There have been times this season when Kansas defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt signals to outside linebacker Toben Opurum to come out of the game.
It doesn’t always work. Sometimes the junior waves his hand, essentially shaking off his coach.
After watching film from KU’s 45-34 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday, Opurum said he might be a little less stubborn from now on.
“No guy wants to come out,” Opurum said, “but it’s just something you’ve got to swallow your pride and realize that you’ve got to take a breather every now and then.”
According to KU’s players and coaches, the difference in KU’s defense against Texas Tech in the first half and second half was startling.
“The first couple series, we looked like the fastest defense in the country,” Opurum said. “Then, by the end of the game, it just wasn’t there.”
It’s something that Wyatt noticed right away in his first postgame viewing of the film.
After watching his D-line’s energy dwindle as the game wore on, he came to a quick conclusion: “I’ve got to make myself play more guys.”
The coach even shared the self-evaluation with his players during their Sunday meeting.
“I know we don’t have a whole lot of depth,” Wyatt said, “but you’ve got to try to keep them as fresh as you can.”
During the game, Wyatt didn’t realize that he wasn’t substituting enough.
Part of the reason for that was Tech’s pace — the Red Raiders went to a hurry-up set for most of the second half.
Not only is Wyatt in charge of substitutions for the D-line, he’s also responsible for a defensive play call. That makes it even more difficult to ensure guys are well rested.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to get them off the field when they’re going so fast, so you’ve got to leave them out there until you get a chance to rotate them,” Wyatt said. “So I think, as many guys as are ready to play, we’ve got to be willing to play them.”
Wyatt was pleased with the production from his defensive ends against Texas Tech, including the play of sophomore Keba Agostinho.
The 6-foot-3, 253-pounder recorded his first sack of the season, and two other tackles.
“I think Keba is getting better every game,” Wyatt said. “My big thing on Keba, I knew he was a very intelligent football player. I know he’s very technique-sound. My question was, can he make the plays? Could he be productive?
“I think he’s starting to become more and more productive in every game.”
Agostinho’s sack was the result of reading the Texas Tech guard before the play. The offensive lineman was shaded to the outside after Agostinho had attempted a few outside pass rushes in a row.
The sophomore picked up on it, shooting by the lineman with an inside move to get to the quarterback.
“We’re definitely progressing,” Agostinho said, “ ... It didn’t happen as fast as we would like it, but I can definitely see — comparing our pass rush this year to last year — this year it’s a whole lot better.”
Though Wyatt was pleased with the play of his defensive ends against TTU, he said he was disappointed with the “Buck” position — normally played by Opurum.
“The first quarter and the first half, Toben — even though he wasn’t making plays — his presence was felt,” Wyatt said. “But as the game went on, I think he got a little wore down.”
The goal from here on out will be to keep everyone playing full speed the whole game, and even the tough-minded Opurum said he’s willing to sacrifice playing time so that happens.
“I realize I’ve got to have my energy later on in the game,” he said, “and be able to make plays down the stretch.”