Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kansas football: A tale of two units

Kansas is now 5-0 having opened Big 12 play with a win today against Iowa State. However, if you sat through the frigid contest in Lawrence (it felt like a late November game), you likely walked away wondering what in the heck is going on with KU's defense.

This team, right now, is a tale of two units...

The good:
- Kansas' offense was stopped by Iowa State only once--on the first possession when a Todd Reesing pass was knocked down on third down after a couple of KU first downs. After that, the only people stopping the offensive unit were Kansas' own players--a poorly thrown ball by Reesing which one-hopped to Jonathan Wilson, a dropped pass by Dezmon Briscoe or Reesing's only pick of the day, which occurred in the red zone. Overall, Reesing was sharp--four TDs with two to Kerry Meier and two to Briscoe. These two guys accounted for 28 catches--Briscoe being the long ball threat with 186 yards and a 15.5 yards per catch average complemented by Meier's career high of 16 catches for 142 yards/8.9 yards per catch. (Is there a better possession receiver in the NCAA than Meier?) Toben Opurum played every down where there was a Kansas running back on the field and finished with 98 yards. The kid gets better and better every week, and Mark Mangino sung his praises afer the game, particularly pass protection blocking. Mangino was also effusive in his praise for the offensive line which was much, much better than their outing two weeks ago against Southern Miss.

The bad:
- In a tale of two units, the defense of Kansas was as bad as the offense was good. The bye week of last Saturday did not help this unit--they regressed badly. Both Justin Thornton and Darrell Stuckey, the safeties, had too many tackles. The linebacking corps is a disappointment--Arist Wright is small for a D-1 LB but plays because he typically has done a good job on pass coverage. Not today. This is an area which simply must, somehow, get better. The D-backs continue to be changed around--today Ryan Murphy started at the nickel back and Thornton was put back at safety. It didn't help. Mangino will get personally involved in trying to improve this unit...and it must happen if Kansas harbors any thoughts of winning the Big 12 North.

And the ugly:
- What is up with Kansas' kicking game? Iowa State consistently started today at the 35 given the lack of depth on Jacob Branstetter's kicks coupled with poor coverage. On kick returns, Bradley McDougald was eventually replaced with Briscoe. The Jayhawks are looking similar to last year's kickoff units which had the same issues.
- Branstetter missed a PAT; Alonzo Rojas' punting had one punt of 51 yards and one within the 20 but he's way too inconsistent.

What's disappointing about today is that Kansas had a bye week to prepare for a lower level Big 12 North opponent. And, while the offense was clearly on its game today, the defense and special teams were a train wreck. The Jayhawks go on the road next week and play a Colorado team which is a major disappointment this season. Let's see if Kansas can turn it around with an impressive road performance.

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