Kansas Football Report Card: Northern Illinois

Another Kansas victory, and it followed the same basic formula as the first.  Win the LOS battle on offense, put up a bunch of points, and hope the opposition can't keep up.  It's not perfect, but so far it's worked.  Not a lot of changes to the grades this week, as it felt like basically the same performance as in week one, just with better competition.

Quarterbacks - A-

Webb didn't do anything jaw-dropping, but I still felt compelled to put him in the "A" range.  He threw a couple of passes just beyond the reach of receivers, and failed to fall on his fumble when he had the opportunity, but overall he was instrumental in the victory.  He set a new career high in yards and tossed three TD passes, including the game winner.  After watching Webb last year, who could have guessed he would have a 6:0 TD:int ratio through two games?

 

 

Running Backs - A

Hard to rate them lower than an A when they get 255 yards on 48 carries (5.31 ypc).  When you factor in that they had roughly 120 yards worth of TD runs called back on unnecessary penalties, they look even better.  All four of the main backs looked solid, and Rell Lewis even got in on the action early on.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - B

The receivers made plays when they needed to.  KU was able to pick up 12 first downs through the air, many of which came on crucial third down conversions.  The blocking on the outside was outstanding as well.  The only thing holding them back from an "A" were a couple of holding penalties and dropped passes.

 

Offensive Line - A-

This is what we were hoping from the line last year.  Kansas controlled the line of scrimmage offensively, and by the end of the game had worn down the Huskies and were imposing their will on every play.  Jeff Spikes had a little trouble keeping  DE Alan Baxter out of the backfield, the only thing holding the unit back from an A+.

 

Overall Offensive Grade - A

I'm trying to keep this shorter than last week's report card, so I'll put it simply.  Hard to argue with 534 yards and 45 points.

 

Defensive Line - F

I know some of you will say I'm being too hard on the defense today, and it's possible I'm so sick of seeing the same problems that I'm being too critical, but I think the line play was abysmal.  You can't give any D1 quarterback all day to make decisions, and when that QB is Chandler Harnish, you're in that much more trouble.  The D was able to limit the running backs' productivity, but Harnish had lanes as wide as K-10 to run through when he turned it upfield, and wasn't sacked once.  In fact, KU didn't record a single QB hurry.

 

Linebackers - D+

The lack of presence in the opposing backfield begins with the d-line, but doesn't end there.  The linebackers share some blame in allowing 90 rushing yards to the quarterback, as well as our inability to defend screens and short passes.  The pursuit angles didn't look quite as bad as they did last week, specifically in the case of Darius Willis.  The only thing saving them from an F is 4 TFL from the linebacking crew, and the fact that NIU's running backs averaged only 3.4 yards per carry.

 

Secondary - F

I'm not backing off the DBs.  I know the lack of a pass rush is pulling down their performance, but you can't blame the pass rush for the inability to defend a pass when you have proper positioning.  The coaching staff also bears some blame for this F.  We've all been saying this for years, but come on...it's time to ditch the 10 yard cushions.  We can't defend the screen and we get beat deep anyway.  The corners are solid tacklers, so bring them up to the line and let them disrupt the short passing game.  Harnish was 27-33, which is 84% if you take out the prayer on the last second play.  For the year, we're allowing a 78.3% completion rate.

 

Overall Defensive Grade - D

I was going to give them an F, but the defense's bottom line is to allow few enough points to win the game, and they did that.

 

Special Teams - B

Mueller missed his only field goal, but it was nice to see he had plenty of leg on a 49 yarder.  The only punt of the day went 56 yards, which is great.  The kick coverage unit gave up only about 18 yards/return, which is also very good.  The only part I wasn't pleased with was the lack of running room DJ frequently found himself trying to overcome.  The 50 yard return on the last driver sure was nice, though.

 

Coaching - C+

Is the lack of defense a coaching problem, or a talent problem?  That's almost impossible to answer, since poor talent can render any coaching staff's decisions futile, and poor coaching can disguise hidden talent on the field.  Either way, there's a problem, and it isn't being fixed at this point.  Offensively, it's hard to argue with the results, and special teams seem to have improved greatly from last year.

 

Overall Team Grade - C+

We won, so I'll give them a plus.  Once again, it was a tale of two teams.  The offensive was borderline-dominant, and the defense was borderline-dominated.  A win's a win, but I don't know that this type of performance will lead to many wins now that we're getting into the BCS-level opponents.

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