Well at least last Friday night wasn't a total surprise like the first two weeks. It would have been nice to play better and show some serious hope for the season, but we simply looked marginal on the road against a decent team. There are teams in worse position, and one of them is coming to Lawrence this Saturday, but it would have been nice to at least keep it close for awhile and generate some hope in this team.
Even with the loss, a win on Saturday would at least give the Jayhawks a .500 record in non-conference play and keep them alive for bowl contention. It will be a reach, but assuming we can beat Colorado and Baylor, that leaves only 2 wins left to sneak into postseason play. Crazier things have happened and worse teams have made it. But first, we have to beat the Aggies of New Mexico State, so let's learn about the team from Las Cruces.
Remember the Glory Days of October 10th
On the 10th of October 2009, there was hope in the world. Oil hadn't yet entered the gulf, Duke hadn't won another basketball championship and these football teams were actually good. New Mexico State sneaked out a win over fellow Aggies of Utah State while Kansas barely held on to beat Iowa State. This left the Aggies at 3-3 and the Jayhawks at 5-0, and allowed for some dreaming to occur on both teams.
Since that day the Aggies have lost 8 games in a row, finishing off last season on a 6-game losing streak and opening up the 2010 campaign with two defeats. Kansas, on the other hand, has lost 9 of their last 10 with their upset win over Georgia Tech the only victory between the two teams since the glorious days of October 10th. Put it together, and these two teams have combined to go 1-17 in their last 18 games. That has to be like a record or something.
Well, At Least They're Balanced
This isn't an all-offensive team. This isn't an all-defensive team. This isn't an all-special teams team. The Aggies are equally abysmal at all three phases of the game, at least if you put stock into two games' worth of statistics so far this season. They don't score many points, ranking 113th in points scored in the country. They do give up a lot, though, as evidenced by ranking 114th in points allowed. They are better at throwing the ball than running the ball, but that's at least partially due to the fact they've fallen behind by large margins early in the ballgame, forcing them to try and play catch-up. There are some positional strengths on the Aggies, naturally, but the units are pretty much equally awful.
No, Not THAT Marcus Allen..
New Mexico State's starting quarterback, Matt Christian, is a JUCO transfer from San Diego, and he has played fairly well in his first two games. He's got good size, a completion percentage over 50% and can tuck it and run the ball when needed. Not an awful combination. He played better his first time out there, throwing 2 TDs against San Diego State as opposed to a pick against UTEP, but he has some talent.
His surrounding talent is headlined by Marcus Allen, a senior receiver who is Christian's leading receiver. He'll even get some carries on reverses and stuff, and is the Aggies' playmaker. On a much cooler note, he does wear #32, no doubt an homage to the most famous Marcus Allen ever. Joining him as targets in the passing game are Todd Lee, the possession receiver to Allen's big-play guy, and Kyle Nelson, the starting tight end who has already become Christian's favorite check-down option. Both can catch a ball thrown at them at reasonable speeds and run decent routes, but neither are good enough to really change your defense for. As long as you contain #32, you should be good as far as the passing game goes.
The running game has two members; Kenny Turner and Seth Smith. Smith is the returning starter, listed at a bulky 206 pounds for only being 5'8". However he clearly has big-play ability, given he pulled off a run of 70 yards last year and has already had a 24-yarder this season. Turner is taller and skinnier and younger, but has received just as many carries as Smith thus far this season (15). Smith received the bulk in their most recent game, so perhaps he'll get the bulk of the carries again on Saturday. Either way, both backs have talent, but Smith has more chance for a big play and is likely the better runningback.
Good News For Our Offensive Line..
I figure most would agree that one of the biggest disappointments of the early season has been the offensive line's play, especially considering it was supposed to be a strength coming into the season. However, they should have an easier time this week as the Aggies' defensive line has played even worse so far this season. They've yet to record a sack through two games, with the biggest culprits being defensive ends Donte Savage and Pierre Fils, who combined for 13 sacks last season but have provided none yet thus far. Imagine the Chiefs' pass rush last season, only without Tamba Hali, and you will probably get a picture of how putrid their defensive front has been so far this season.
Making matters mostly worse, they have been destroyed in the running game, giving up over 6 yards a clip. For a team that probably wants to begin establishing the run again, that's good news for the Jayhawks. Much of the blame for the running game belongs to defensive tackles Kawika Shook and John Finau, who have been able to provide zero-much push. They have a linebacker with a fantastic name and significantly less game in MLB Boyblue Aoelua, who is joined by Frank Padilla on the strong side and B.J. Adolpho on the weak.
The easy strength of their defense is in their secondary, which is what makes the utter lack of pass rush so frustrating. It doesn't take a lot, as the back end of the Aggies' defense can play. The unit is led by corner Davon House with Jonte Green lining up opposite him. Alphonso Powell and Donyae Coleman round out the secondary, with all but Coleman appearing on NMSU's Top 10 players heading into the season. Of course, Savage and Fils ranked 3rd and 4th on their list, which is why their performance thus far has been soo disappointing.
We Gotta Win
While last Friday was a fun test that taught us quite a bit about our team, this is simply a must-win. Hattiesburg taught us not to expect great things, or even marginally good things, in 2010, but a win here means we at least have our head on right and the win over Georgia Tech wasn't a total mirage. A loss, and the fan bases' mood goes back close to where it was following the North Dakota State loss and the season becomes mostly a lost cause. A win, and hey, a bowl game isn't out of the question.
So let's win. Jordan Webb's going to get plenty of time and James Sims and company will get plenty of holes. I don't know if it will be a blowout or not, but we should be able to comfortably win. We have to be able to.
No insulting jab at the end; I mean, what has New Mexico State done to you?