Going in, everyone kept on talking about how "scared" they were for Southern Miss. And for good reason -- the Golden Eagles have a very good offense, a passable defense and a really solid coaching staff. They are kind of like that one mid-major you never want to play in the NCAA Tournament. We all continued to say that it wouldn't be easy, that it would be a legitimately tough test and that it would be all okay as long as we won.
Well, that's pretty much what happened. Denver showed off his immense football predicting abilities, prognosticating a 38-28 Kansas victory, with the final score 35-28. So, yeah, it's basically exactly the type of game we expected.
Mostly filled with offense. Enough intrigue to get the Kansas fanbase nervous for the first time this year. Not in the bag until a minute-or-so left. Some national pundits calling for the upset, and acting like they were half-correct given the close game.
So, the point is -- it isn't a bad thing it was so close. The Golden Eagles know how to play football well. We aren't perfect. Don't freak out. I'm glad it was this close. It should be helpful to at least have some experience in close-and-late situations. The College Football Landscape is beginning to look like 2007 again -- it's our job to make sure we put ourselves in position just like two years ago. Except, yeah, let's win that game in Arrowhead.
Extra thoughts after the jump
Todd and the passing game looked better, which is comforting. I don't think anybody was seriously freaking out or anything, but it was nice to see him pick apart a not-terrible Golden Eagle defense. The pass to Kerry Meier
on the first score was absolutely perfect, too.
Toben Opurum, I like what I see. I'm kind of miffed that Rell Lewis didn't get anything in the way of a carry, but obviously the staff feels there is a substantial gap between the two. And TO, or Toben, or whatever certainly didn't disappoint -- nearly 4 yards a carry on 28 carries is nothing to sneeze at. Of course, we still desperately need Jake Sharp and a 1-2 punch for future games, but Toben can be the man. Kind of.
Best part of the game was the dominating, suffocating run defense. The first three games, Clint Bowen and Company reared back their head and continually went after the quarterback. Repeatedly, we put in pass-rush specialists, sometimes even in non-passing downs, with the goal to get to Trevor Vittatoe or Thaddeus Lewis. With Southern Miss, though, the real danger is runningback Damion Fletcher -- he is going to play in the NFL, and he is as talented as any runningback we'll see all year. So, the defensive strategy changed. No longer was the primary goal to get to the quarterback, but instead to try and 2007 it, limiting the running game. And it worked beautifully -- 10 carries, 27 yards. That is fantastic. Probably the worst game Fletcher will have all season.
Of course, that still doesn't entirely excuse the embarrassing amount of pass rush on 3rd and long. Maybe it was turning back on the get-to-the-quarterback-at-all-costs switch or something, but even when the run wasn't a possibility, we really struggled in getting much pressure at all on Austin Davis. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if opponents have figured out that four defensive end front, so now it's time for Bowen and Bill Miller, with a bye weak, to throw in a new wrinkle.
We have four good players in the secondary. Four players who nearly everyone is confident in, at least on some level. Daymond Patterson, Darrell Stuckey, Justin Thornton and Chris Harris (who has struggled some since moving back to a pure corner, however). Of course, with our switch to a base 4-2-5 defense, we're left searching for that fifth member. Coming into the season, it was supposed to be Anthony Davis. He picked up three PI penalties in the first game. If he faltered, as he did, Calvin Rubles was the back-up option. He showed major JUCO rust. Then we re-arranged everything and tried out Phillip Strozier. He had middling results. He's still seeing the field, unlike the other two who are gone, but not as much. That would be because of Brian Murphy, who showed up in a big way yesterday. He was quite often tasked with defending the tight end on third down passing situations. And quite often, our secondary did a good job of forcing the ball to the tight end, short of the first down marker. And nearly every time, Brian did an excellent job of wrapping up, making the tackle short of the first down and getting the offense the ball back. Don't forget the interception, either. Being a hometown boy and all, it would be sweet if he can emerge as a RS sophomore and turn into a really solid player. He showed serious flashes of that yesterday.
Kerry Meier, do you really have to graduate?
But since you do, and it isn't negotiable, at least we have Bradley McDougald. Todd already trusts him to get open on third downs, and he is doing a pretty good job at it. As opponents key more and more on Kerry Meier, he is the guy who is going to benefit. He'll end up on a linebacker, and that just isn't fair.
Also -- Me likey McDougald at kickoff returner. For whatever reason, Briscoe hasn't been all that great. We're obviously looking at other options (Stuckey returned a kickoff too, IIRC), and McDougald had a good first audition.
That's all for now. Starting in Big 12 play, these will go up either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. I promise x 1000. I'll get this whole thing worked out.