College football fans all over the map invest emotions in believing this is the year the offense will look different, feature the vertical passing game and keep the defense in a constant state of retreat. Then the season starts, and it's the same old, same old. Safe and boring.
Saturday night, the Kansas University offense really did look and feel way different.
Ed Warinner, first-year offensive coordinator at KU, took with him from Illinois a no-huddle offense that blew away Central Michigan, 52-7, and an announced crowd of 46,815 at Memorial Stadium.
It not only is more pleasing on the eye, it's more to the liking of those who execute it.
"We're keeping the pace of the game how we want it, getting the plays in faster, and it's a little more vertical compared to last year," said Marcus Henry, who set career highs with seven catches and 103 yards.
Young basketball players prefer an up-tempo style, and it's no different for football players.
"On some of the plays we have four verticals, and I think all the receivers like that," Henry said. "This year our offense is more of an attack mode compared to last year, and if we keep attacking like we did tonight, we're going to win a lot of games."
Warinner watches from the press box, tracks the opponent's defensive personnel and sends a play to the sidelines, where two coaches and third-string quarterback Tyler Lawrence make like third-base coaches, flashing hand signals, most of them decoys.
It takes a quick-thinking quarterback who both has an abundance of self-confidence and does not question authority to execute it. In Todd Reesing, KU has that. He knows the offense so well and so believes in his abilities that no matter what audible is flashed from the sidelines, he believes he will make the play.
Football coaches can be such control freaks that even when they know with their heads they need to develop a deep passing game, their hearts never are into it. Too much can go wrong.
It was on Reesing to avoid getting sloppy with the football, just in case any doubt crept into the coach's mind. The offense did not turn over the ball once. So far, Mark Mangino has no reason to question the aggressive approach. He sounds as if he'll stay behind the idea.
Five different players caught touchdown passes. Three different receivers had catches for 34 yards or longer.
"We've made a commitment to having a vertical passing game here," Mangino said. "Put pressure on the defense every play. The fact that they opened up, we wanted those things to happen. We planned for them. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. Receivers were able to get open. He was able to deliver the ball in timely fashion. We want to be able to attack the field."
Passing so aggressively, so efficiently, put linebackers into retreat mode, which helped Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp combine for 216 yards on seven yards per rush.
The offensive line, with three new starters and more size than a year ago, dominated the weaker Mid-American Conference Chippewas.
KU's blockers are bigger, their skill position players faster. The system fits the personnel. Even when the opposition isn't worth watching, which is most of the time at Memorial Stadium, the KU offense alone can make it worth the trip.