Archive for Sunday, October 14, 2007

Keegan: Kansas upgrades pass D

October 14, 2007

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KU rips Baylor, 58-10

The Kansas Jayhawk football team got revenge for last season's single-point loss to Baylor by stomping the Bears to the tune of 58-10. Enlarge video

Kansas University's football team finished 6-6 in 2006 in a way that led many apologists to respond with, "But we should have gone 9-3."

No, the Jayhawks should have been 6-6 because they were outscored six times and outscored opponents in a half-dozen games. They blew leads routinely, which had nothing to do with bad luck and everything to do with a pass defense so inept it statistically ranked dead last in the nation among Division I-A schools.

Peppering the air was the way to defeat KU a year ago. This year? No team has figured that out yet, least of all Baylor University and its coach, Guy Morriss, who took a few more steps down the plank Saturday in a 58-10 loss to KU.

Baylor scored five touchdowns via the pass in last season's 36-35 victory against KU, which had led 35-17 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Baylor has switched quarterbacks since then, from Shawn Bell to Blake Szymanski, and Kansas has a new defense, one that picked off four passes Saturday. True freshman Chris Harris intercepted one pass, dropped another he might have returned for a touchdown and broke up another. He also made six tackles. He hits like a safety, covers like a corner and handles his assignments in the Kansas zone as if he were born studying the scheme.

Harris wasn't among the handful of players made available to the media after Saturday's game, but senior James McClinton introduced his name into the conversation.

"The DBs were going to work, especially Chris Harris," McClinton said. "He did a good job today. Chris Harris, he's a player. I think he's going to be a freshman All-American."

Strong words. And not the least bit unreasonable. With Aqib Talib on the other side of the field, the tendency is to want to pick on Harris. It doesn't work.

Baylor's only touchdown came on a kick return.

How about that secondary?

"Our defense, period, was fantastic," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "... Our linebackers and secondary just smothered them in coverage. They just did a fantastic job in coverage."

With the addition of junior-college transfer Patrick Resby, Justin Thornton doesn't get as much playing time at safety this season. He picked off a pass at the goal line early in Saturday's game.

"I read the QB's eyes," Thornton said. "I started drifting back, and he threw it right to me. I could not score an easier pick."

As they have been doing all season, the D-backs did a terrific job of simultaneously watching the passer and receivers.

"Most of the day he stared down his receivers," Thornton said of Szymanski. "He stared his guy down most of the way, and I was able to read his eyes and come up on one. It wasn't too hard telling where he was going to throw it."

A year ago, it wasn't too hard for Bell to hit receivers.

"I remember almost every play of that game," Thornton said. "I was part of some of those unfortunate incidents."

Said McClinton: "Coach showed us the film. I looked at it and said, 'Man, was this us last year?' Lack of communication. The quarterback getting out of the pocket. Them picking up third-down conversions. We're a way better defense than we were last year."

And a way better team with a way better record.

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