Well, the 11-game losing streak is over. Finally. In Kansas’ first game of the season against the South Dakota Coyotes, there was some good moments and some not-so-good moments. One obvious good moment is that the Jayhawks won, after all, that is what matters most, right? One obvious not-so-good moment is the fact that Kansas was losing after the 1st quarter to an FCS team that won one game last season. Other than the obvious, there was a handful of promising moments and moments that made Kansas fans feel uneasy about the upcoming season.
3 Things to Love
1. The Running Game
Shocking, I know. The Jayhawk’s strongest unit from last year will once again be the strongest unit this year. In fact, it is even better than last year after bringing back Darrian Miller, who played for KU two years ago and was released when Charlie Weis was named the head coach. Miller managed 72 yards on 14 carries, averaging a respectable 5.1 yards per carry. In addition to Miller, James Sims had 94 yards and two touchdowns, Tony Pierson had 47 yards on five carries, Taylor Cox had 44 yards on six carries, Brandon Bourbon had 32 yards on two carries as well as a touchdown. Five different running backs that defenses have to respect will be used throughout the entire year.
2. Special Teams
Remember last season when Ron Doherty made a 37 yard field goal in the first quarter against TCU? And then it ended up being the longest field goal made all year due to the fact that Kansas’ kicking game was absolutely atrocious? Well, good news…it looked a whole lot better on Saturday. Matthew Wyman, a walk-on kicker, made a 45 yard field goal in the 4th quarter on Saturday. Wyman has already extended last year’s long by eight yards. In addition, Connor Embree looked electric as a punt returner. Embree had multiple punt returns where he was a tackle away from taking it the house. One more quick thing regarding special teams, Trevor Pardula was able to kick a handful of kickoffs through the endzone for a touchback. (If you watched Kansas last year, you will understand why this is included.)
3. Jake Heaps
I know, I know, his stats don’t look like anything spectacular. 10 for 20 passing for 110 yards and a touchdown…not exactly Heisman numbers, I get it. However, if you watched Heaps on Saturday you noticed how much “zip” was on the ball and the fact that he put the ball where it needed to be (50% completion rate is misleading, there were several dropped passes from KU receivers). If Heaps can continue to do this throughout the year and keep defenses honest, it will only continue to help out the Jayhawks’ number one strength, running the football.
Keon Stowers’ interception returned for a touchdown that was called back, Kansas’ new uniforms
3 Things to Hate
1. The Defense against the run
Once again, don’t let the stats deceive you. South Dakota ran for 219 yards on Saturday against Kansas’ defense (it could be a lot worse…Texas). Numerous times quarterback Josh Vander Maten would roll out of the pocket and pick up a solid chuck of yardage. Normally this wouldn’t be something to worry about, however, with a game against a team with another dual-threat quarterback, it is something to worry about. Rice’s quarterback, Taylor McHargue had 78 yards rushing against Texas A&M, Rice’s only game so far this season. It will be interesting to see what Dave Campo does with his defense this weekend.
Is there anything more frustrating in a football game where your team continues to hurt themselves by committing ridiculous penalties? Blocks in the back, 12 men on the field, and more were some of the penalties that took potential points off the board for the Jayhawks. Kansas ended the game with nine penalties for 71 yards. If Charlie Weis’ crew wants to be competitive this season, they cannot shoot themselves in the foot with stupid mistakes. Expect KU to clean up their act this weekend against Rice regarding the amount of penalty yards.
3. The “Jayhawk Formation”
KU can’t call it the Wildcat because, well, that’s what Kansas State (and everyone else) calls it. Last season, against Texas especially, Kansas had a lot of success in the Jayhawk Formation with Christian Matthews running the ball. It didn’t work out as well on Saturday. Matthews carried the ball four times for only six yards which is a very small sample size, but from what I saw, I didn’t like it. Matthews was unable to get to the edge and cut up the corner like he was able to at times last season.
The great news about the things to hate? All are fixable.