Quarterbacks - C+
In his first game as "the guy," Cummings did a solid job of running the offense. It's hard to be too high on his performance, given that Weis essentially called plays around Cummings' inability to throw the ball accurately, but he did step up when asked to on a couple of occasions. The third down rollout throw to Mundine for 18 yards was not an easy one, and it was essential to our go-ahead drive. All in all, Cummings didn't make any major mistakes, and the offense was generally successful with him at the helm, so I'll place him in the high "C" range for the day.
Running Backs - A
I can't say enough about the job this group did. If you adjust the rushing numbers for sacks and the botched snap, we ran for 273 yards, and averaged 5.25 yards per carry. True, that's against one of the worse run defenses in the country, but Weis had a gameplan based on exploiting their linebackers and the backs carried it out. Sims was an absolute animal once again, and if he's not considered All-Big 12 by the end of the year, there's something very wrong with the voters.
Wide Receivers - Incomplete
Tough to judge this group when the plan is to avoid throwing the ball at all costs. I will say that we ran quite a few stretch plays, trying to catch the linebackers out of their lanes (they usually were), and for these to work the WRs had to do a good job of blocking on the outside, which they did. Still this unit really didn't get enough work to give them a comprehensive grade for the game.
Offensive Line - B
I feel like the o-line did everything you could have asked of them. True, the backs didn't have nearly as much running room in the second half, but it's hard to block adequately when the other team is putting eight or nine in the box on every play. I think just one or two play action passes in the second half could have opened those holes back up, but I'm not getting paid millions to call the plays. At any rate, the line wasn't dominating the line of scrimmage, but they were giving Sims room to work with, and that's all Sims really needs.
Defensive Line - C
This was another game where the d-line didn't really show up much in the stat sheet (It's hard to decide whether to count Opurum's numbers with the LBs or the line), but you can't really argue they did their job, at least in the running game. Texas' north-south rushing attack was only moderately effective overall, largely because there were no linemen available to stop our linebackers from coming up and making plays. Granted, Texas found success in the horizontal running game late, but that success had a lot more to do with our overzealous pursuit angles in space. My main criticism of the line is that they can't seem to get a consistent push on the QB. We made Ash nervous a few times, but ended up with one sack and one hurry in 23 pass attempts. I'd really like to see the line provide opposing QBs with less time to feel comfortable, but that's probably not something we'll see this year.
Linebackers - B-
A lot of good from this unit, but some bad, too. Heeney and Tharp continue to play well, with 14 and 11 tackles apiece, and Jake Love had a solid effort with 6 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and a sack. Overall, this unit was the reason Texas was not able to do what usually do on offense. That said, it was the linebackers' overpursuit that really hurt us when Texas started running their jet sweeps in the fourth quarter. Heeney and Love are just a sophomore and freshman, respectively, so that overzealous nature may be tempered with time and experience. I think that within a year or two, we may well have a linebacking corps that looks a lot like some during the Mangino years with guys like Reid, Kane, Mortensen, Rivera, etc.
Secondary - C-
This was a tougher unit to grade. On one hand, Texas was largely ineffective through the air, and we did come up with two big interceptions. On the other, it looked like David Ash had a lot more to do with that than our DBs did. I think Case McCoy's success late in the game suggests that we lean toward the latter explanation when evaluating this group. When Texas needed to make plays through the air, they found open receivers (namely on the fourth down conversion late and the game-winning touchdown). Tyler Patmon once again found himself getting picked on, and I noticed a few times that Shepherd would come into the game and take the outside receiver, shifting Patmon inside to play nickel. That would suggest the coaching staff is trying to limit Patmon's one-on-one matchups with the opponent's X and Y, but doesn't have anyone ready to take the job full-time yet. That will be something to keep an eye on as we play a couple of pass-first offenses the next two weeks. All in all, this is a unit that is improving, but not a group you can depend on to secure a victory.
Special Teams - D
An argument could made for an F, but we did a few things well in this area Saturday. One, we hit a clutch field goal. Sure, a 28 yarder in any situation ought to be a given, but the fact is that it hasn't been for us, and it felt good to see that sail through the uprights. The other positive was the kickoff game. For the most part, we weren't pinning Texas down deep, but Prolago did a nice job with squib kicks, and Texas was never able to bust a big return. I expect to see that from here on out any time we don't have a stiff breeze at our backs.
Overall - C+
Given that we nearly pulled off a huge upset, it's tempting to give our performance a higher grade than C. However, we were solidly outgained by a fairly mediocre team, lost the field position battle, didn't come up with a few key stops, and had fewer points on the scoreboard, so I'm going to stop short of putting us in the B range. Still, this is the type of competitive game that we were asking for to start with under Charlie Weis, and outside of two road games against strong opponents, it's what we've seen every week. We still have a long way to go, and you can't throw out the beatdowns against KSU and Oklahoma, but there's no doubt that this team has improved. Last year's close losses to Baylor and ISU were outliers in a sea of awful performances (and we still gave up 600+ yards to Baylor). This year, I'm ready to call this a trend. Our offense has struggled, but our defense has (overall) looked genuinely decent. This was a tough loss to swallow because of the way it went down, but it's hard not to feel more confident about the direction of the team right now.
How would you rate the Jayhawks' performance Saturday?
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