Kansas 31 South Dakota State 17
Heading into this game I wasn't expecting Charlie Weis to be a miracle worker. Kansas had some major issues over the past two seasons and some of those were still on display last night. At the same time there were definitely areas that one would have liked to see improved more, and some intangible things that still seemed a bit off despite Kansas pulling out the win. Bottom line here is that Charlie Weis said he expected a convincing win, I wouldn't call Saturday convincing so even by their own standard there is plenty of work to be done.
Offensive MVP | T. Pierson - 20 Carries, 124 yards, 6.2 YPC | T. Cox - 16 Carries, 121 Yards, 7.2 YPC
Much of the credit goes to the left side of the offensive line as Duane Zlantik was very effective which gave a nice boost to this duo. Thinking long term, Pierson definitely seems much better suited as a situational back and Cox probably needs to shoulder more of the load when we're running between the tackles. When Sims returns he can help in that regard as well, but 20 carries for Pierson is probably a bit much and he is largely ineffective when running inside. Where he is good is off tackle and on the edge and in those situations he is VERY good. We just need to find a push and a runner that can get us over the hump in those short yardage situations.
Defensive MVP | Bradley McDougald - 2 INT's
McDougald obviously contributed with several tackles but his two interceptions were key to giving Kansas a lead and securing the win late.
Three Things To Like About Game One
- The Running Game Yes it could be better in short yardage situations, but for the most part Kansas was getting a solid push and the total yardage and YPC are impressive on paper. Pierson is explosive but Cox or even Bourbon would probably be better suited for those 2nd or 3rd and short situations. Several times Kansas was unable to convert in those situations because SDSU was selling out against the run and Pierson isn't going to break a lot of tackles once someone gets to him. With Sims back and a healthier dose of Cox and/or Bourbon, Pierson could prove even more efficient with his carries and the running attack could become a real strength for this team. The biggest concern on the offensive line still has to be the right side which rotated heavily between Gavin Howard, Riley Spencer, Aslam Sterling and Randall Dent. Someone will need to step up and provide a more consistent effort.
Multiple Looks Kansas was able to play fairly conservative it seemed, yet they still threw a lot of different looks at SDSU. When the offense was working at it's best the SDSU defense was on their heels and Kansas was doing a nice job changing up formations, personnel and even going between a hurry up and a no huddle. Overall the offense still seemed out of sync more often than not, but if they can button that up it could be a nice schematic advantage to be able to offer so much variance in the offensive structure.
T.O.P It's a small thing that can make a huge difference. Kansas was rarely the three and out juggernaut that they were a year ago. It didn't always result in points, which would have been ideal, but at least we weren't trotting out onto the field and running three plays for zero yards and punting the ball away after only killing 9 seconds of game clock.
Three Causes For Concern
- The Kicking Game - I don't think our tendency to go for it was a product of the opponent. While Doherty is a seviceable punter, it's pretty clear that he is not a kicker that we can rely on for field goals and/or kick offs. While the new rules will keep us from returning many kicks this year, that won't be the case with our opponents. And if we're inside the forty, but outside the twenty, we might be going for it on 4th down pretty consistently. This is going to be a huge disadvantage.
- Intangibles - I don't know that there is anyone to blame here but the last guy, but in general this didn't look like a team that has been completely rebuilt from a confidence standpoint. There are still very fresh memories of the last two years and the confidence level isn't where it needs to be just yet. You could see some hesitancy and body language throughout this game that was reminiscent of last year. I think this will be a continued building process, but it could play a role at some point during this season when we face a difficult situation.
- The Passing Game - Dayne Crist wasn't sharp at all. He has a cannon of an arm and he's huge, but he seemed jittery out there and wasn't on point with his throws. It's his first game so he gets a pass, but hopefully we see the biggest improvement from him next week. I'd also say that I didn't see any wideouts that really gave me the confidence to say that we have a Big 12 level playmaker. They were doing a decent job against SDSU, but do we have guys that can get separation and make a big play against Big 12 competition? Pick, Beshears and Patterson are solid but beyond that it's something to keep an eye on.