As if we needed another reminder that this one wasn't on television, here you go. Sitting at the table watching Missouri vs. Nebraska and listening to our own Jayhawks I couldn't help but feel that we were competing at a much better level than we had in the previous three weeks. It was a welcome sign and a sign that comes as the Jayhawks look to their third string quarterback and play without arguably their most feisty offensive weapon in DJ Beshears.
Observations from both sides describe the first half as one that was controlled by the Jayhawks at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line was getting a push, while the defensive line was generating pressure for the first time all year. Part of that most likely had something to do with scheme, but that's for another discussion.
As far as the game at hand, Kansas rode the backs of their lines and a conservative gameplan to a first half lead. For this team, in this season, that's a pretty good gameplan.
Now the problem becomes sustaining that. From early in the second half it was pretty clear that the team had lost their legs. A team that can ill afford to rotate at many positions due to depth was worn down. The defensive backfield and receiver positions might be the only place on the field where Kansas can legitimately rotate bodies comfortably and let's face it, those aren't positions that win ballgames on their own.
What I take from this is that everything I hear is pretty close to true. It's been asked whether this team has quit on Turner Gill. I've been told by multiple people connected to the program that this just isn't the case. They do believe in Coach Gill, sort of. Right now the team is having perhaps a longer than normal(or longer than we'd like) adjustment period for a variety of reasons. Buy in/confusion could well be one of them, but quitting on their coach or quitting in general is not one of them.
It's as if they want to buy in, they want to win games, but a little skepticism remains based on the horrid nature of the season. It's the same thing that the most optimistic kool aid drinking fans have going on. This game helped me believe those comments for the first time in a few weeks.
The one thing that could probably help most in alleviating this problem is player leadership and that also seems to be an area that isn't naturally coming to this team.
There are young players on the field showng a lot of promise. Toben Opurum, Greg Brown and James Sims are all players with two or more years of eligibility remaining that looked on Saturday like the caliber of talent that can make a difference.Those are just three examples, there are certainly more on the team, but none really seem to be ready or pushing for that leadership role.
I don't believe Coach Gill can create leaders. That's something that has to happen naturally. At the same time I think maybe this group of players is a little misguided as to who they view as their leaders because not many have truly stepped up to be one.
As a quick example, take a look at the captains. It's not that I have anything against those named captain, but I sure don't feel like they've all exemplified the role. Some have, some haven't. But when one or more of your captains are basically glorified role players that aren't really setting the bar all that high, it doesn't help in the transition. Show me a captain or player on the team right now that holds a candle to any of our captains from a year ago?
The good news is this. Colorado comes to town this week. They are a better team than their record shows, they have some solid athletes on defense, but at the same time many think that this might be the week that Dan Hawkins goes bye-bye. If that's the case, and Gill can get a team out there that's motivated once again. Then Kansas might just be able to get one last win under their belts before things get really tough.
We saw improvement this week. If we can somehow see a win next week then maybe this team get's back to a place where they start to feel a little more confident in eachother and their coaching staff again. As I said before, a LONG way to go...but at this point I'm just thrilled to be out of the starters block, or at least standing in it.