Kansas came painfully close to pulling off what would have been the biggest football upset I've seen in person. Though they didn't get the win, it was nice to see strong, competent football being played in consecutive weeks. Much like it was tough to grade last week due to Iowa State's injury bug, it's hard to pinpoint just how tough a team we played in TCU Saturday. They had their regular complement of players, but there's little doubt we truly got the Frogs' best shot. It was a cold, dreary day in Lawrence, and TCU was playing a bottom-dwelling team on the road, one week after a huge primetime victory over a top 10 opponent. Regardless of just how seriously TCU took us, we still played a very good team down to the wire.
Quarterbacks - B
Despite a lackluster completion %, Michael Cummings turned in a very solid performance Saturday, averaging close to 9 yards per attempt, and threading the needle on a number of tough throws. He hit the cold, hard ground a number of times, and on several occasions, had to jog to the sideline with his throwing arm hanging awkwardly. In fact, Montell Cozart was warming up with his helmet on, ready to go at one point. Still, Cummings fought through it admirably and posted the best stat line of his career. TCU's pass defense is actually pretty mediocre, but he was still able to burn them for 1.5 yards per attempt more than their season average.
Running Backs - C
It's my standard grade for the running backs this year, because it was another standard run-blocking performance by the o-line. Kansas rushed for 76 yards on 36 attempts, averaging a putrid 2.1 yards per carry, but when there's nowhere to go, there's nowhere to go. It's become an embarrassingly common theme this year, but the o-line simply couldn't open up a hole, or even a crease, for our runners Saturday. As a result, I can't justify coming down too hard on the backfield
Receivers - A
This may be the first A I've given to an offensive unit this year. This receiving corps is rounding into form, as Nigel King and Jimmay Mundine became the first pair of receivers to go over 100 yards in the same game since...you guessed it, Kerry Meier and Desmon Briscoe. They also made two plays that will be on KU football highlight reels for some time to come. Mundine is one of 8 national semifinalists for the Mackey award, and leads Big 12 tight ends in receptions and yards. King has been a welcome surprise, transforming from "the guy who transferred from Maryland" in August to our biggest downfield receiving threat. Rodriguez Coleman and Tre Parmalee even reminded us they're both still on the roster by catching passes Saturday!
Offensive Line - F
The line actually did a halfway-serviceable job of protecting Cummings, especially given the opponent, but the run blocking was so abysmal I can't consider giving them even a D-. Granted, TCU ranks 10th in the nation in yards/rush allowed, so no one should have expected anything different, but it's maddening to watch the line get pushed back play after play. Though Cummings was "only" sacked twice, he had a few balls knocked down at the line of scrimmage as well, and found himself on the run more often than I'm sure he would have liked.
Defensive Line - C-
Honestly, Kansas was fortunate that it took TCU more than half the game to realize we couldn't stop Aaron Green. Green ran 19 times for 128 yards and two scores, but 14 of those carries came in the second half, and he had ample room more often than not. Still, aside from a couple frustrating, long drives in the second half, the line was able to make their presence known for much of this game. Tedarian Johnson and Tyler Holmes even found their names being called five and four times, respectively.
Linebackers - C+
Heeney grabbed double-digit tackles, and Jake Love complimented him by adding 7, with one behind the line of scrimmage. Reynolds was his usual self as well, pressuring the quarterback at times, and disappearing at others. He was able to register a team-high seventh sack of the season. The only thing holding the LBs back was the number of times Aaron Green was able to catch someone out of position and simply outrun the second level of defense.
Secondary - C
Jacorey Shepherd had a fantastic day, intercepting a pass and breaking up another, and not registering a single tackle (which, for an outside corner, is kind of a good thing). That said, the safeties and nickels were eaten up by Boykin and and the short-to-medium passing game. Tevin Shaw and Cassius Sendish do some nice things, but they're simply a step too slow to be effective in coverage against a team as fast as TCU. Sendish did rack up ten tackles, but I saw him miss two on screen plays that could have been stopped at the line of scrimmage.
Special Teams - F
Special teams finds a way to shoot us in the foot in a big way at least once a week. Pardula once again came up with a great punting average, but a couple of inexplicable short punts that cost Kansas field position, and the punt coverage team have up a touchdown return that probably gave TCU the game. We also managed to give up an unacceptable 20+ yards per kickoff return, despite kicking short on several occasions. O-line is still this team's biggest problem, but special teams as a whole may be giving them a run for their money.
Overall - B-
We were able to hang tight with the 4th ranked team in the country, which is a positive regardless of the other factors in play. The defense showed some flaws, but kept things manageable while the offense turned in what I would call the most impressive performance I've seen from a KU team since Todd Reesing and co. came up short against Missouri at Arrowhead in 2009. I'm not going overboard and handing out an A, given that regardless of how promising a loss it might have been, we still lost a home game. Still, given that a very good K-State team was picked apart by TCU just a week prior, there's no doubt this performance was better than what you'd expect from any average team