Learning about La. Tech
In Week 2 of Going Deep, Matt Tait and Eric Sorrentino welcome Jimmy Watson, of the Shreveport Times, and the trio discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the Louisiana Tech squad the Jayhawks will face on Sept. 6. In addition to sizing up the Bulldogs, Watson talks about the southern bias that exists against teams like KU.
Typically, it is difficult to find glaring fault in a college football team's 30-point victory.
It is even harder to do so when the team's quarterback threw for over 250 yards and three touchdowns and its biggest cause for concern entering the season - special-teams play - proved, for a day at least, to be a strong suit.
If there was an issue worth examining following Kansas University's 40-10 victory over visiting Florida International on Saturday night, however, it was this: The team's running game got off to a walking start.
The Jayhawks totaled just 128 yards on the ground, only the second time in the past 18 regular-season games that they've failed to rush for 160 yards or more.
As it happened, third-string back Angus Quigley was the team's leading rusher against FIU, carrying the ball six times for 47 yards, while starter Jake Sharp and junior transfer Jocques Crawford - who last week said he intended to rush for 2,000 yards in his first season with the Jayhawks - each struggled to get going offensively, combining for just 61 yards on 20 carries.
The team's final rushing line: 36 carries, 128 yards, for a 3.6 yards-per-carry average.
There were a number of factors that could've played into the team's lack of an established ground game against the Golden Panthers: an offensive line attempting to replace two tackles, including all-American Anthony Collins, for one thing; the loss of 1,000-yard rusher Brandon McAnderson, for another.
But the biggest reason, coaches insisted afterward, was an FIU blitz package that forced the Jayhawks to nickel-and-dime their way through Saturday's game.
Following a quick start - the Jayhawks rushed for 25 yards in four carries during their first offensive series - the Golden Panthers responded by positioning extra players in the box in an effort to push the team away from its run game.
The decision resulted in what proved to be a pass-happy offensive attack, as quarterback Todd Reesing finished with career highs in both completions (37) and pass attempts (52) in throwing for 256 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
"We're a take-what-they-give-you type of offense," offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said, "and that seemed to be the thing that they wanted to give us."
While some would argue that the 14th-ranked Jayhawks should take whatever it is they feel like taking against a team that finished 1-11 a year ago and was outscored by an average of 24 points per game, it's hard to fault a team for throwing the ball when it features one of the conference's top quarterbacks, as well as a host of play-making receivers.
It's also tough to argue with a 30-point victory.
And in the aftermath of the season-opening victory, KU coach Mark Mangino acknowledged as much before heading off to begin preparations for Saturday's game against Louisiana Tech, a team coming off a 22-14 victory over Mississippi State.
"When (they) do that, it's hard to rush with all that pressure," he said. "I think we rushed over 100 yards. That's not what we want, but given how they were playing defense, we did the things and executed the things we needed to be effective on offense."
Fields misses practice: Kansas receiver Dexton Fields was held out of practice Sunday, a day after the senior standout left the field following a first-half leg injury against Florida International.
Fields, who made one catch for minus-three yards Saturday, had to be helped off the field after colliding with a defender with 1:51 remaining in the first quarter.
"I don't know if we have a feel for that situation," Mangino said Sunday. "We held him today. We'll see about what he can do on Tuesday, and I'll be able to tell you much more about that after Tuesday's practice. We'll just take a wait-and-see attitude."
Special-teams changes imminent: If the high point for the Kansas special-teams unit Saturday was true freshman Daymond Patterson's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, the low point came two drives later.
FIU punt returner T.Y. Hilton broke free for a 74-yard punt-return touchdown with just under three minutes left in the first half to make the score 24-7 with what turned out to be the only touchdown the Jayhawks gave up in the game.
Sunday night, Mangino said he'd identified the problem on the play, and that personnel changes to the team's punt and kickoff coverage units would be made before next week's game against Louisiana Tech.
"We had two people on our coverage team that did not keep outside leverage and keep pushing up field," Mangino said of the FIU touchdown return. "They slowed down and tried to turn into the ball, and consequently, they lost leverage and got blocked. You should never do that; it should never happen."