Well, this was something.
Here was Todd Reesing — quarterback of a Kansas University offense that had racked up 34 points and 576 yards of total offense in a lopsided road victory over UTEP, in a game some national media tapped as a possible upset — talking about his team’s recent effort with the jubilation of a guy who’d just watched his dog get kicked.
“It’s encouraging that you put up 570 yards of offense and walk away a little disappointed,” he said, rather solemnly. “But that’s what it was. That’s the truth. We didn’t feel like we played our best game on offense.”
This is what it has come to for the Kansas offense, a unit that has been nothing less than dominant over the course of the past three seasons as it has chipped away at the school’s record book and propelled the school to 22 victories and consecutive bowl victories: Greatness just won’t cut it anymore.
Perfection is the goal du jour, and that was made clear this week as the team prepared for its 11 a.m. matchup today with visiting Duke.
Players and coaches were talking about being perfect and pursuing perfection and how, even though it (perfection, that is) technically cannot be achieved, that doesn’t mean players and coaches aren’t striving for it anyway.
It was the buzzword, certainly, following a 34-7 thumping of the Miners, and despite the game’s box score — which read very much in favor of the Jayhawks — members of the team were in a particularly nit-picky mood.
True, it was pointed out, Reesing did put up seemingly normal numbers (260 passing yards, one touchdown), but he did it in an out-of-sync way. And, yeah, the team piled up 34 points against a viable opponent, but it also managed to work its way into the red-zone twice without coming away with points, and two other times settle for red-zone field goals.
In the grand scheme of things, these did not seem like major infractions in the midst of a 27-point victory. But for a Kansas team not accustomed to leaving the red zone without something to show for it, they were points of concern.
“Most teams in America would like to have had the offensive performance we had Saturday night,” Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. “But ... we did leave points on the (field).”
What’s crazy about all of this is that, at this point in the season, Kansas is among the nation’s most potent offenses. The Jayhawks have averaged 41.5 points (18th best in the country) and 561.5 yards per game this fall (sixth best), even if, up until now, they’ve done it in a surprising manner.
Last season, for instance, before figuring out how best to use running back Jake Sharp’s unique skill-set, the team’s coaching staff relied heavily upon Reesing to carry the load offensively, which he gladly did.
Through two games this year, though, the Jayhawks lead the Big 12 in rushing offense, averaging 291.5 ground yards per game behind Sharp (37 carries, 227 yards, three touchdowns) and backup Toben Opurum (24 carries, 141 yards, three touchdowns) — a performance that has proven especially beneficial coming at the beginning of the season.
It’s no secret that the team’s passing attack can do damage; now, opponents must account for an established ground game, as well.
“You’ve got to believe that it’s going to help you offensively,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said of the team’s early rushing success. “Because now people are going to have to say, ‘Hey, do we want to put a few more guys around the line of scrimmage? And then, what do we expose ourselves to there? Or do we keep everybody back a little bit to play a little more conservative? And are they patient enough?’”
“I think people want to see if we’re patient enough to run the ball,” he added. “And we’ve proven that we are.”
And yet there they sat earlier this week, plowing through all the areas that still need improving.
Reesing seemed especially disappointed in his own performance against the Miners, in which he completed 25 of 41 passes. And while he seems aware that off days are bound to occur at any level of competition — “Even Federer lost yesterday,” he pointed out, jokingly, referring to Roger Federer’s U.S. Open setback to Juan Martin Del Potro — the quarterback doesn’t seem in any kind of hurry to make a habit out of underachieving performances.
“We went out there and put up close to 600 yards of total offense and walked away with a bad taste in our mouth because we know we left a lot of points on the field,” he said. “It just shows you that you can never stop working.”