Want an indication of just how terrible Kansas football has been? What ended up being a two touchdown road loss actually felt like a competitive step in the right direction.
That Jayhawk defense though... Even Greg Robinson would be disgusted, and that guy is the defensive coordinator equivalent to ebola. Even so, and in spite of giving up 312 yards on the ground, the defense looked better than it had all season - as absurd as that statement may seem. The 'Hawks got a chunk of turnovers for the first time this season, and even got some key stops to keep the game competitive into the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
The defense has deserved the lion's share of the ridicule in 2015, but the 'Hawks shallow talent team wide has made it so the hurry up Air Raid offense deserves some criticism. Hurry, hurry, hurry, the run as many plays as possible offense has to be able to convert third downs and keep drives going. Otherwise it leaves your defense on the field for hours. The Jayhawk offense continues to stall on third and fourth downs more consistently than it does anything else.
Rutgers' defense stacked the line to stop Ke'aun Kinner and De'Andre Mann to leave the game in the Jayhawks' suspect quarterbacking hands. Montell Cozart continues to look like he has no idea how to run a read option - time and time again forgetting to actually, you know, read the defensive end. So many wasted running plays kept burying the Jayhawks in third and long holes from which they've yet to show they can climb out.
Montell Cozart - After sitting out the early portion of the game due to "flu like symptoms," Cozart entered the game after Deondre Ford was decked, injuring his throwing thumb in the process. Cozart sparked the offense and led them to their first TD, which made the game 13-7 midway through the second quarter. Cozart finished 13-18 for 193 yards at a very nice 10.7 yards a pass. He looked more accurate than he had all season, less willing to just bolt for it and run, keeping his eyes downfield for some big plays.
Ke'aun Kinner and De'Andre Mann - Both backs get a sticker here. It was tough sledding for Kinner on Saturday, gaining just 23 yards on 15 carries, but his brace of TD runs increased his team leading total to five. Kinner has been the heart of the Jayhawks red zone offense. Mann's 41 yard run ignited a dead Jayhawk offense and keyed their first touchdown drive. Rutgers' was determined to stop the 'Hawks running game, but going forward Kinner and Mann look like a pretty decent one-two running back punch.
Tyler Patrick - The redshirt freshman and former walk on showed a lot of good speed and hands in the spring game. After leading the 'Hawks in receptions against Memphis, Patrick did a good job of finding space in Rutgers' defensive backfield for 70 yards and was just inches away from a touchdown reception to show that spring time performance may have been legit. Look for his playing time to increase.
Ben Goodman - KU's buck defensive lineman was the only Jayhawk defender to get pressure on Chris Laviano all day. And it wasn't easy. Goodman was playing his ass off, hustling and fighting for every advantage. No, I haven't forgotten about the horse collar tackle (see below), but Goodman, just a sophomore, seems to be the only defender showing heart for the 'Hawks right now.
Greg Allen - Hey, what's a Kansas defensive back doing on the sticker side of things? Allen is here because he got the first interception of the season for this much maligned defensive unit. If this defense hopes to have any chance week to week they have to cash in on turnovers. Dropped picks cost the Jayhawks in a big way against South Dakota State in game one. On the play, Allen made a nice play in cutting off the route, keeping his feet in bounds and killing a Rutgers red zone scoring opportunity. It was just a shame that the offense gave the ball right back to the Scarlet Knights on the 'Hawks' next series.
Due for Some Drill Work
The Offensive Line - Downright offensive. The line couldn't open up holes for Kinner and Mann, limiting the 'Hawks running game to just 64 yards at a 2.2 yard per carry rate. They also seemed incapable of keeping heat out of KU quarterbacks' faces. Early on, Ford couldn't get a pass off without someone hitting his arm, and eventually the lack of protection knocked him out of the game. Cozart did a better job of getting the ball out of his hands, but like Ford he had pressure bearing down on him all day. The pressure blew up a fourth down play that looked to be set up pretty well on a drive that could have led to a 27-21 game late, but Cozart had to rush his throw and missed hitting Tre Parmalee in stride.
Defensive Line - Rutgers gutted them up the middle with a power running game, and outside of Goodman never really made Laviano sweat while throwing the ball.
Defensive Backfield - So far off from receivers. Pushed around and bullied by Rutgers' giant-sized receivers. This KU defensive backfield is going to be ripped to shreds to a devastating degree by Big 12 offenses. There were some Pop Warner pee wee football level open spaces for Rutgers receivers run free.
Ben Goodman - As pleased as I was with his overall play, Goodman's horse collar tackle on Laviano on a third and long play that was going nowhere was a catastrophic lapse of judgment. Immediately following a Jayhawk touchdown that made the game 13-7, the 'Hawk defense came out inspired and - GASP - shut down Rutgers' offense. A third down pass attempt completely broke down as Goodman had Laviano running for his life. Laviano reared back to just get rid of the ball. The incompletion would have forced Rutgers to punt. Instead, Goodman grabbed both Laviano's face mask and horse collar to drag Laviano to the ground right in front of an official. The play preserved a drive that Rutgers eventually put into the end zone, and the game was never again closer than 13 points.
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