Everyone saw it and it didn't look good. The high flying Todd Reesing era of Kansas football made a dramatic exit on Saturday night and ushered in a disturbing display of offensive ineptitude. The problems were numerous, no one player deserves to shoulder the blame and attacking college athletes is really not in the spirit of the sport anyway.
Still, whether a message wasn't properly delivered or failed to be received, no one seemed to be on the same page and it will require a pretty drastic turn of events to instill a confidence in the fan base remotely close to what they've had in recent years.
The start of the Turner Gill era was a wost case scenario. A fanbase was sold on the fact that the last coach was leading a toxic environment and a change had to be made. No one expected this type of change.
Taking a closer look, what did the offense look like? Where were the biggest deficiencies and what if anything can be viewed as a positive after a second glance at the offense vs. North Dakota State.
First and foremost how did a new emphasis on the run pay off for Kansas? Easy answer, not good. The Jayhawks play calling amounted to 43% running plays and 57% passing.
Obviously the passing was probably higher due to the fact that the Jayhawks were playing from behind late, but this still represents and exact mirror image of the play ratio from a year ago.
Most fans were excited about a greater emphasis on the run, but with the ability to run the ball looking pretty bleak, we may be in for another year of pass, pass, pass.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Jayhawks have weapons at receiver, most notably Daymond Patterson and DJ Beshears who both played well on Saturday. Kansas also has big receivers that can be effective over the deep middle. The problem right now appears to be time and the ability to make those throws. Hence, the apparent QB quandary.
Effectiveness by Down
On first down Kansas was exactly what fans wanted to see, balanced. 14 runs, 12 passes. The biggest concern is that 16 of those resulted in a 2nd and long situation. Kale Pick proved most effective in passing on first down going 6/6 with a better than 8 yard average while being sacked once. Jordan Webb was 0-3 while being sacked twice.
On the running side it's pretty clear that the staff lost confidence in the ability to play a traditional running game early as just 4 of the 14 runs on first down actually went to running backs. Daymond Patterson and DJ Beshears handled the ball five times on first down, with one of the two quarterbacks handling five other 1st down runs. Only two of those runs were for better than five yards and both were the result of a play to Patterson.
Moving to second down it's a pretty cut and dry story. The Jayhawks run on 2nd and middle to short and they typically struggled to do anything with it. Four of the six runs in this scenario resulted in gains of 1,0, -1 and 1. In all resulting 3rd and 4th and short scenario's Kansas converted just one for a first down in what amounts to a 20% success rate in short yardage conversion.
Moving back to 2nd down and long yardage scenario's Kansas as one would expect skewed toward the pass. 6 runs and 10 passes, but just two conversions. The Jayhawk quarterbacks were 9/10 in this specific scenario but the majority of the play calls were extremely conservative with only two resulting in double digit gains and first downs. Both of those were with Webb on the field late.
3rd and long is where things get ugly and that's somewhat expected. Kansas threw 11 times and ran 0 in this situation completing just three of those passes. The Jayhawks also took one sack and threw an interception to go along with the other 7 incomplete passes on third and long.
Field Position and Time of Possession
Two areas that can key to any win are field position and time of possession. One can make life much easier on your offense and the other can make life much easier on the defense.
In the first half the Jayhawks average starting field position was their own 19. Not good. On the other side of things they did put together a few decent drives and the time of possession was a positive to the tune of 16:36.
In the second half the Jayhawks were a little bit better in terms of starting field position with the average starting spot being their own 23. Time of possession on the other hand tanked. In the entire third quarter the Jayhawks only held the ball for 4:52 seconds and by the time they made it to the fourth quarter NDSU had more or less throttled down and challenged Kansas to score.
At the end of the half Kansas ended up pretty even in terms of T.O.P for the game, but the with the Bison average starting field position at their own 42 it was a decided edge in terms of the length of the field. Interesting enough though, the Bison's two field goals came on two of their three longest drives on the afternoon. One was a 4 play 20 yard drive and the other was a 7 play 30 yard drive. The Bison's longest drive on the afternoon, 10 plays, 44 yards on their opening possession. Every other drive netted under 20 yards for NDSU. When your defense puts forth that type of performance, that's a game you expect to win.
Yards Per Play
Rushing: 3.77 yards per carry. Take away Patterson's 51 yard romp and it drops to 2 Yards Per Carry.
Passing: 10.36 yards per completion. 57% completion percentage, sacked 4 times.