Well, if you're looking for a reason to be happy about Kansas football, they got their first win against the spread of the Beaty era on Saturday. The score managed to stay fairly tame, though watching the game, it's hard to feel like Kansas was even that close. Still, Rutgers gained 6.2 yards/play to KU's 5.6, which is respectable. The problem is that they converted on 8 of 12 third downs and managed to possess the ball for ~63% of the game. It's hard to get excited about this one, but it's hard to feel as bad about it as, say, the Memphis game. I'm not sure where I'm going with this other than to say it wasn't as big a disaster as I thought it would be.
Quarterbacks - C+
De'ondre Ford never looked entirely comfortable to me, but then again it's hard to look comfortable when you're running for your life. Cozart, despite being sick, was able to step in after Ford's injury and put together what was arguably the best pure passing performance of his career. Despite weak protection and an inability to keep the defense honest with the scrambles he usually uses to set up any success he has through the air, Cozart was 13/18 for 193 yards (a career high 10.7 yards/attempt) with no interceptions. He did have a couple of very errant passes that looked like they may be due to a miscommunication of some sort, but overall he was able to get the ball where it needed to go for some nice gains. It did look to me like he could have escaped the pressure on both the sacks he took, but I'm not the one with a defensive end running at me full speed, so that's speculation on my part. Rutgers' secondary is decimated, and that's factored in to the grade, but a Cozart who stays behind the line of scrimmage and finds open receivers is a Cozart we haven't seen before. Here's hoping that's a positive sign for the future.
Running Backs - incomplete
How do you grade the running backs when they had absolutely nowhere to go? The run blocking in this game looked like a throwback to last year, when the space simply wasn't there for the backfield (which makes sense, I suppose, given that it's mostly the same players). Still, this was against a Rutgers team that, even after KU's 2.2 yards/carry performance is factored in, gives up close to 5 yards a carry this year. After seeing what Ke'Aun Kinner was capable of in the first time games, I find it hard to fail the running backs for the lack of a running game Saturday (outside of Mann's 40 yard run in the second half).
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends - C
Bear in mind that Rutgers' suspensions and attrition have hit their secondary especially hard, and that their defensive backfield is about as experienced as ours. That's why I'm not willing to go higher than C for the receivers. There were also some mistakes from this group that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, like a whiffed block by Bobby Hartzog on the outside that blew up a potential nice gain for Kinner, and an inexplicable dropped pass by an open Steven Sims on what I believe would have been a first down play on third and long. Still, Tyler Patrick had another nice showing with 3 catches for 70 yards, and Tre Parmalee seems to be settling in as a reliable short-to-medium game option, catching 5 passes for 64 yards. Kent Taylor had just 2 catches for 29, but was overthrown by Deondre Ford on what could have been a big gain over the middle early. I have a feeling that Taylor could be putting up big numbers in another offense. Overall, this group made some plays and helped make the passing game a general positive for the offense.
Offensive Line - F
Yikes. Between a complete failure to open up any holes for Kinner and Mann, getting Ford hurt while under constant duress, and giving Cozart very little time, routinely leaving blitzing linebackers and safeties untouched, I can't think of an argument for anything better than an F grade here.
Defensive Line - D+
Ben Goodman is a machine, racking up 7 tackles, including a QB hurry and a tackle for loss. It actually would have been 8 tackles and a sack, were it not for an uncharacteristically careless horsecollar/facemask penalty on a play where he had the QB dead to rights well behind the line of scrimmage. However, it was once again difficult to find highlights from the rest of the line, who were generally swallowed by Rutgers' offensive front. While the cornerbacks deserve a lot of the criticism they receive, the interior defensive line probably doesn't get enough credit for KU's struggles in defending the pass, as they provide little to no pressure or havoc in the backfield. This would be an F if not for Goodman.
Linebacker - C-
Joe Dineen and Schyler Miles continue to look better than I thought they would, but then again Rutgers is probably the ideal type of team for them to play against. The Scarlet Knights don't force linebackers to do much lateral movement, nor do they force them to recover receivers. Marquis Roberts also turned in a nice performance. They were generally able to keep Rutgers' backs from getting to the third level, but it's hard to heap too much credit on the linebackers when the opponent rushes for over 300 yards.
Secondary - F
Tyrone Miller getting literally run over by one of Rutgers' big receivers was maybe the most embarrassing thing we've seen from Kansas football aside from the fumbled spike attempt. He was still able to amass 11 tackles on the day, but I won't go heaping praise on him, given that he was only able to do so after he repeatedly allowed his man to catch the ball. New Jersey native Tevin Shaw had a nice day with 10 tackles, and did a good job of supporting the linebackers in the running game, but overall this group gave Rutgers whatever they wanted through the air.
Overall - D
Between beating the spread, bending but not breaking defensively, and coming up with a passing game, I'm willing to grade this team above the F level for this performance. The positives do have to come with a grain of salt, given that Rutgers is one of the worse teams in power 5 football, but any positive is noteworthy for the team at this point. This definitely wasn't a C performance, but I'm not sure it was a failure, either, as we were able to go on the road and keep things respectable against a Big 10 team.