I had strange feelings Friday night after watching that came. Some of them were undoubtedly due to me trying to find out if you could drown in tequila, but some of it was me thinking that we were a couple breaks from winning that game, or at least putting up a big fight.
Kansas gave up a TD on a blocked punt (hopefully that formation will be changed ASAP) and after Southern Miss fumbled the ball out of the end zone which should have been a touchback. That is at least a 7 point swing, and who knows if Kansas's defense would have held if they had gotten that punt off.
Still, that doesn't change the fact that at times Kansas looked at best overmatched and at worst completely inept. Some of the problems that plagued us against NDSU came back again, and it's clear that spread teams are going to be extremely tough for us to stop this year, barring some great adjustments by Torbush and co.
Now let's evaluate our performance through the eyes of Denver's keys to the games, as well as some other nuggets.
1.Pick up the blitz
Seeing as I watched the game on TV, I wish I would have charted how often Southern Miss blitzed and how they did on those blitzes. As it is, we know that Webb was sacked four times, and from reading through the gamethread Quigley missed a couple blitz pickups (h/t to Denver), and our guards struggled when they blitzed inside (h/t to Grad). Without having any empirical evidence on how well we did against the blitz I'll leave it up to you guys to put a grade on it.
2. Limit the big play
Last week Kansas certainly limited the big play. Facing a no huddle spread attack, especially in September in Mississippi with a defense lacking depth, was always going to be a huge test and was always going to result in big plays.
Here is an amazingly unscientific breakdown:
Plays of 10-15 yards: 8
Plays of 15-20 yards: 1
Plays of 20-30 yards: 1
Plays of 30+ yards: 1
Southern Miss ran 61 total plays, and 11 of them were of 10 or more yards (18%) but just 3 were over 15 yards (4.9%). Obviously "big plays" means more than just plays that go for big yardage (hellllloooo, punt block), but overall I'd say the defense did at least an adequate job stopping the big play.
It's semi tough to measure this one through stats, but let's give it a shot. The first thing that stands out to me is that Kansas burned two of its first-half timeouts with 12:27 left in the 2nd quarter. They took their first one just 1:13 into the quarter after Webb got sacked, and then took the next one only a little over a minute later. After a personal foul that gave Kansas a first down, no less.
Secondly, it has been mentioned before, but the blocked punt. That weird blocking scheme might enable Rojas to get his rugby style punts off better, but the thing is a blocking disaster. It needs to go. Now.
Back to the timeouts thing, Kansas took their first second half timeout just five minutes into the third quarter, though it was before a 4th and goal play so you can't find too much fault in that.
Here is one big positive for the coaching staff: Kansas had just 3 penalties all game, for only 19 yards. They had an offsides penalty, which isn't fun, but not really attributable to the coaching staff, a holding penalty (same thing), and a delay of game on a punt, which moved the ball from their own 8 to their own 4. That one I put on the coaches a bit because it is an obvious punting situation, they should have gotten onto the field and gotten the play off. It might have been the fault of the players, but that kind of disorganization goes right to the coaching staff.
4. Time of Possession
By taking a quick and dirty look at TOP, Kansas won 33:44 to 26:16. But with TOP comes some inherent understanding that you should win the field position battle as well. After all, if you hold the ball longer than your opponent you should be able to run more plays in their half than they do in yours.
Southern Miss ran just 24 of its 64 plays in KU territory (38.7%), and KU ran 34 of its 74 plays in Southern Miss territory (45.9%). Anything over 40% is good, and this is the 2nd game in a row that Kansas has had a better FP% than its opponents. I'm not sure how this stat correlates to winning, but it can't be a negative thing.
Kansas lost on the scoreboard, and it's clear from watching the game that some depth issues on defense will hurt us at times this year, but it's also clear that by looking at some of the underlying stats, there are still some things to be positive about this year and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the hometown 11 in a bowl game this year.