That pretty much went as expected. It wasn't perfect and there were certainly some negatives, but as a whole it was impressive. 49-3 usually is.
Now, due to the world's nonsense, I was not able to watch the game with eyes. Not even listen to it with my ears. Alas, I was left to merely process pixels on my computer screen and interpret, with a billion and a half thanks going out to labbadabba for providing such stellar play-by-play commentary. Another shoutout to hunter for his color commentary and secondary play-by-play announcing, which was just as beneficial to the well-being of my knowledge.
What I'm getting at, basically, is that if you disagree with something I write, blame these two. My interpretation of the game is merely an interpretation of their interpretation, making me entirely irresponsible for my thoughts. I'm only half-joking, by the way.
So, obviously, the actual game wasn't that intriguing. Nobody really thought it was going to be, and if it was, that would be bad. Like, really bad. However, the game still was the first time we could really glean much information at all based on our own observation (which is why I'm not at fault), and it did provide valuable (second-hand) information.
Based off of the accounts of the game which I read, which do not include my own eyes or ears, here are the things I have taken away from the blowout.
- We Can Run the Ball -- This is a good thing. Definitely. Last year, despite the blowout victories early over Florida International and Louisiana Tech, it was all Todd Reesing all of the time. Todd put it up 52 times against the Panthers, 38 against the Bulldogs. He was wildly efficient in both, and played very well, but that's not the point -- the point is that we really couldn't run the ball all that well last year. And sure, the numbers weren't bad against FIU and LT, but once we began playing superior teams, the running numbers predictably trended downward. UNoCo took notice of Kansas' pass-happy tendencies, I'm sure, and decided to force an entirely reworked offensive line and Jake Sharp to beat them. It worked, in a sense, as Reesing only threw the ball 20 times for just a shade over 200 yards. Dezmon Briscoe or no Dezmon Briscoe, those aren't the numbers we are used to seeing. Of course, they did this by frequently dropping 7 and 8 men in coverage, leaving running lanes there for the taking. And we sure did take advantage of those lanes, piling up 328 yards as a team, including an 123-yard game for Jake Sharp. I'm not expecting over 300 yards a game against good teams, obviously, but it is definitely a positive sign that we can put up that many period. It's a lot easier to take when you are regressing down from 328 yards as opposed to, say, 150 yards.
- Young Skill Players (and Hawkinson) = Good -- A key talking point of the entire fall practice was freshman reserves. Bradley McDougald drew all of the hype from Mangino, Toben Opurum drew all of the praise from the fans and Kale Pick was the one who was questioned. Not to mention the most important freshman of all, Left Tackle Tanner Hawkinson, whose play will likely decide just how good Kansas' O-Line will be in 2009. Well, they all looked fantastic on Saturday evening. Tanner Hawkinson opened up holes all night for Sharp and Opurum, who looked just like the beast he was described as being. Kale Pick had a pair of quality scrambles, showcasing some athleticism, while Bradley McDougald sprung free for a 42-yard gain in the 2nd quarter. All have bright, exciting futures in Lawrence. 2010 should be a transition year, but it might not be completely devoid of Big 12 North title hopes, either.
- Where Art Thou, Pass Rush? (Jake Laptad Excluded) -- As you can see above, Jake Laptad had little issue finagling his way into UNoCo's backfield. However, the rest of the defensive line generated minimal push at best, and scarily caused Bryan Waggener to as much as flinch in the pocket. That's probably an exaggeration, but the point remains the same -- the pass rush was entirely unacceptable. And if you aren't getting pressure against Division 1-A rejects, have fun with Big 12 O-Lines. Coming into the season, everyone continued fretting about the linebackers, but I was always more concerned with the defensive line. Last season, we had a decent one-two punch with James Holt and Laptad, and nothing after. Wtih Holt gone, we've yet to see somebody step up to, at bare minimum, at least provide a solid Robin to Laptad's Batman. Now, maybe Jeff Wheeler is the guy, and he'll show it against UTEP. Hopefully. Because, pending substantial improvement from somebody or somebodies, our pass rush will be an issue all season long.
- Anthony Davis and Calvin Rubles: Tsk, tsk, tsk -- I've never actually talked to Mark Mangino before. However, I feel 99% confident in saying that if there's one thing he doesn't appreciate seeing his team do, it's commit penalties. So, when the two corners opposite Daymond Patterson (who played great, by the way) combine for 4 pass interference penalties, that can't help the big man feel good. The rest of the secondary was pretty solid, for the most part, as Chris Harris and Patterson shined while Stuckey and Thornton were both fine at safety. But Waggener and the UNoCo offense picked on the Davis/Rubles combo throughout the game, and it didn't much matter which one was in. One of them will have to step up, or something, because a successful secondary is dependent on not having a weak link. I'm not saying give up on the duo, or anything, as both played well in fall practice and probably were suffering because of jitters, or something. It was the worst part of the game, though, and something that needs to be fixed right-quick in time for the pass-happy tendencies of Big 12 offenses.
- Jacob Branstetter, Where Did That Come From? -- I mean, seriously. When Jesse Newell was backing up Mark Mangino's decision to plant Dezmon Briscoe at kickoff returner, we all learned just how valuable field position is. Who knew, though, that the biggest factor in field position may be one of Mangino's easiest decisions of the fall -- keeping Branstetter as kickoff specialist. After mostly residing around the 8-10 yard lines last season with his boots, Branstetter was regularly depositing his post-score boots into the endzone, including at least one that sailed entirely through the endzone. That's always handy. Whether it was wind or weight training or divine intervention, I don't much care as long as it keeps up.
That's not bad for not seeing the game, hey? Usually, we will do this like we did basketball recaps, going through every position (as opposed to player for basketball) and giving thoughts. With limited resources, though, I could really just focus on the key talking points. Hope this suffices.
I am planning on releasing some form of national/Big 12 recap post sometime tonight, probably during the second half of the Colorado-Colorado State game, with it to be released immediately following the Buffs' victory. Which is good for the Big 12.
Anyways, UTEP preparation starts up on Monday, even though it's a holiday. We don't take holidays off, here at RCT, which means we are better people than Starbuck's. They close on Labor Day, right?