yard scramble-and-score for his fifth total touchdown and a 35-17 lead with 9:55 remaining.


Kendrick found Lassiter for a 5-yard touchdown strike and a 12-point hole with 7 minutes left — another two-point try was unsuccessful — and the Jayhawks appeared to recover an onside kick attempt. But officials dinged KU for an offsides penalty on the try, leading to a higher degree of difficulty on a second onside attempt that was unsuccessful.


KU got no closer. When the final whistle blew, a group of roughly a dozen Chanticleers eschewed the postgame handshakes, instead rushing to the end zone for a celebratory photo. Later, redshirt senior linebacker Silas Kelly was filmed in the Coastal locker room smashing a "Rock Chalk Jayhawk"-labeled rock with a sledgehammer in a video shared to Twitter, a sequel to the piñata thrashing from a year ago.


With the Jayhawks’ defeat, Big 12 programs fell to 0-3 versus Sun Belt opponents Saturday.


"When we first went out there I think we did fairly decent. We could’ve done better," said senior outside linebacker Kyron Johnson, evaluating the Jayhawk defense’s performance. "At the same time, it’s all about who’s willing to do more. Credit Coastal Carolina: They did more, and I give them that. They came here and they took what was theirs. They won the game, and so it’s their game. On to the next."


McCall was 11-for-18 passing for 133 yards and three touchdowns, adding 11 carries for 73 yards and two rushing scores.


So what made him so effective, particularly in the first half?


"Honestly, shoot, I ain’t going to say it’s the calls we had, but at the same time, uh, I can’t really answer that question," responded Johnson.


Miles stabilized to finish 15-for-24 for 156 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, while MacVittie was 5-for-9 for 20 yards and one interception before leaving midway through the third quarter with an apparent injury.


"Like I said, it’s not just the quarterbacks. It’s the room. It’s the coaches," Miles said. "We’ll all work on it. We’ll all stick our head in the fire to make sure that this style of play does not become ours."


Wide receiver Stephon Robinson and tight end Jack Luavasa, both projected starters, were the most notable players among the 39 players who didn’t suit up for the Jayhawks.


KU will next face Baylor in a Sept. 26 conference opener in Waco, Texas. The Jayhawks will get a third crack at the Chanticleers, but it won’t come until a matchup next season in Conway, S.C.


Miles said he doesn't believe Saturday's outcome will negatively affect the program's rebuilding efforts.


"I think it hastens the correction," Miles said. "… First of all, I’d never want to fix a team that has lost games. I would much rather fix teams that (have) won games. But I think our team is committed to doing things for the upperclassmen that are significant, and I like the commitment that the team has together. They all, they’ll make a difference, and that’s what we have to do. …


"I don’t know exactly how many freshmen played in that game, but I’ll tell you this: It was a significant number. And that’s a great opportunity at the future."