Monday, November 5, 2007

KU/NU Post-mortem

Perhaps this is a product of trying to surround myself with generally decent individuals, but at Kansas football games, I sit directly in front of possibly the worst people I have ever encountered. As I don't know much more about their lives than their opinions as they pertain to football, I can't be certain they are the worst, but they are without a doubt some of the most insatiable and difficult to please. I won't delve into this too much as there are much more joyful things to discuss about Saturday, but let's make a couple quick observations:
1. Numerous times, Kendrick Harper more deserved to die than he did to play football. Nevermind the fact that KU was in single coverage with no safety help and he was going against Maurice Purify – a very talented and gifted athlete. Nevermind that the score was 48-21. Nevermind that no one will ever more deserve to die than to play football.
2. Scott Webb should be kicked off the team. Trust me, I'm worried about him right now and I would have LOVED for that field goal to go in after last week's dismal performance. With that being said, the guy missed a stutter step kick on account of a high snap in a 76-31 game. Perhaps we should hold off on the lynching.
3. Angus Quigley is stupid and isn't trying. Yes, you heard that correct, even Angus Quigley got thrown to the wolves as he ran 6 times for 17 yards in the games final minutes. What I failed to mention though is that he did not "get out of bounds" because "[we] want 80!" so he must be "worthless and not even trying." For the love of shit, of course 80 would have been beautiful, but are you kidding me?
And one final note here. Just so you know, the trio providing these comments is a 70ish year old couple and a third wheel from the same demographic (who shares in all the comments and was entirely responsible for the last). Also, it should be noted that they never have anything to drink so this is presumably their most well behaved state and that the one thing that made them smile and giggle was on the 12 kickoffs as the students yelled, "Rip his fucking head off!" Now, I have no problem with the chant, but I know few people from that demographic that can stand it, let alone that revel in it. I can't even begin to tell you how many more brain damaging comments were made, but these were some of the more colorful moments that came from some people that define the "glass half empty" adage on such a historic and beautiful day on the hill.

Can you believe Nebraska led this game 7-0 and 14-7 in front of a stunned, lifeless Memorial Stadium? Fortunately, Kansas has Hot Toddy. Obviously he doesn't do this on his own, but he has now responded with a TD drive almost every time an opponent takes the lead. The one exception was after KSU took its initial first half leads, though he did respond when they took a 4th quarter lead. Every time the other team takes the momentum, he steals it back – and it rarely takes more than about 2 minutes. Similarly to how he senses when to get out of the pocket or when to get rid of the ball, he seems to sense when he has to score. On the first drive – a 3 and out – he missed an open receiver that would have converted a 3rd down. On Kansas' second and third drives - when trailing - he led on 2 scoring drives, totaling less than 4 minutes. The guy knows how to play with a sense of urgency. I have been taking Tom Keegan and Gingerballs lightly in their Heisman campaigns for him, but if Ginger does another side by side comparison with the QBs actually in the discussion, his numbers and team's success are indisputable and stack up remarkably well.

There isn't a whole lot to be said about this game that hasn't been said, but take a look at Kansas' possessions 2 – 13.

2. 7 plays for 68 yards, TD
3. 6 plays for 50 yards, TD
4. 5 plays for 62 yards, TD
5. 10 plays for 74 yards, TD
6. 4 plays for 61 yards, TD
7. 13 plays for 62 yards, TD
8. 3 plays for 19 yards, TD
9. 8 plays for 44 yards, TD
10. 5 plays for 23 yards, TD
11. 4 plays for 30 yards, TD
12. 11 plays for 37 yards, missed FG
13. 5 plays for 37 yards, TD

Umm…wow. There are a plethora of reasons for why that happened, but here are 2 big ones: 1) No turnovers; and 2) 1 penalty on 90 offensive snaps. When you have a balanced offense that can win on the ground (24 rushing TDs) or through the air (25 passing TDs), not beating yourself is key – and Kansas is certainly not beating themselves. I can't even begin to fathom how impressive this stat line is: 90 plays – 76 points – 1 penalty – 0 turnovers. I know it's Nebraska, but good golly. It's not that surprising to note that in 6 decades (00s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 70s & 80s) Kansas did not total 76 points. This was your typical Brasky fan by about 12:30 on Saturday. It's hard to believe that it wasn't much more than a year ago that many of us were perfectly comfortable with Mangino being replaced, as Kansas had squandered leads in 5 games and were 3-5 heading in to their final 4.

Despite the impressive victory, there is cause for concern with the 39 points allowed. By the way, did Callahan go for 2 just so Kansas wouldn't officially double what Nebraska scored? If not, I can't think of another reason to do it with 4:16 left on the clock. But, I digress. Obviously Kansas came out looking for Nebraska to run and play conservatively, which lead to 24 first half points allowed. I can partially understand this as Ganz was making his first start and in addition to not having any tape on him, it is fair to assume that they may try and ease him in, especially with Lucky in the backfield. However, they had to know Nebraska was playing with house money and would come in looking to strike early and often to take the wind out of the Kansas sails – which is exactly what they did. Fortunately, Kansas responded better offensively than anyone could have ever imagined and the defense tightened up and made some adjustments. However, they continue to be very susceptible to passes over the middle and in the slots. Anyone who remembers Adarius Bowman should be alarmed by this. And anyone who doesn't isn't reading this rant. However, I doubt Kansas thought Purify could beat them – they already know that Bowman can, so I'm thinking they might game plan a bit differently. The key here is to allow the catches but ALWAYS keep him in front. The only way to do this is to tackle well. I'm confident Kansas can do this – I just hope their run defense does not suffer. They allowed more yards rushing this week than in any other conference game and it only totaled 79, 57 of which came on the last drive against the reserves. The point here is that Kansas has yet to allow a conference team to rush for 100 yards while Dantrell Savage has rushed for over 100 in his last 6 games. Something's gotta give. If Kansas can win that battle while adequately containing Bowman, they will be in great shape. That is much easier said than done, however and will be elaborated on more in the game preview later this week.

All in all, it was an incredible weekend for the Jayhawks, who are now 4th in the BCS rankings. First off, let me say that I could not be happier about this – I like them exactly where they are. But, don't you find it funny that they are still being voted below LSU, Oregon and especially OU. I'm not trying to argue that Kansas is better than those teams, but how can they not be ranked as so?

LSU is 8-1 and could just as easily be 5-4 with 2 home losses. The SEC is a very balanced conference with a very good reputation, but let's look at a few of their games.
1) Won v. Va. Tech 45-7. Very dominating, but is anyone truly impressed with Va. Tech?
2) Won v. Fla 28 -24. Good win over a good 3 loss team without a defense. Plus, it took 5 4th down conversions in the 4th quarter.
3) Lost @ UK 43-37. Enough said.
4) Won v. Auburn 30-24. First off, it took a last second TD. And secondly, is Auburn that good? They were beaten at home by South Florida and Miss. St. and dominated by KSU before an inevitable Josh Freeman blunder.
5) Won @ Bama 41-34. Good win over a "solid team" despite the fact that Bama only beat Houston 30-24 and Ole Miss 27-24, so how solid are they?

As for Oregon – they lost AT HOME to a Cal team that hadn't won again until they snuck out a W over Washington St.(3-6) this week 20 -17. They have some solid wins against USC and ASU – but nothing that defines them as the #2 team in the nation. And I'm sorry, but I still don't put much stock in the Michigan win. Just because they are squeaking by pitiful Big 10 teams doesn't mean it's a good win…THEY LOST TO APPALACHIAN ST!

And finally…Oklahoma. Oklahoma's has been very good in Norman (avg. victory of 39 points), where they came back after trailing in the fourth quarter to beat a scary Missouri team – albeit one coached by Gary Pinkel. However, away from home, they have: 1) clobbered Tulsa; 2) squeaked by a poor Texas team on a neutral field; 3) escaped Ames with a second half push; and 4) lost in Boulder. Kansas, meanwhile has won their home games by an average of 46 points and on the road they have: 1) Won in Manhattan, College Station, and …. Boulder.

To be perfectly honest, there is no real reason OSU deserves to be ranked ahead of KU either as they have done nothing the Jayhawks have not. Neither team has faced any competition at home. They are both 3-0 on the road. Ohio State's wins have come @ Minnesota, Purdue and Penn St. Kansas' have come at Kansas St., Colorado and Texas A&M. Tell me which of those two slates are more impressive.

With all that said, I like Kansas exactly where they are because they can still play the 'no respect' card (by the way, it was just announced Chase Daniel beat out Hot Toddy for Big 12 player of the week), but be in a perfect position to control their own destiny. The longer they can combine confidence with a chip on their shoulder, the better. In a season where Navy beats Notre Dame, Stanford beats USC, Appy St. wins @ Michigan, and Nebraska couldn't stop a decent high school team, I have to ask – is it more or less realistic that Kansas could go undefeated. Here's to hoping for the former. Hot Toddy!

If you're still reading this, congratulations! All I can give you is a #4 ranking in both football and basketball. I hope that will suffice.

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