A 30 point loss is a 30 point loss, but not all are created equal. Most Kansas fans expected Saturday's prime time match up with Oklahoma to be every bit the embarrassment the previous week's contest was. Fortunately, this week's edition of the Jayhawks looked like a completely different team than the one that gave up 70 to Oklahoma State. Not necessarily a good team, mind you, but a different one.
Webb certainly had to deal with some adversity Saturday. Not only was he going up against the toughest defense he'll see this year, but his center was injured in the first half. That combination led to Webb running for his life at times. However, that's the sort of situation where you want to see your QB step up. Webb didn't really do that. I don't pin the offense's struggles on Webb entirely, and I still think he's greatly improved, but he missed open receivers on several big occasions and barely eclipsed the 100 yard mark in this one. I was pleased that he didn't turn the ball over, and after one play everyone in the stands was comparing him to the great Todd Reesing, but overall we needed more out of Webb than we got.
Running Backs - B
Miller and Sims combined for 141 yards and two scores. Miller has an "escapability" factor that is rare to find in any college football player, let alone a true freshman. Despite his size, the kid consistently gets more yards on every play than anyone thinks he will. Overall, the Kansas running backs averaged 5.47 yards per carry.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - C
This was a hard group to rate, so I went down the middle. There were only so many catchable balls to go around, and several were screen passes that had little room to work. This was probably the poorest blocking effort I've seen from the receivers, but it was also probably the best secondary they've had to work against. On the plus side, DJ Beshears has turned into quite the downfield receiving threat. I don't know that any of us expected that going into the season.
Offensive Line - C-
Another one that's hard to grade. Hatch, the leader of the unit, went out with a frightening neck injury in the first half. It's tough to rebound from that. Still, even if you're playing the '85 Bears, you'd like to see more than six(!) yards of total offense in the second half. Some of that falls on the playcalling, but there weren't any holes getting opened up, either. It's debatable whether Hatch's injury should have had a profound effect on the offense, but there's no question that it did. After Sims' 56 yard TD rush in the first quarter, the Kansas running game averaged just 2.41 yards per carry.
Overall Offensive Grade - D
Defensive Line - D-
The fact that OU's o-line wasn't simply able to impose their will on our defense was enough for me to bump the line up from their weekly "F." Still, KU didn't register a sack, and the linemen combined for four tackles. While a three-man defensive front is largely expected to do the type of dirty work that doesn't show up on a stat sheet, those numbers suggest a serious lack of presence from the down linemen. Also, despite some of the good vibes floating around during and after this game, there is that small matter of Oklahoma's 610 yards of offense. You can't pin that all on the line, but that's really where it all starts.
Linebackers - C-
Darrius Willis looks better and better to me each week. His pursuit angles and overall presence continue to improve, and he's showing signs of being the player the coaches and media kept telling us he was all summer. I won't go into Steven Johnson, as he his play continues to speak for itself. I didn't see nearly as many problems with the linebackers this week, and I think that has a lot to do with scheming. We finally strayed from the defensive base we'd seen through the first five games, and mixed in a hybrid 3-3-5/4-2-5, and I felt the linebacker play improved as a result.
Secondary - F
Our defensive backfield looked pretty solid in run support, but occasionally the secondary must defend the pass. Someone should really tell Bradley McDougald that. I tend to stay away from absolute statements like this, but our safeties are the worst in coverage I've seen at this level. Whether helping out over the top or covering a slot man one-on-one, they get burned at an embarrassing rate. By my estimation, Shealy rotates approximately 37 safeties in over the course of a game. The law of averages suggests one of those combinations would be effective, but our secondary defies logic on a number of levels. As for the corners, I saw several of them actually get their hands on the ball Saturday, which is something I've been harping on for three or four years, so that was good to see. Though could someone explain to me how Greg Brown can consistently be exactly where he should be on a pass, time a jump perfectly, and yet still allow the receiver to make nearly every catch? Is it bad luck, or is Greg Brown actually a computer-generated apparition?
Overall Defensive Grade - D-
Special Teams - D
Our net punting, which had been a strength, took a bit of a hit Saturday with a 32.5 yard average. Ron Doherty clearly has a good leg, but seems to have some problems hitting the ball cleanly every time. We averaged a respectable 20 yards per kick return, while allowing roughly the same number. Mueller nailed a 36 yard field goal, but once again, Kansas fans have a kicker who forces them to hold their breath on every attempt.
Coaching - D+
Every week, this category has been a bit of an average between two extremes. In that regard, this week was no different, but the roles were reversed to some extent. For once, the defensive gameplan was pretty solid, at least at first. We sent blitzers from different parts of the field and took Landry Jones out of his rhythm early. As I mentioned before, we frequently strayed from the 4 LB look and subbed in a DB. With Opurum on the line, it looked a lot like the 4-2-5 we we were running in 2009. I think it helped not having four different LBs running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Like I said, the 5 man backfield did a pretty good job in run support, and I think it helped the LBs feel more comfortable finding/staying in their gaps. In the end, we gave up 47 points and 600+ yards, but there's no denying this defensive effort looked and felt more competent than in weeks past.
Offensively, the playcalling was horrendously vanilla. Chuck earned the "third and Long" nickname at OU by exhibiting the same tendencies he showed Saturday. He seems to start calling the game as though he has a safe lead in the second half regardless of what the scoreboard says. This offense came into the game averaging almost 480 yards/game. Turn 'em loose, Chuck! Don't run consecutive dive plays on first and second down when you're trying to ignite a comeback.
Overall Team Grade - C-