We're halfway through the season, two games into league play and our beloved Jayhawks sit at 5-1 (2-0), #16 in the country and in sole possession of first place in the Big XII north. Some of those things may not last long, but it feels really good to know that in the past year and a half of football, Kansas is 17-2 with an Orange Bowl Championship. Obviously, it would be extremely difficult to keep that type of record in tact with the upcoming slate of games. But just remember to enjoy the ride while you can, because as much as I believe in what Mangino is building, this kind of success isn't a given anywhere, let alone Kansas. And more importantly, be extremely grateful that you don't have to root for a quarterback that looks like a fat hobbit, has a mohawk, wears a skull cap and throws three interceptions in big games at home.
The outcome was: exactly what the team needed. It certainly wasn’t a dominating performance, but it was a comfortable win against a capable opponent. There are still some big holes in this team, but they're finding their identity and so far it’s led them to a 5-1 record. And while that’s impressive, these next six figure to be a bite more difficult.
Offensive MVP was: Todd Reesing. Many would argue Sharp (31 for 118, 3 TDs) deserves this honor and I’d have no problem with that. He was as much a part of the win as anyone and played great throughout. I’m slotting Todd just ahead of him though mainly because of ball security. Much of the first half was played deep in his own end and could have turned for the worse with a miscue. A natural playmaker, Todd instead let the game come to him, didn’t try to force anything, stayed patient and eventually completed 80% of his passes for 256 yards while never turning the ball over.
Defensive MVP was: James "Steve" Holt!. My first thought was Stuckey because he seemed to be flying around and his interception was incredible. But several of his tackles, when he ran the guy down from behind, were well down the field because he had gotten himself out of position. I also considered Laptad for the safety and the other sack he was in on, but he missed some tackles at the line. Meanwhile, Holt just keeps tackling (10). And more importantly, he tackles in position, rarely allowing much of a gain.
Offensive LVP was: the return teams. Despite a semi-pedestrian offensive output, I can’t think of anyone in particular that didn’t play well. And it makes you wonder how much more they could have done if they would have ever had decent field position. Throughout the year (and definitely yesterday) some one always seems to run free on kickoffs, which has essentially turned what was a huge strength a year ago into not only a weakness, but also a disadvantage.
Defensive LVP was: Joe Mortensen. If for no other reason than he’s held to a higher standard. For all intents and purposes, they held Colorado to less than 100 yards rushing and passing (were at 196 total until they took over with a minute left). The two scores they allowed were on drives of 28 and 41 yards (39 on 1 play). Considering the competition, it was possibly the most impressive all around defensive game of the year. But amongst all that good, Rodney Stewart found himself quite a bit of running room up the middle and averaged just over 4 per carry. This is on the d-tackles as much as anyone, but as the captain and an all-league linebacker, Joe takes the blame. Just picking nits though.
The running game was: far and away the best thing about yesterday. Jake’s 31 carries for 118 yards was hardly dominating. But it was much more than we’ve seen to date and it was very much needed. To keep Todd in front of them Colorado went to three down lineman and the best way to exploit that is to run effectively. In addition to the balance it added, the most noticeable difference provided was the increased efficiency within the red zone.
The skill blocking: won’t be tracked here any more. Every regular receiver made at least one impressive block yesterday and until this becomes an issue again, I’ll consider the problem fixed.
The pass rush was: a big part of the win. Most obviously Laptad’s safety game them a lead they would never relinquish. But more than that, it seemed like they always had a decent push and Hawkins never had time to sit back and check down through his receivers. Part of that is CU’s injured line. Part of it is Cody Hawkins. But credit the d-line for taking advantage of those deficiencies and using it to contribute to a very impressive defensive performance.
The special teams: have now become a problem. You could easily say that there is nothing they’re doing well on special teams. It would by a bit of hyperbole, but you could say it. Brandstetter missed a pretty easy kick yesterday, but that hasn’t been an issue and I don’t expect it to be. Also, Rojas has been punting really well and the coverage there has been fine. However, neither return team has shown much of anything recently and it’s really starting to take a toll on the offense, badly hurting field position. And lastly, the kickoff team generally does an average job and yesterday they were pretty much just bad, allowing Josh Smith’s 59 yard return. Mangino says they’ll be spending a lot of time on this, so hopefully some of this can get rectified sooner rather than later.
Oklahoma fear factor is: 10 out of 10. I could add and subtract all I want, but I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. It’s by no means an impossible task, but anyone who expects anything but a loss here is awfully optimistic.
Going into next week I feel: scared. The team has shown consistent progress from week to week. Which really is all you can ask. But as much improvement as I’ve seen, they’re still very susceptible to a strong passing game and if OU has one thing, it’s that. Not to mention that they just lost their number 1 ranking and their path to the national title game was derailed by their most hated rival. Oh, and the game is in Norman where they have a 20 game winning streak.
Note: There wasn't a great place to include it so I'm putting it here. Kerry Meier is now on pace for 106 catches and 1216 yards, not including a bowl game. All he did yesterday was catch another 9 balls for 94 yards on 1 leg. I haven't re-watched yet, but I never once saw him truly run after he re-aggravated his hamstring on catch #1. Incredible.