There probably isn't a lot of room for debate in this week's report card. Maybe some opinions on the offense will differ, but I think we're generally on the same page when it comes to defense. As miserable as Saturday's game was, are we really that shocked? I picked us to go 3-9 this year, and according to this poll I attached to a story two months ago, 61% of us thought this team would win five or fewer games this season. We're 2-1. True, the schedule gets harder from here on out, but we're certainly on pace to do what I expected them to. Or, in the words of Dennis Green, THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!
Anyway, onto the grades...Quarterbacks - B
Jordan Webb looked polished and confident before a potential shoulder injury sidelined him. He finished 11 of 19 for 148 yards, which included a beautiful downfield pass to DJ Beshears that set up a last second field goal before halftime. Quinn Mecham then stepped in to complete six of eight attempts for 63 yards and a score. True, the offense struggled in the second half, but uninspired playcalling, solid adjustments by Tech, and the loss of Webb were more to blame than the signal-callers.
Running Backs - C+
The backfield, specifically Darrian Miller, had a very good first half, scoring both of KU's touchdowns. In the second half, as the shell-shocked offense tried helplessly to keep the score somewhat close, the ground game fell apart. Kansas ultimately would average just 3.6 yards/rush for the game. A lot of this falls on the playcalling (we get it, Chuck, you like the wildcat formation), but at the end of the day, Kansas' running backs didn't do a whole lot of damage.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - C-
DJ Beshears had another good game, and Tim Biere made a nice acrobatic catch. Marquis Jackson and Andrew Turzilli had nice debuts as well. Outside of that, it was nothing to brag about. Biere dropped a couple passes he should have had, and there weren't any outstanding plays coming from this group. The blocking overall was solid, but there were no performances from the receivers telling me to rate them as anything above average.
Offensive Line - B
Webb and Mecham had plenty of time to throw, and Tech defenders rarely found themselves in the backfield. The o-line continues to impress and gives the entire offense opportunities to score. The playcalling, on the other hand...
Overall Offensive Grade - C
The offense didn't necessarily do anything wrong Saturday, other than simply not scoring enough points. The entire team seemed stunned in the third quarter, and it felt like the defense's struggles (to put it lightly) may have bled into the offense's performance to some extent. Whatever the reason, the offense overall was pretty average.
Defensive Line - F
It all starts here. You certainly can't lump all the blame on the d-line, but as hiphop mentioned in the postgame thread, on GT's first play of the game, there was a pulling lineman who didn't even have anyone to block. For the 3-4 to have any success, the d-line has to occupy blockers, and this group simply can't do it.
Linebackers - F
Like many other Kansas fans, I thought the linebackers would be the strength of the defense headed into this year. Like many other Kansas fans, I was wrong. I suppose they do look like slightly better than the d-line or the secondary, but that's like saying Kathy Bates is slightly better-looking than Judge Judy. Does it really matter?
Pursuit angles are not this unit's friend. The linebackers always seem to look shocked when they get to where the ballcarrier was at the line of scrimmage, only to turn and see that he has now run upfield. Guess what, guys...football players move! This unit seems to be wandering around lost on the football field. Johnson and Opurum both do some things very well, but overall lack the speed to be great linebackers. Willis can look fantastic on one play, then turn around and look like he has no clue what's going on in the next. The linebackers may not be the worst group on the field, but they've certainly been the most disappointing.
Secondary - F
Now this is the worst group on the field. Outside of Lubbock Smith, the DBs were no help at all against the run, and suffer from the same pursuit angle disease the linebackers have come down with. As for the pass defense...call me crazy, but I feel that if a corner is going to play ten yards off the ball, then two things should happen: one, they should easily be able to come up and make the tackle on a short throw, and two, they should be able to cover a deep pass. Through some manner of wizardry, our corners fail to do either of these things on a regular basis. Since the corners were mostly attacking the run in the second half, it became the safeties' job cover long passes Saturday. This is what we call a "bad idea." The only thing Terry and McDougald do worse than defending the run is defending the pass. Each had a turn watching helplessly as a wide open Tech receiver caught a pass over the middle and jogged in for a touchdown.
Oh well, it's not like our next three games are against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. That would just be horrifying.
Overall Defensive Grade - F
Special Teams - B (Alex Muller's Acting Skills - A+)
Outside of Mueller's WTF field goal attempt (for which he made sure he got a redo), the special teams effort was solid. Ron Doherty has one heck of a leg. He averaged 47.1 yards per punt on the day, which actually brought down his season average to 47.8 per punt. The coverage teams allowed just 6.8 yards per punt return, and just 17.8 per kickoff. Our own kick return game left something to be desired, as our average starting point was our own 24 yard line. As for our punt returns...well, you have to make the other team punt to do those.
Coaching - F
The defensive gameplan was obviously a failure, and the few adjustments that were made (e.g. ignoring wide receivers to try to stop the run) were almost comically ineffective. The number of defensive players seemingly lost on the field speaks to the coaching as well. Offensively, the coaching wasn't anything to write home about either. Kansas was able to march the ball up and down the field through most of the first half, but the wheels came off a bit in the second half. Despite the wildcat's ineffectiveness, we actually started running more of it after Webb came out of the game. If we want to continue running that formation, we'll need to actually pitch or pass out of it every now and then. Otherwise, we're telegraphing the play call. Not a good day for Tuner Gill and company, and I'm sure there will be more than just a few of us upset if Gill opens this week's press conference with any comments talking up the staff.
Overall Team Grade - D
The offense looked pretty good at times, and as I mentioned, special teams were solid. A case for an "F" could be made here, but I didn't want the defense's performance to define my view of the team as a whole. That said, when the defense is so epically bad, it's hard not to let it dictate your opinion when grading the overall effort.