Sep 1, 2012; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks halfback Tony Pierson (3) rushes for a touchdown against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Kansas won the game 31-17. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
So it begins. The Charlie Weis era of Kansas football. I tracked out to the game last night with a couple buddies and met up with Rock Chalk Talk's celebrity author, the one and only Fetch9. Naturally, we walked right past a ridiculously long student line right up to the gate, went in, and found 4 seats at midfield only about 20 or so rows up. Winning.
Speaking of winning, let's start with the positives. KU won the game. KU played well on special teams aside from Ron Doherty. KU's defensive line looked better. KU's offensive line looked pretty good. KU ran all over an undersized and slower opponent, which it should. However... this team has a long way to go.
More thoughts on the game after the jump.
All eyes were on Dayne Crist last night, and the new savior of KU football didn’t play very well. I’m kind of torn on Crist’s performance… to put it in a nutshell, he did everything nearly perfect except actually execute on throws. He made the right reads, he found open guys, and he got rid of the ball quickly when facing pressure. The pick he threw was a jump ball on third down that basically resulted in like a 30-yard punt (something I’ll take on third and long). You could tell he was experienced, he looked like a starting quarterback (something we haven’t said since number 5 used his magic to win us a lot of games)… he just missed a lot of throws. I mean a lot. KU could have had two more touchdowns had he hit wide-open guys near the end zone. I’m of the opinion that Crist was jacked up/nervous for game one, and I think he will play better next week. Let’s see how he does against Rice with a game under his belt.
The running game was fantastic, but let’s face it – it should be against a team like SDSU. Still, Pierson is all he is hyped up to be, a homerun hitter who is a nightmare for opposing defenses once he reaches the second level. I was really impressed by Taylor Cox, who is a more polished runner than I expected. On Cox’s long touchdown run, he read his blocks well, put on a few timely shifts and then turned on the jets in the open field. He reminds me a lot of Sims; to me they are nearly identical backs. Cox also did a pretty good job picking up the blitz. Bourbon got five carries as well and made a nice play on a catch out of the backfield. When Sims returns, that backfield is going to be awfully crowded.
Receivers – Mixed reaction. Guys did get open at times and Crist just missed them. Other times, guys really struggled to create separation. Patterson did some good things when he got the ball, and it looks like he will be used just like he was under the previous staffs – a short route runner who can turn 6-8 yard passes into first downs and use his athleticism to get yards after the catch. Beshears was a disappointment to me. He had five catches but only for 27 yards. With the emergence of Pierson, I’m not sure how the staff is going to use D.J. He didn’t get open effectively enough to be a true WR, and while the staff worked hard to get him the ball, it just wasn’t that effective. I wonder if bigger guys like Omigie will get more playing time at WR.
Offensive line looked good, backs had holes to run through and Crist had time most of the night. I’m saving my judgment of this group until they face some legit defensive linemen.
Defensively, kind of a hit or miss performance. Yes, the team had four picks, but that should have been six. With the score 24-7 in the third quarter, Tyler Patmon had the easiest interception in football history. I’m talking NFL, College, High School, Middle School, Pee-Wee, the games you plaid in the backyard that led to you fighting with your brothers, video games, you name it. A ball was softly lofted in the air towards him, with 50 yards of wide open field in front of him… and he dropped it. Ridiculous. A 31-7 game turned into a 24-14 game in a matter of minutes.
Look, I know things happen, but if KU wants to be competitive this year, it MUST take advantage of plays like that. You know how Turner Gill fooled everyone into thinking he could coach at the BCS level? His one magical season in Buffalo saw his team create an insane amount of turnovers. Patmon also gave up the touchdown a few plays later. An inexcusable mistake not picking that ball off.
The defensive line got decent push all night, and consistently pressured SDSU with only four guys rushing. Tavai is legit, Agostinho made plays and Williams was also stout. Oporum had a quiet game, but the attention on him helped the other guys find one-on-one match-ups that they exploited. Also, Reynolds had a monster sack in which he just blew by the tackle. Fittingly, he jumped offsides on the very next play, but he has the talent to become a great pass rusher.
Don’t let the four picks fool you though, the secondary struggled. McDougald had a great game, and Smith looked pretty steady. The nickel DBs had a rough night though. Powell got burned badly on one play that lead to a touchdown, and SDSU’s 99 yard touchdown was a result of the DBs not getting over to protect the middle of the field on the run. Tackling was much better though, which was a welcomed site.
Ron Doherty is a good punter and a bad placekicker. He missed a 35 yarder early, which is an inexcusable distance to miss from for a BCS level kicker (especially with barely any wind and a perfect snap). Punt coverage was absolutely outstanding all night, and two punts were tipped by one of our receivers, which helped us have some great field position. However, Doherty’s kickoffs were not good, they landed at the five yard line consistently with no hang time, which is a recipe for disaster. SDSU returned kicks near the 40 yard line all night long. The staff adjusted, and Doherty executed a good directional kick to the sideline which SDSU only returned about 20 yards. We might see more of that and some squib kicks if Doherty can’t boom the ball into the end zone or improve his hang time. It’s sad we don’t have a legit placekicker on the team. Doherty would be even fresher on punts (which he is good at) and I wouldn’t have a heart attack when we try a 35 yarder.
My overall impression is that the coaches really tried to test guys tonight and shake some rust off. Even when Crist was struggling and the run game was working, we still passed a lot. Frustrating, but I see the point. This one almost felt like an exhibition game, even though SDSU made a little comeback to cut it to seven in the fourth. I think next week’s game will be a better barometer on how we’ll do this season.
If I forgot to mention something or you didn’t get to see the game and have a personnel or general question, leave a comment. What are everyone else’s thoughts?