Tale of the Tait
Four games to play and the Jayhawks must win them all to become bowl eligible.
OK, OK, OK.... We all know that’s not going to happen. Heck, if they did win them all, they might end up ranked.
Let’s snap back to reality for a minute here and rewind to last week’s loss at Iowa State, where Kansas gave a much better effort but fell, 28-16.
The game was not on television so, as one of the few people around these parts who got to see it live, I understand that this rewind might be as interesting as any of the others.
So let’s begin with the positives, of which there were several.
For starters, the Jayhawks showed up to play from the opening gun. On offense they were sharp right away, with Angus Quigley and James Sims running the ball effectively up the middle and junior quarterback Quinn Mecham providing good pace. That pace and pounding style did not lead to many points — no touchdowns and three field goals — but it was good enough to put the Jayhawks in the game. They actually had a lead at the half (9-7) for just the second time all season.
Giving out blanket credit for the great start would be wrong. Mecham, Sims and Quigley all were solid during the first two quarters, but no one played better than the Jayhawks’ interior linemen. Center Jeremiah Hatch and guards Sal Capra and Duane Zlatnik whipped the Iowa State defensive line, pounding away to create gaping holes that the Jayhawks easily gained four, seven and 10 yards a pop on. It was by far the best game for the KU offensive line and it came against a good opponent.
In the second half, things went south, as ISU coach Paul Rhoads made the necessary adjustments at halftime to neutralize KU’s attack and the Cyclones’ offense got rolling. Kansas was outgained 218-15 in yards from scrimmage in the third quarter alone. Tack on three ISU touchdowns, one coming on a long run and the other two coming on long drives and the game was basically over.
KU kept fighting until the end — which is more than we can say for them in most games this season, which means progress was made — and tacked on a late touchdown to make the final margin more respectable.
The bottom line is this: The Jayhawks played better — much better. But they still made too many mistakes, mental and physical, to win the game.
Once again, the special teams killed them, giving up a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter that surely looked worse on film Sunday when the team was forced to rewatch the two or three missed tackles that could have prevented the score.
What’s more, the coaching staff’s inability to adjust its gameplan to counter the masterful adjustments made by the Iowa State staff was a discouraging sign. It was as if the KU coaches were so thrilled with having the upper hand in the first half that they could not recognize what Iowa State changed in time to do anything about it. I’m sure they tried. But that’s just another bad sign.
Overall, it was one of the Jayhawks’ best games of the season and I say that largely because of the strong first half. Had that team been the one that showed up against Baylor, K-State and Texas A&M, the scores would not have been nearly as embarrassing as they were. Instead of falling 55-7, 59-7 and 45-10 in consecutive games, KU’s losses likely would have been more in the ballpark of the 28-16 setback at Iowa State. Had that been the case, I’m sure people would have been a lot more forgiving and a lot less displeased with Gill and Co.
In the end, though, Saturday’s game — for all its high points — goes down as another loss and pushes the Jayhawks’ conference losing streak to 11 in a row.
Will there be relief on Saturday, when Colorado, the team that started the skid in 2009, comes to Memorial Stadium? If the KU team that played in Ames, Iowa, shows up Saturday, there just might.
The message boards may be going nuts. Fans may be questioning Kansas University football coach Turner Gill's ability to get the job done.
But we learned Friday that Gill has an ally in the form of an old friend.
Former Nebraska University football coach Tom Osborne, the man who coached Gill in the 1980s and instilled so much of his beliefs into the first-year KU coach opened up to The Des Moines Register about his recent conversations with Gill.
After turning around the University of Buffalo football program in just four years, Gill has gotten off to a rough start at Kansas. His Jayhawks are just 2-5 overall and that includes a three-game losing streak that has been among the worst in school history.
In three consecutive games, the Jayhawks were outscored, 159-24, by Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M.
The Jayhawks play at Iowa State (4-4) on Saturday, where Gill will employ the services of juco transfer Quinn Mecham to be his starting quarterback, as starter Jordan Webb and backup QB Kale Pick are both out with injuries.
The game will not be televised, marking the first contest in 23 games to suffer such a fate.
For all the gameday action including, photos, updates from Ames, Iowa and analysis and reaction, log on to KUsports.com on Saturday.
We’re to the point now, where we have to ask: How much worse can it get?
Three straight blowout losses is bad enough, but now players are starting to get injured. Key ones at that.
Kansas University coach Turner Gill said Sunday night, and again Monday morning, that the status for first- and second-string quarterbacks Jordan Webb (shoulder) and Kale Pick (concussion) would not be known until later in the week.
That’s not the news you want to hear when you’re getting ready to travel to Iowa State to take on a team that just went into Austin and knocked off Texas.
But enough looking ahead. Let’s look back at some of the overlooked elements of Saturday’s 45-10 loss to Texas A&M. We all know the basics of what happened. There’s no need to harp on those any more. So the next few paragraphs will be an attempt to uncover some hidden facts and observations that might help explain why things have gone the way they’ve gone for KU thus far.
Fact No. 1: Two of KU’s leading tacklers were defensive backs.
Safety Chris Harris (10) and cornerback Isiah Barfield (10) were active tacklers during the Jayhawks most recent meltdown. And as much as they should be commended for sticking their heads in there and making tackles, that’s never a good sign for a defense. If defensive backs are leading your team in tackles, that means opposing offenses are getting to the second level way too often.
As a side note, I thought it was very interesting that Olaitan Oguntodu, the Jayhawks’ third-leading tackler for the season, did not play much (if at all) on defense during the A&M game. Oguntodu was moved to linebacker prior to the contest and, while I give the KU coaches high marks for thinking outside the box and trying to find a spark, I give them low marks for taking Oguntodu off the field. He’s one of the few guys I’ve seen on this team who has great passion every week and every time we talk to him.
Fact No. 2: The Jayhawks ran for 201 yards and averaged 4.4 yards-per-carry.
Yet it didn’t matter. The Jayhawks fell way too far behind way too early for their ground game to be a factor in this one. And let’s remember, 75 of those yards came from a scrambling Jordan Webb, so it’s not as if the offensive line was blasting away and the backs running behind them. Still, the Jayhawks did have some success running right up the middle, unfortunately, though, that’s not the most efficient plan of attack when attempting to come back from a three- or four-touchdown deficit.
Fact No. 3: Kale Pick did not look like the same QB we saw during the spring game.
Early on, many people talked about how KU quarterback Kale Pick got the shaft by being yanked out of the season opener after three quarters. From that point on, Pick never really got another shot to show that the coaches made a mistake, as he suffered a leg injury a few weeks later and missed the start of Big 12 play.
With Webb going down just before halftime last Saturday, Pick got his shot to come in and be a spark for the offense. But he wasn’t. To be fair, the outcome was probably long decided by the time Pick took the field. But he still looked rather rusty and a little uncertain when taking snaps and he, too, got injured, suffering a concussion late in the game. Pick ran six times for 11 yards and completed 7 of 12 passes for 40 yards in a quarter-and-a-half of action. That’s not exactly the best sample to find out where the guy’s at, but he definitely did not resemble the same smooth, confident and capable quarterback we saw throughout the offseason and in the spring game.
It's safe to say now that there's no question that Jordan Webb is this team's best option at QB. At least for the remainder of the season.
So what’s the point of these facts? Who knows. Maybe it’s to show that there’s more going on here than a team just lining up and taking its lumps. Maybe it’s to communicate that the problems the Jayhawks are facing go beyond talent and coaching. Or maybe it’s just a way to do something different with the Monday Rewind so that you didn’t have to read another week’s worth of doom and gloom regarding KU football.
Either way, the question still remains: How much worse can it get?
Ten years ago — heck, maybe even five — it probably wouldn’t have gone down this way.
But times have changed, expectations are different and pressure, of both the good and bad variety, can create quite a mess in quite a hurry.
That we’ve seen already with first-year Kansas University football coach Turner Gill.
Though Gill’s time at KU got off to a rocky start, the Jayhawks regrouped quickly and Gill guided his team to an inspiring upset of nationally-ranked Georgia Tech one week after falling to FCS foe, North Dakota State. At the time, the prevailing thought from those around Lawrence was: “Here we go.”
My have times have changed. Three losses and two brutal blowout beatings later — including a 59-7 setback to in-state rival Kansas State last week — Gill finds his name associated with phrases like “fire him” and “buyout” on message boards and in newspapers throughout the area.
While those close to the program — both in terms of proximity and familiarity — may be charged up a little by emotion, one place that most certainly is not is the Omaha World-Herald, where longtime writer Lee Barfknecht addressed the topic in his most recent Big 12 blog.
Just so you understand, this isn’t just some out-of-towner writing a tale about something he has no clue about. Barfknecht has known Gill for quite some time. He covered him when the KU coach was a star at Nebraska and has even been down to Lawrence for a game this season. So, though he might not be around for the day-to-day doings of the Jayhawk program, Barfknecht is a guy who has kept a close eye on Gill’s start at Kansas.
I know this blog entry typically is about the upcoming opponent and what the other side is saying about Kansas. But, right now, with the way things are going with the KU program, the ins and outs of each game aren’t nearly as important as the big picture.
For those still interested in following the Jayhawks and what others are saying about this week’s matchup with Texas A&M, listed below are our regular “Around the Web” links regarding Saturday’s homecoming contest.
Robert Cessna of The Eagle in College Station, draws a parallel between two programs making too many mistakes.
Cessna also examines the pressure A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson is facing with his team off to a 3-3 start
Here’s one Jayhawk fans will like; Aggies embarrassed by loss to, of all teams, Missouri.
Austin Meek, of A&M school paper, The Battalion, writes that it’s time for the Aggies to pick up the pieces and move forward
Turner Gill’s not the only coach in the Big 12 feeling the pressure of a slow start. A&M's Mike Sherman also may be on the hot seat.
Allow me to take you back a few days to Oct. 2, 2010.
My colleagues and I are sitting at Floyd-Casey Stadium, in Waco, Texas, watching the Jayhawks get trounced by Baylor. None of us saw it coming. None of us could believe it was happening — at least not in the way it was happening. And, come on, definitely not to Baylor.
But it was. As the third quarter turned into the fourth and the game turned into even more of a laugher, I looked at one co-worker and said something along the lines of, “That’s it. They won’t win another game. Not playing like this.”
I, of course, was talking about the Kansas University football team and, at the time, I meant it. Kansas looked overmatched, out of sync and overall like a team that just wasn’t ready to compete against Big 12 talent.
The Jayhawks were angry that day and so were many of their fans. But not all was lost. After all, it was a road game, it came against a team on the rise and, perhaps most importantly, the Jayhawks had a bye week ahead, which meant extra time to prepare for Kansas State.
As the days moved along and KU coach Turner Gill continued to talk about his team in a positive light, the tide started to turn. At first I was skeptical but the more I heard from Gill and Co., the more I started to believe that KU could win again this season. When Nebraska reduced Kansas State to a high school JV team in front of a national television audience, my thoughts reached a new high. Not only was I believing again that the Jayhawks could win another game, I was starting to believe that victory was going to come against Kansas State. My colleagues were on board, too, with all but one of us picking the Jayhawks to win last week’s game.
Twelve days after I sat in Waco and proclaimed that the Jayhawks would not win another game this season, I was preparing for the Sunflower Showdown with the firm belief that KU would beat K-State.
And here we are again.
I hate making these things about me because, as we all know, I have nothing to do with it. But I chose to do so for this week’s “Rewind” segment because I think the roller coaster ride that I’ve been on lately — as a neutral observer who’s just been doing his job of covering this team — illustrates exactly how crazy things have been for the Jayhawks during Gill’s up-and-down first season.
If even I (and especially even Tom Keegan) came around to believe that KU would win again after the Baylor beating, imagine how the KU players must have felt. I mean, coach Gill was not attempting to lift our spirits after the losses. But he was doing that with his players — in a big way.
However, just by being around it and by hearing the coaches and players talk about how things were going to be different, we found ourselves picking KU over K-State. So, if we believed again, I can only imagine how fired up the Jayhawks were after 12 days off, a bunch of spirited practices and their in-state rivals coming to town.
Obviously, none of that mattered, as KSU punished KU, 59-7, in what was, statistically speaking, the second worst beating in the 108-year history of the Sunflower Showdown.
So where do things go from here?
Well, this week’s opponent, Texas A&M, opened as a 13.5-point favorite over the Jayhawks for this Saturday’s homecoming contest at Memorial Stadium. I don’t know for sure, but I’d say it’s a safe bet that none of the guys I work with — nor many KU fans — will be picking the Jayhawks to knock off the Aggies this week.
However, if Gill, his coaching staff and the team’s leaders are doing their jobs, the Jayhawks will take the field on Saturday with the belief that they’re going to beat A&M.
The question now is: Which shoes are better to be in — ours or theirs?
So here we are, a little more than 24 hours away from kickoff of this year’s Sunflower Showdown and a few things are starting to become pretty clear.
The most important thing I’ve learned in the last 24 hours? This is a huge game.
Before you chastise me for stating such an obvious fact, let me explain.
In addition to the usual bragging rights between families, feel-good moments for fans and general good vibe that goes along with beating your rival, this year's KU-K-State matchup has something a little extra to it.
Before the season, many who cover the Big 12 referred to the match-up between KU and K-State — 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium — as a game with serious bowl implications. The winner, many thought, would go bowling, while the loser would fall short of reaching the six-win plateau and, therefore, remain home during bowl season.
With four wins already, K-State’s a lot closer than KU to reaching that magic number of six wins necessary to be bowl eligible, but the Wildcats might have a tougher road ahead. Games at Kansas and Baylor are up next and they’ll be followed by home dates against Oklahoma State — currently ranked 20th in the Top 25 — and Texas, along with a trip to No. 21 Missouri in consecutive weeks.
That makes Thursday’s game a bit of a must-win for the Wildcats.
But enough about them. What’s this mean for the Jayhawks? For starters, it’s also a must-win for Kansas. Let’s face it, if the Jayhawks fall to 2-4 overall (2-2 at home) and can’t knock off their very average in-state rival, they’re not going to a bowl this season.
However, if Turner Gill and Co. win this one, and move to 3-3 overall, things could get interesting. Here’s why.
Colorado just lost two key players from its squad, starting safety Anthony Perkins, who was among the team leaders in tackles and a rock in defending the pass defense and backup running back Brian Lockridge, who was more than competent in spelling starter Rodney Stewart. The loss of both players is a big blow for the Buffs and makes KU’s game against Colorado — at home on Nov. 6 — a lot more winnable.
The same goes for the prospects of winning the Iowa State game on Oct. 30 in Ames, Iowa, now that news of an injury to Cyclones running back Alexander Robinson has surfaced. Robinson, one of the top backs in the Big 12 a season ago, has a foot injury that likely will keep him out of this week’s game against Oklahoma.
Maybe with proper treatment and some time off, the injury will be a non-factor by the time the Jayhawks and Cyclones meet in two weeks. But, with running backs, foot injuries rarely are considered minor, so, at the very least, this might mean that Robinson will be less effective than he would have been when KU faces him. Add to this the potential lingering of a shoulder injury (non-throwing arm) to ISU quarterback Austen Arnaud and you’re looking at the potential to see a completely different Iowa State club on the day before Halloween.
Again, both players could be fine by the time they face the Jayhawks, but, if they’re not, it would be a huge advantage for Kansas.
I understand that five or six weeks into any college football season, teams are going to have bumps and bruises to deal with. Heck, KU has had its share of injuries this season, too. But if the Jayhawks remain healthy and the rest of the teams on their schedule continue to weaken, the odds increase, even if by just a little, that KU could pull out six wins.
The bottom line here, injury talk or no injury talk, is that the Jayhawks must win Thursday in order to hold on to any hope of becoming bowl eligible, something that still might be a longshot either way.
However, a win Thursday along with victories against Iowa State and Colorado would bring KU’s win total to five. With home dates against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, along with the always-wild Border War at Arrowhead still unaccounted for, anything’s possible at that point.
I’ve been covering football games, football teams and football players for 11 years now and in that time I’ve been fortunate enough to only see a couple of truly ugly injuries.
I’ve seen my share of twisted ankles, bum hamstrings and even broken bones. But in only a couple of instances have the injuries hampered a player for longer than a few weeks or even threatened their life.
One such injury occurred about six years ago when a young man named Michael Kowal injured his neck during a drill at a Mill Valley High School practice. The injury left Michael paralyzed and he remains in a wheelchair to this day. That one stuck with me. I was there in the hospital with Michael just days after his injury. I saw him fight through rehab. I became close with his family, such great people who made me feel like family. I watched as the community rose up to support Michael and his family, strangers and friends alike stepping up to perform acts many of them barely knew they were even capable of.
I’m happy to report that the last time I saw Mike — at a KU baseball game earlier this year — he was happier than ever and appeared in nearly every way to be a normal college kid. Michael could’ve given up. He could’ve quit on life and sulked and made the world around him feel like the hell he surely lived at times. But he didn’t.
And that brings me to my next story, one that hit even closer to home.
A couple weeks ago, during a McLouth High School football game in Wichita, a young man named Trevor Roberts broke his leg so badly that a rod had to be inserted into his leg from his knee to his ankle. Complications arose from the injury when Trevor experienced gangrene and, within hours of feeling his strong, 17-year-old bones break, the young man was fighting for his life.
Surgeries piled up one after the next and antibiotics fought off the infection. I’m sure many of you have read about this young man in our paper or seen his story on one of the many news stations that picked it up. I lived it. Trevor is my wife’s cousin and for days our family fought and prayed, hoped and cried, laughed and loved. It’s what they’re best at. And, thankfully, Trevor’s no different.
When all was said and done, Trevor’s life was spared. The prayers worked there. But his left leg was not. Because of the gangrene and the harsh toll the surgeries took on his body, Trevor’s leg had to be amputated just above the knee. One minute he’s a strong-as-an-ox young man, racking up touchdowns and yardarge in his No. 22 purple-and-gold Bulldogs jersey and the next he’s living a life no one could ever be prepared to live.
Just like with Michael Kowal, I’m happy to report that Trevor’s doing better than most people I know would be and certainly as well as could be expected. He’s got a fighter’s spirit and a wonderful outlook on the rest of his life.
Similar strength and substance has been shown by current members of the KU football team. Sophomore defensive end D.J. Marshall continues his fight against Hodgkin lymphoma. True freshman Jeremiah Edwards continues to be a Jayhawk despite being told, just before the season began, that a heart condition likely signaled the end his playing career.
The list goes on and on. Marshall and Edwards aren't the first Jayhawks to endure something like this. Unfortunately, they probably won't be the last either. Surely, those guys understand exactly what a guy like Trevor is going through right now.
As for the rest of us, we’d do well to take a lesson from Trevor and Michael and the countless others like them out there whose names we do not know.
Stories like these tend to tug at the heart strings momentarily only to be forgotten as the hours turn into days and the days turn into weeks. Don’t let this one slip away.
When things aren’t going your way, remember Trevor and think about how lucky you or your family or your sons and daughters are to have what they have. And when you’re down in the dumps about everyday life or something that maybe isn’t all that important, remember Trevor and how, even in the face of such a terrible personal tragedy, he’s found a way to smile, laugh and be the one who lifts his family’s spirits.
These usually hit the web site a little sooner than 3 p.m. but I have to be honest. There’s just not a lot to say about last week’s drubbing at the hands of Baylor.
Sure, I could point out all of the negatives that came out of the game. But haven’t we done enough of that already? The Jayhawks got whipped. They were whipped in every sense of the word and there’s nothing they can do about it until next Thursday, when they welcome Kansas State to town for the Sunflower Showdown.
Of course, that’s not entirely true. Even though they have a bye on Saturday, the Jayhawks will be able to practice this week and I’m sure their practices will be spirited at worst and downright nasty at best. If anything positive came out of the 55-7 loss to Baylor, it’s that the Jayhawks left Texas embarrassed. And being in such a state typically drives people to work harder, prepare longer, dream bigger and play meaner.
All of the above are necessary for this team to turn things around.
Alarmists will say the Waxing in Waco is the beginning of the end for this team. If they can’t beat — scratch that — if they can’t compete with Baylor then how in the heck are they going to find a way to beat or compete with anyone else in the Big 12? Colorado beat Georgia. Iowa State rocked Texas Tech. And Texas Tech’s not on the schedule this year.
No need to be alarmed though. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about this Kansas team — and there may only be one thing — it’s that the Jayhawks respond favorably to losses. Lose to North Dakota State in Week 1, beat No. 15 Georgia Tech in Week 2. (Who cares if Tech may have been a tad over-rated). Lose to Southern Miss on the road in Week 3, drub New Mexico State at home in Week 4. That one was the Jayhawks’ most complete game of the season.
So, in a way, the loss at Baylor really doesn’t change much. The Bears were favored by 9 points. They were supposed to win. And the loss fits right in with the pattern of KU’s season thus far.
One problem. There were reasons to point to while explaining the loss to NDSU. The Southern Miss game had its reasons as well. There may be plenty of reasons (or are they excuses?) to explain the loss to Baylor but none of them explain why the Jayhawks were so thoroughly dominated in every aspect of the game.
The only way to answer the critics is to put this one in the past and move forward just as Turner Gill and the Jayhawks have done all season. It might be harder to do because of the magnitude of last Saturday’s beatdown, but look at it this way, if Gill and the Jayhawks do respond positively — yet again — then maybe there is hope for this season and beyond.
With the Big 12 portion of KU’s schedule now upon us, it should be substantially easier to find news from around the web about KU’s upcoming opponent.
Big 12 teams are covered a little more intensely than the North Dakota States and New Mexico States of the world and this week’s opponent — the Baylor Bears — is certainly no exception.
With news outlets throughout Texas keeping an eye on the Bears, as well as the fact that quarterback Robert Griffin gives Baylor some sort of national pull, there are plenty of articles to skim through while waiting for this week’s kickoff.
Below are some of the best.
One other note of interest that we’ll start adding to the “Around the Web in 7 Days” segment is that Baylor opened as a 5-point favorite in Las Vegas this week. That line already has ballooned to as high as nine-and-a-half points in some places, with most of the betting world jumping all over the Bears.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a sample of what they’re saying about the Baylor Bears this week.
Week 5: Kansas Jayhawks (2-2) at Baylor Bears (3-1): 11 a.m. Saturday in Waco, Texas.
This entertaining feature on Robert Griffin was done during the preseason, as ESPN.com’s David Ubben looked at a day in the life of Baylor’s Big Man On Campus.
This Baylor Bears notebook from Dwain Price at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram outlines how the Bears are just three wins from bowl eligibility. It also briefly examines the BU running game.
Here’s a recap of Baylor’s 30-13 victory against Rice last week from Baylor’s school paper, The Lariat.
Here’s an early-September look at the Baylor defense from Baylor’s Rivals site, SicEmSports.com.
Bleacher Report says the Bears still are contenders.
Here’s a little info about the betting aspects of the game from an interesting site called Capperspicks.com. In addition to providing a quick breakdown of the matchup, it details each team’s trends against the spread.
* Note: The Waco Tribune’s web site is a pay site. There are different options for signing up to view their content, including a $1.99 day pass. If you’re interested in checking any of that out, visit their site here. I just didn’t want to post any stories from that site since not all of you would be able/willing to access them.
Well, after four games and one heck of a wacky ride, the Kansas University football team takes a 2-2 record into Big 12 Conference play.
It’s what most expected from this team when going over the schedule in the preseason, though it came in a different way than many projected.
For most, the thought was that the Jayhawks would be 2-2 right now with wins against North Dakota State and New Mexico State. Some saw 3-1 as a realistic goal, with KU knocking off Southern Miss on the road for win No. 3. And next to no one saw KU knocking off Georgia Tech.
But 2-2 it is. In some ways, it’s a shame because, with just a little better effort in the opener, KU would’ve won and the Jayhawks would sit at 3-1 right now, needing to win just three more games to become bowl eligible. Then again, there’s a good chance that this KU team needed that loss to NDSU to find the motivation and drive to pull off the upset against Georgia Tech (who also is 2-2 through four games).
The combined record of KU’s four opponents so far is 8-7, which doesn’t tell you much except that, against a bunch of mediocre teams, the Jayhawks have been pretty mediocre themselves to this point.
Some may point to Saturday’s 42-16 win against New Mexico State as a big win for this team. In some ways it was. They needed a game that was easy and they got it. They needed a game where the offense exploded and the defense was in control and both happened. They needed the game against the winless Aggies to not be close and it wasn’t.
So that’s all good news. But New Mexico State is not a good football team. They’re not big, fast, strong or experienced and they’re probably not going to win more than one game this season. So making any conclusions about the Jayhawks based on this game is a serious mistake.
So forget the conclusions. We still have eight games to watch before we have to make any of those. Let’s examine a few trends that emerged from the NMSU game.
The biggest one, in my mind, was the continued excellent play of James Sims. The freshman running back showed that, if the line can give him creases, he can make things happen. We already knew that he could grind it out, pound ahead for short gains and move the chains. But now we know that if the holes are there he can hit them and then do some special things down the field. This guy is exciting and, again, he’s only going to get better. We’ve seen the complete package from Sims so far. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Next up is the emergence of D.J. Beshears as a serious playmaker (3 TDs, two rushing and one kickoff return). Junior wideout Daymond Patterson exploded onto the scene against Georgia Tech and KU’s next two opponents focused a big part of their defensive gameplans on taking DP out of the game. It worked. It won’t work much longer. With teams having to account for both Beshears and Patterson, it’s going to be a lot harder to bottle up the KU offense. Sure they might be able to limit the production of one of these two slot receivers each week. But holding both down will be tough. And let’s say for a minute that teams do, well, you’ve still got Johnathan Wilson down the field and, of course, Sims, too. The KU offense is in good shape right now and should continue to take steps forward each week.
Of course, how far and how fast the KU offense moves forward will be tied directly to how well the offensive line plays. Saturday, the line was spectacular and Sims and quarterback Jordan Webb reaped the benefits. Again, though, that was against New Mexico State. It’ll be interesting to see if the O-Line gained some confidence from this most recent outing and uses it to turn in a similarly strong effort at Baylor this weekend.
That’s where we’ll see what this KU team truly is made of — 11 a.m., Saturday, in Waco, Texas.
We’ll give them a pass for losing the Southern Miss game. It was the first road game for so many young guys and, as you may have read, there were a few external factors that hurt KU’s chances in that one. But playing on the road should be nothing new for these guys now and understanding the importance of each and every conference game should be something that’s easy to get.
If the Jayhawks bring the same kind of effort, energy and execution they showed Saturday against NMSU into every Big 12 game on their schedule, the four more wins necessary to become bowl eligible are out there for the taking. If they don’t, Turner Gill’s first bowl appearance with the Jayhawks will have to wait.