Quarterbacks - D+
It's hard to grade this category without splitting it into two. Dayne Crist was...well, Dayne Crist. He made a couple of good reads and found wide receivers (once to James Sims running a wheel route, the other to an open Kale Pick downfield), but also managed throw some ill-advised passes, and struggled with accuracy, leading to 10 of 22 performance that brought him to 88 for 178 on the year (just a shade under 50%).
Cummings, while effective in leading the team down the field for a couple of fourth quarter TD drives, didn't look like a finished product either. He's a true freshman, so I'm certainly not writing him off, but Cummings seemed skittish and too eager leave the pocket. Hopefully he'll develop a better feel for this as time goes on. Cummings completed 5 of 10 for 75 yards and a TD, but also overthrew an Brandon Bourbon on a crucial fourth down, and didn't even notice that he had a completely uncovered receiver downfield on the same play. I hope Cummings can continue to provide a spark for the offense moving forward, but anyone expecting outstanding quarterback play for him (if he does in fact take over the starting job) is probably going to be disappointed at times.
Running Backs - A-
The gameplan seemed to be "wear them down with the running game," and it worked. James Sims spent most of the night charging forward for short gains, but things opened up a bit in the second half, and ended up averaging 5.1 yards/carry, highlighted by a 30 yard TD run that pulled the game to within one possession. DJ Beshears also got some work at this position, usually when Matthews lined up in the wildcat, and carries the ball six times for a respectable 25 yards. Taylor Cox had the same number of carries, but usually found himself bottled up and averaged just 2.7 ypc. Overall, the Jayhawks averaged 4.8 yards on designed running plays.
Receivers/Tight Ends - D+
Sometimes I want to grab Dayne Crist by the shoulders Good Will Hunting style and tell him "it's not your fault." Sure, Crist has shown us all that his arm is simply too inaccurate to get the job done, but the guy routinely finds himself without a single option to throw to anyway. A couple of times Saturday he simply had to chuck the ball to the sideline, even on third down, when under pressure because there was nowhere else to go with it.
It's not that our receivers are without skill. Pick has great hands. Patterson can do nice things will the ball in space. Turzilli can be a solid deep threat. The issue with all three is that none of them good a good release off the line of scrimmage, and none seem to have the agility to shake man-to-man coverage. Weis has clearly noticed a need for a change here, giving true freshman Tre Parmalee the most playing time he's had all year. Parmalee finished with two catches for 36 yards. With a more accurate QB, this group would look better, but too often they simply aren't getting open, and it causes problems in the passing game that too often don't get brought up because the attention goes to Crist's inconsistency.
Offensive Line - C+
I could probably be persuaded to go slightly higher with this grade, but I'm seeing too many things I don't like from this line. First, the right side is guaranteed at least one holding call per game. I'm not seeing the type of improvement I had hoped for from Sterling, Dent and Howard, and the result has been opposing d-lines bottling up too many running plays, and creating too much pressure on the QBs. The three seniors to the left of them have been better, but I'm still not seeing them do what I thought they were capable of in pass protection. They did a solid job giving Sims room to run, but both Crist and Cummings found the pocket collapsing too quickly on several occasions. It wasn't a bad effort overall this week, but I really thought we'd see more out of this group this year.
Defensive Line - B-
Many of us have been saying all year that while the defense isn't good, it is an improvement over the last two years. Saturday went a long way for helping our case, and the line play was a big reason. Coming into this game, the OSU running attack averaged 300 yards per game, and Joseph Randle had essentially been an unstoppable force. On Saturday, Randle was held to 80 yards (just 2.8 ypc), and the team overall managed just 116 yards on 44 attempts, just 2.6 per carry. By my count, the line was in on just 8 tackles (I consider Opurum a linebacker), but they were more impressive in their ability to occupy OSU's blockers, and for once we didn't have to rely on our last line of defense to make so many of our tackles. In fact, Brown and Patmon combined for just nine, easily their lowest total of the year. The line was a little less effective against the pass, giving JW Walsh too much time to throw, and providing him with huge running lanes on more than one occasion, but it wasn't enough to get us completely picked apart in the passing game.
Linebackers - B
Tunde Bakare was out due to a concussion suffered in practice, and redshirt freshman Jake Love was given his first career start. He responded in a big way, with 12 tackles, including three for loss and the team's only QB hurry. Also absent was senior Anthony McDonald, which meant tons of snaps for Ben Heeney, and even opened up playing time for Darius Willis, who had only seen the field on special teams to this point. Schyler Miles seems to have moved down the depth chart at MLB,
This unit responded well to being shorthanded, with the starters combining for 36 tackles, including six for a loss. I've noticed that our linebackers have a tendency to overpursue, and take some bad angles (Love was especially guilty of this at times on Saturday), and I think this is contributing to a lot of the mistackles we're seeing. Their point of impact isn't necessarily head-on with the ballcarrier, and the result is an inability to wrap up. This was certainly the reason for the ineffective attempt to tackle Charlie Moore on his 72 yard TD ( I think it was Love who missed that one). I'm not sure what the answer for this is, but it was really the only drawback to some great linebacker play against OSU. For the most part, the line occupied the blockers, and the linebackers made the tackles.
Secondary - B-
I can't believe I'm going into the "B" range for the secondary, but they earned it this week. Our corners still scare me on deep balls, and Patmon did pick up a PI call, but Patmon also made two fantastic plays on the ball, and Brown really didn't get picked on much. Both were credited with two pass breakups. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this was the best game I've seen from our corners since the Mangino years. The safeties were solid as usual. Despite getting banged up, Bradley McDougald only missed two snaps, and led the team with 10 unassisted tackles, 12 overall. I have to think that guy's going to have a shot playing on Sundays. I can't say enough with how pleased I was with the play of the secondary, especially considering how hard I've been on them every week for the last couple of years.
Special Teams - F
I've never seen a team with kicking so bad that it drastically impacts playcalling. With Doherty banged up (and Weis said after the game they were going in a different direction even if he wasn't), we only lined up for one field goal attempt, and we didn't even kick. Everyone in the stadium (including the OSU coaches) knew we weren't kicking that 38 yard field goal, and the fake attempt was easily sniffed out. I will say that I'm in favor of going for it on fourth far more than coaches are willing to, but we were 0-5 on fourth down conversion attempts, largely because we weren't getting pushed into doing it when it wasn't the best move. But, when you are never guaranteed 3 points no matter how close you are, you have to take some risks. Walk-on Sean Huddleston took over punting duties, and showed us all why Ron Doherty is the starter. Huddleston averaged just over 40 yards per punt and did put two inside the twenty, but they were ugly punts and relied on friendly rolls and bounces to get there. Kale Pick punted once and managed to put 42 yards on it, leaving me to wonder why we don't just put him back there the way Mangino did with Kerry Meier in '07. I will give Prolago credit for putting a couple into the endzone on kickoffs with a wind at his back, but it wasn't enough to pull special teams out of the F range. Also, we gave up a 27 yard punt return.
Overall - C+
This isn't the best OSU team we've seen in recent years, but they're still a decent squad with a very good offense. We were able to hold them to their weakest offensive performance of the year, and make it a very interesting game at the end. It wasn't pretty, specifically on offense or special teams, but we were competitive. We've seen one-game glimpses of competitiveness before, so I'm not going to hang my hat on this team having turned a corner, but instead of losing close games by falling apart late, it was nice to see us pull to within striking distance on the back of a well-played fourth quarter.