With this new Kansas team, and all the many new faces, it is not surprising that there would be a lot of talking points each week and this week was no exception. The Jayhawks were not dominant or dominated in any faze of the game but it’s safe to say they could improve in all areas of the game. Here are a few of my gameday thoughts and observations from the Jayhawks first victory under head coach Charlie Weis.
Offensive Line Shuffling
As Coach Charlie Weis attempted to explain to the media earlier this week, the Jayhawks offensive line was still under construction as there were a lot of substitutions made on the right side of the line. Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik, and center Trevor Marrongelli were staples on the left side but we saw starting right guard Aslam Sterling and left tackle Gavin Howard sub with Randall Dent and Riley Spencer respectively.
Though Weis gave no indication of whether Sterling or Howard were subbed out due to poor play, he did say that mixing up that side of the line was the plan all along and that he was impressed with the play of Riley Spencer when he was in the game.
It was tough to get a feel for how game days were going to go as far as where and who would be making the calls on the field or in the booth. Saturday I spent a lot of time watching the coaching staff and here’s what I observed.
Charlie Weis coaches the offense and Dave Campo coaches the defense.
In fact, I was relatively surprised to see Coach Weis really take a back seat while Campo’s defense was on the field. And I mean that literally; Coach Weis would sit on the sideline with QB Dayne Crist and the rest of the offensive players.
When on offense, Weis would make the play call to quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus who would call the play into Crist (or so it appeared). By my account there was only one delay of game penalty offensively and that was on a 4th down play that may have been purposeful to set up for an easier punt.
Coach Campo on the other hand called his defense from the booth and looked to be leaning on defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt to operate the on the field components. Regardless of how they will proceed going forward, I thought both sides of the ball operated very well from a play calling and personnel stand point.
QB Dayne Crist Slow Start
Kansas starting quarterback Dayne Crist kicked his debut off with a bang on the games first play from scrimmage. Crist dropped a bomb to wide receiver Kale Pick who hauled in the 43-yard pass that Coach Weis admitted to the media he had planned all week. Unfortunately, that was the best we saw of Crist in the first half and remained consistent throughout the night.
As expected, KU was a little heavy on the run (23-14) in the first half but Crist struggled to complete to open receivers on several occasions. Crist finished the game going 17-36 for 169-yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Though he missed several open receivers, Crist appears comfortable in the pocket and had good mechanics. Coach Weis said Crist was not alone in his bad performance and pointed to opening day jitters as the cause for his lackluster performance. Crist himself too admitted anxiety was an issue but I don’t believe it’s going to be a problem heading forward.
New and Improved Defense
One of the more pleasant surprises of the evening were how much improved the defense was. Though SDSU finished the game with 411 net yards of offense, it was very evident that this defense has found some playmakers.
Senior transfer defensive end Josh Williams made his presence felt when he both forced and recovered a fumble in the 2nd quarter in addition to finishing the game with 3 tackles, a sack, and 1 QB hurry.
But it was a group effort as players like Greg Brown, Tyler Patmon, Jordan Tavai, Lubbock Smith, Ben Heeney, and Kevin Young all made important plays that gave the sputtering Kansas offense a chance to get their feet under them.
Though I saw a few too many instances where the Jayhawks secondary players getting burned by SDSU receivers, for the most part, this Kansas defense was all that was advertised. The Jayhawks were much more physical, much faster, and much more aggressive (2 sacks, 6 Tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 4 interceptions). If they can continue to play with that same aggressiveness, they will be far removed from their 120th defensive ranking of last season.
Kansas Players: Taylor Cox, Toben Opurum, Mike Ragone, Dayne Crist, Bradley McDougald, Daymond Patterson, Tony Pierson, and Josh Williams