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Kansas Football Report Card: Southeast Missouri State

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The first weekly report card grading each unit's performance against their last opponent. This week we look at the game against Southeast Missouri State

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I went into Saturday happy to finally get some answers to our postseason questions. Will the offense be improved with the hiring of John Reagan? Will the defense's arrow continue to point up? Are we better at kicker? Will Cozart look better in the new offensive system? How will our new running backs look without Bourbon and Cox?

Sadly, it appears we're going to have to wait another week to start piecing together the answers. I thought Kansas had answered the questions in a big way after one quarter Saturday, but the remainder of the game cast a lot of doubt. Did they let our foot off the gas? Did they fail to adjust to SEMO's adjustments? Did they refuse to open the playbook at all, and almost pay the price? Is conditioning the issue? "Walking away with more questions than answers" is a cliche, but it may fit here.

In traditional fashion, I'll be breaking down each unit of the team and assigning a grade to their performance

Quarterback - C-

Cozart came out firing and found the first aerial success of his young career, completing 6 of 8 passes in the first quarter. He even threaded the needle past a diving corner on a touchdown to Nick Harwell. It looked like his sub-40% completion rate from last year was a thing of the past. He would go 6 of 16 down the stretch, overthrowing open receivers several times. He did make a couple nice plays with his feet and ran the option pretty well, though he netted negative yardage due to sacks

Running Back - B

Even though the offense's overall production swooned after the big first quarter, it's hard to pin that on the running backs. Neither Mann or Avery has the speed to be considered a home run back, Avery (19 rush, 91 yards) showed quick feet and a knack for finding the right direction. Mann (15 rush, 121 yards) runs hard and isn't afraid to deliver a blow. Obviously they were working against a poor defense, so I won't go overboard in my ratings, but you couldn't have asked for much more out of them

Wide Receivers - B

We all rightfully had some sliver of doubt about Nick Harwell, given this program's recent track record with transfer players, but Harwell made a statement Saturday. 4 catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns isn't the most impressive stat line, but when was the last time Kansas had a receiver who showed the strength and IQ that Harwell displayed? He also impressed me with his run blocking on option plays. I'm calling Tony Pierson a receiver for the purposes of the report card, and he had a fantastic game with 139 yards, lining up both in the backfield and the slot

Offensive Line - D-

The line had its share of struggles last year, and I expected more of the same this year with a decent amount of turnover and some familiar lackluster faces given starting spots. Unfortunately, my concerns appear justified. The line did a decent job of run blocking, but that's to be expected against a smaller line and weaker team. The poor blocking and missed assignments in pass protection were indefensible. I do have some hope that with time, this group will gel and improve, but with the protection issues and the failure to get enough push to earn a first down on consecutive short yardage plays in the third quarter, the line is lucky to escape an F rating

Defensive Line - C-

Two thirds of the line actually did very well. Keon Stowers occupied space and managed 3 tackles, and Goodman was his usual disruptive self, too quick for SEMO's o-line and notching 2 TFLs and a sack. The rotating tackle position featuring Bolton and Semke left a lot to be desired, as neither held their ground the way you'd like to see against this type of opponent. The linebackers were generally able to step in and make quick tackles against the run, and SEMO's quarterback had to take off more times than he would have liked, but overall there wasn't enough push in the trenches to call the overall effort anything more than average

Linebackers - B

There isn't a ton to say about the linebackers. Love and Heeney combined for 16 tackles, and played the type of solid football we've come to expect from them. Michael Reynolds and Victor Simmons caused some nice disruption in the backfield from the BUCK position, but Reynolds in particular has trouble sealing off his end of the line and too often overruns the play. When he's quick enough to the spot, it makes things tough for the offense. When he's not, it opens up space for the quarterback or ballcarrier. It is possible that this is the down lineman's responsibility and shouldn't be attributed to the BUCK, and that's where these grades can get dicey sometimes

1st-3rd quarter Secondary: B+, 4th quarter Secondary - F

I don't know how to just give one grade to the DBs for the whole game. SEMO quarterback Kyle Snyder went 5 for 8 in the fourth quarter for 184 yards and three touchdowns. In the entire game prior to that, he was 7 of 19 for 85 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. The Jayhawks kept the passing game in front of them and shut it down for three quarters. Everything from scheming to adjustments to conditioning has been blamed for the breakdown in the 4th, and I don't have any one pet explanation. I really doubt conditioning is the issue, as this same secondary was on the field for all of last season without breaking down, and there have been no big changes in the S&C staff or program. When going back and watching the 4th quarter after the game, I did notice that we did very little to change the looks we threw at SEMO, and my guess is that they eventually figured out the coverage pre-snap, and used it to their advantage. Right or wrong, our defensive staff refused to adjust and we gave up big plays. We'll find out against Duke how things look when Bowen's bag of tricks is all the way open

Special Teams - C+

There were good things and bad things in the special teams phase Saturday. Pardula was excellent all night, averaging over 45 yards per punt and placing all four inside the 20. Punt coverage deserves some kudos for this as well. We got two touchbacks on kickoffs, and while SEMO had a few ok kick returns, it didn't earn them great field position. The kicking game was a bit touchy, as Wyman went two for four. He missed two 49 yard attempts, one that was very close, and one that was blocked due to a complete breakdown in blocking. Three opposing players came crashing in on the kick and it never had a chance. Jacorey Shepherd had a nice kick return, but there weren't many return opportunities for the night

Overall - C-

I know a lot of people were fuming at how close the game got at the end, with some essentially treating it as a loss. To me, the fact that we dominated defensively for three quarters and went into the fourth with a 34-7 lead is really encouraging. The 1st quarter was the best bit of football I've seen out of this program since 2009. Then again, you can't write off the fact that a bad FCS football team was able to make a close game out of it. Because of the circumstances, I'm not willing to completely turf the grade for the entire game based on how close the score got, but to each his own