Sunday, November 2, 2008

KSU React

Again, apologies for the delay on this one. It may not have been complete payback for the 64-0, but it sure was wonderful. That makes it three in a row and four out of five against the purple. Which shouldn't be surprising, considering the direction of the programs. I have no idea what the KSU administration is thinking, but you're OK in my book, Ron.

The outcome was: truly wonderful and very much necessary. Sample size people, it’s important. For seven weeks, we all saw a pretty good team, capable of playing with anyone despite some obvious deficiencies. Then Tech came into Lawrence, inexplicably ran the Hawks off their own field and we all forgot the last season and a half of football. They may not be quite as good as they looked yesterday in humiliating a worthless Wildcat team, but they aren’t nearly as bad as they looked the week prior either. And more importantly, the season is back on track and once again we are able to realistically remind ourselves that we still control our own destiny.

Offensive MVP was: Jake Sharp. It’s a pretty safe assumption that he’ll wrap up that award any time he only has to play 3 quarters to carry it 21 times for 181 yards and 4 scores. Clearly, he won’t play against a defense half that bad again, but even a performance half that good will always be welcomed and often plenty to complement the passing game. The only thing bad about watching Jake yesterday was wondering what could have been if the coaches had stuck with him either of the last two weeks.

Defensive MVP was: James Holt. Russell and his two picks were a suitable candidate as well, but Holt and his new role changes our entire defense. They tried him briefly in the same capacity a week ago, but stuck with it more yesterday with much more success. Not only did it yield immediate results (3 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 FF and 1 recovered), but it changes the entire complexion of the unit. I had nearly given up the thought of winning in Arrowhead because I didn’t think we could breathe on Chase with any consistency. Now I know that’s not the case and I couldn’t be happier.

Offensive LVP was: Dexton Fields. He looked good against Iowa State, better against Colorado, eh against Oklahoma and hasn’t shown up since. Truthfully, we didn’t throw the ball all that much yesterday (for obvious reasons), so receptions were hard to come by in the first place. But he made it much harder on himself by not making the catch when it came his way. Maybe he’s still not entirely healthy (though I haven’t seen anything to think this is the case), but it really has been disappointing that our leading receiver (by catches) two years running has 10 catches through 9 games. Getting the old Dex back for the stretch run would be a big lift for this offense.

Defensive LVP: won’t be selected this week. I hammered them last week for good reason, so they deserve proper praise when they come back and shut down a very capable offense. So 355 yards isn’t exactly blanketing defense, but they were solid, opportunistic, and no one stood out as playing subpar. With an offense like ours, that should usually be good enough to get the win.

The running game: really doesn’t need to be tracked anymore. The only real question from week to week is how much it’s going to be utilized. Jake is obviously the guy, but both Jocques and Angus have looked good lately as well. It seems crazy, but this offensive line really is just as good, if not better, when they are blocking the run as opposed to the pass (Spikes especially). If only that had been the case in Tampa.

The pass rush was: great. Obviously, you always want even more pressure than you get. But there was a push from the inside, Laptad was consistently good and the biggest spark came from James Holt lining up in a three point stance. It’s amazing how much better a defense can look when it can get pressure with four and drop seven into coverage. If they can do that while stuffing the run, well, that’s all we can ask for.

Nebraska fear factor is: 7 out of 10. Base line of 5. (+2) for the Sea of Red and the forty years since our last win there. (-1) for the 35 points the Blackshirts gave up in yesterday’s first quarter. (+1) for the ball control they showed in the 3 previous weeks. (-1) for the 47 point average of the four competent teams they’ve played. (+1) for the 42 point average of KU’s four best opponents and inexplicably allowing 33 in Ames.

Going into next week I feel: refreshed. As you all know, I didn’t go jumping ship like many others. But I certainly lost a lot of hope going forward. There were rumblings of some inner turmoil, obvious deficiencies on the field, a tough remaining schedule, and it seemed like overall team confidence was at an all time low. Now, our biggest concern is still the schedule – though all three looked extremely beatable yesterday. And while there are still question marks on the field, it seems apparent that the coaching staff has finally realized that some need to be addressed and some do not. The quality of opposition certainly can’t be discounted and we can’t count on doing everything we did yesterday, but the wheels are in motion. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again; that’s progress and that’s all you can ask for. Combine that with visual evidence that they’re learning from their mistakes and there’s plenty of reason for optimism heading forward.

With all of that said, I really do believe this is a must win game. Sure, we now know Texas is beatable, but on match-ups alone, that is going to be an extremely tough win to get. And though I feel a lot better this week than last, I still think we’re the underdog in Arrowhead. For all I know, they might be Saturday as well. But if they’re a good team, they go in there and win that game and really get the ball rolling before Texas comes to town. They had an opportunity to take an enormous step forward for the program last week and they failed miserably. Next Saturday is an opportunity to take a much smaller, but no less important step.

p.s For those that don't know, the Nebraska game won't be televised, but will be on PPV. Kickoff is 1:30. Also, I haven't yet really addressed the secondary shake up, but plan to shortly. I sure was surprised by what I saw from Daymond, though.

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