23. No, not Michael Jordan. No, not LeBron James while in Cleveland. The number 23 is the amount of consecutive losses The University of Kansas football team has away from Lawrence. The losing-streak reached 23 last Saturday after KU lost to Rice in Houston, 23-14. Once again, the Jayhawks were in great position to end the losing-streak and win the game in 4th quarter, leading at one point, 14-13. However, for the second consecutive year, Rice kicker Chris Boswell put a dagger through KU fans with his kicking ability. Last year, in Lawrence, Boswell made the game-winning field goal as time expired. This year, Boswell nailed a 56-yard field goal with 8:05 left to give the Owls the lead, a lead which KU would never see again. Rice put the game out of reach with 3:28 left when Charles Ross had an eight yard touchdown run to give the Owls the lead 23-14. With this game over, what is there to love and what is there to hate after the game against Rice?
3 Things to Love
1. Ben Heeney
I think all KU fans would agree with this one. Linebacker Ben Heeney was all over the place on Saturday, tallying 15 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and one sack. Heeney was without a doubt Kansas’ brightest spot on Saturday. The Hutchinson, Kansas native looked extremely impressive covering Rice’s running game and especially the option, running down ball-carriers. Weis commented in his weekly press-conference on Heeney’s ability to to cover ground. “He might not run faster, but he’s playing faster. That’s how guys play in the NFL. When they come, they’re coming with a vengeance. He’s a pleasure to watch.” Look for Heeney to continue to be a leader on KU’s defense.
2. The Overall Defense
In addition to Heeney, the Jayhawk’s entire defense looked impressive against Rice. Now, there is always room for improvement but this was definitely a start. Kansas’ defense only allowed 16 points (the other seven points were from a defensive touchdown for Rice) against a team that scored 31 points against Texas A&M. Kansas recorded three sacks in the game, two from Michael Reynolds and the one from Heeney. They also had two interceptions; one by Dexter McDonald and another by Isaiah Johnson, who was one tackle away from taking it into the endzone. Overall, after a small sample size, Kansas is ranked 2nd in the nation in pass defense efficiency and 32nd in overall defense. Hopefully the Jayhawks can take this defensive momentum into the game against Louisiana Tech this weekend and into conference play.
3. Tony Pierson’s Touchdown Catch and Run
Tony Pierson, who had 95 yards on four catches, got the bulk of those yards on one play in the 2nd quarter. Pierson ran a slant route, covered by two Rice players, caught the ball, bounced off a tackler, and outran the rest of the Rice defense for a 77-yard touchdown run. Pierson truly showed his agility and speed on this one play. Charlie Weis talked a lot about using him in a “Tavon Austin-type role” this season, and this was the play that showed why. The unfortunate thing about Pierson in the Rice game is the fact that he didn’t get the ball enough. Pierson touched the ball a total of only five times, which is clearly not enough for KU’s most dangerous weapon.
3 Things to Hate
1. The Play-calling
Kansas football followers know one thing is for sure regarding this KU team: running the ball is their main strength. So, why did the running backs only have 23 (there’s that number again) total rushes? That number should be at the very least 30. There was way too many passing plays called on first down, especially in the first half. For instance, with just under three minutes to go in the first half, trailing 10-7, the Jayhawks started a drive on their own 40 hoping to drive the ball and tie the game or take the lead into halftime. On first down, a fly-pattern was called to Justin McKay, which quarterback Jake Heaps threw into the hands of the wrong team, resulting in Rice driving down and making a field goal to take a six-point lead at the half. Why not run the ball and hope to pound your way into field goal range, tying the game before the half? Or, even better, why not give your team an opportunity to bust a long run and possibly go into the locker room with a four point lead? I understand that Weis is a veteran coach that has coached at the highest level and knows things I don’t, however I do know that running the ball is KU’s strength and they should play to their strengths at all times.
2. Jimmay Mundine
The player who was arguably most surprising in Kansas’ Spring Game this year has had a disappointing start to the regular season. Tight end Jimmay Mundine has dropped several passes this season that would have been long gains for the Jayhawks. Mundine dropped one pass in the first half on 3rd down that would’ve given the Jayhawks a new set of downs. Another one came late that possibly would have turned into six points if Mundine would’ve been able to hang on. Now, Mundine isn’t the only one, unfortunately for him he has just done it the most. A handful of other KU players have dropped key passes in this young season.
3. Marquel Combs
The No. 1 ranked 2013 Junior College in the nation came to Kansas to join the football team this season. One would assume he would be a starter and a force on the defensive end, right? Wrong. Defensive linemen Marquel Combs was unable to earn himself a spot on the first-team this year. Combs didn’t even make the trip to Houston for the game against Rice. In Weis’ weekly press conference, it was announced that Combs will most likely redshirt this season. Now, this is great for next year’s team, but what about this year? It is far from being a complete disaster, there is still more than enough time to have a successful season. Unfortunately for Kansas football fans, it appears that we will have to wait to see Combs in action because he is “not ready.”
Prediction for Kansas vs. Louisiana Tech: Kansas 28 La Tech 17