For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
I asked for requests on Twitter, and a majority of Kansas football fans wanted to know why the Kansas football running game was successful in the first half but not as much so in the second half.
With that in mind, I compiled some effective first-half run plays and some ineffective second-half run plays and had Coach give me notes on what he saw from each tape.
Here's the first-half run video:
The following are Coach's takeaways (said in his words) from watching KU's run plays in the first half:
• "OU brought edge blitz a couple times, and KU had a quick-hitting run right up the middle. The edge blitz didn’t really have any effect.
• KU used motion and got OU outleveraged a couple times. At 14 seconds, see how they motion the fullback from strong to weak right there? Then they run it weak, and they end up getting a cutback lane. OU overpursues just a little bit, and then end up finding a cutback lane and get about seven or eight right there. It changes the formation from a 3X1 to a 2X2 set. It changes the gap responsibility for OU, and they didn’t adjust very good until it was too late, and KU had a nice play out of it.
• "KU also used a couple counter plays, and OU overpursued. It left some nice cutback running lanes.
"On this play, see how the back takes a quick jab step to his left? That’s a counter. The right side of KU’s line, everybody’s blocking down. The left guard is pulling around to the right, and they’re running counter. You can see how OU’s linebackers overpursue to their right just a little bit. They get lost in the mix of defenders at the line of scrimmage. The OU defenders might not have done a good job of reading the puller (left guard). They’re coming downhill when maybe they should be scraping over the top to their left. The center (Gavin Howard) does a good job of getting off the ball and pinning back on that defensive tackle.
• "OU missed a couple tackles.
• "It looked like OU was on its heels, catching the running back instead of going to hit him and going to meet him. They were kind of catching. KU was doing a nice job of finishing their runs, falling forward for two or three extra yards instead of getting hit and stopping right where they were at.
• "It looked like KU was playing very hard in the first half. It looked like they were on a mission and were trying to take it to OU.
• "The thing I put a couple checkmarks by … the fullback (Nick Sizemore), he went in there and really demolished a couple OU defenders on a few different plays. He was coming downhill, and he was (smashing) some OU defenders.
"On this play, the fullback goes up in there and (smashes) that linebacker at the point of attack and gets No. 6 a nice big running lane.
"The fullback does a great job on the first play as well. They’re just running an iso. Everybody is iso blocking. It’s man-on-man at the point of attack, and it’s fullback on linebacker: old-school football. He just comes down and totally demolishes that linebacker and gives the tailback a nice running lane."
Here's the second-half video:
And notes from Coach:
• "Oklahoma was committing more guys to the box, more guys to the line of scrimmage. On the first play, see No. 14? He’s a safety right there. I think they’re playing Cover 1 right here. I think both of the corners are up top on the wide receivers. And there’s a safety deep on about the 40-yard line. Then there’s another safety here on the 33- or 34-yard line. I think he’s got the tight end man-to-man, but he realizes the tight end is blocking, so he can fit in in the run. They’re just playing Cover 1 (one high safety), saying, ‘You’re not just going to line up and run the ball against us. You’re going to have to throw it against us right here.’ I’m not saying you can’t run against Cover 1, but it’s not going to be quite as easy, because there’s going to be more guys in the box that you’re going to have to account for. They’ve got you outnumbered a little bit.
• "On the second play, Oklahoma brings an edge blitz. No. 19 does a nice job getting flat and running it down from behind. Your slot receiver up there could possibly take an angle to block him, but that’s going to be really tough on your slot receiver to get that guy blocked.
• "This play, same thing. They brought the same blitz off the edge. They brought 15 off the edge again. He ran it down, tripped him up."
• "The other thing was, on this last play (20 seconds), watch the D-lineman No. 90. He just takes the left tackle (Aslam Sterling on this play) and just shoves him right back into the backfield. The puller can’t take a good path to pull around here to the left. They’re running that same counter play again, and No. 90 just blows it up and puts it all the way back into the backfield and allows the linebackers to jump in there and get in on the play."
I asked Coach what KU's options were in the second half once OU started to run blitz more.
"There are different ways to adjust to it. There are different formations you can line up in. When they’re bringing that edge blitz, it’s harder to bring that edge blitz if you put an extra wing in there to block the edge blitzer, or if you have a two-tight-end formation. But the same thing is, then if you bring more guys into the box, then they have a chance to bring more guys into the box. So it’s kind of tough there.
"Sometimes, if you’ve got a quick pass go out to the receivers to negate the blitz and get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in a hurry, then that might be something you take a look at as well. There’s different ways to do it, but OU had a good gameplan in the second half to stop some of those runs we saw the first.
"They were starting to run blitz and have some good calls against it, but it also looked like they maybe got their rear ends chewed a little bit at halftime. It looked like they were playing a little bit harder in that second half as well."
Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 34-19 loss to Oklahoma.
A few quick takeaways ...
• About that passing offense ...
I mentioned this on Twitter, but KU's passing offense might have been even worse than you originally thought on Saturday.
KU had 16 passing yards but also lost 19 yards on three sacks. In our "new" box score, sacks count against passing totals, as the team technically was trying to pass.
In essence, on plays when the Jayhawks tried to throw the ball against OU on Saturday, they went backwards. And that was against an OU defense that continued to bring defenders closer to the line to stuff the run.
It's not all on KU quarterback Jake Heaps, and to be fair, he didn't have many opportunities to throw Saturday. But as the bad passing performances pile up, KU coach Charlie Weis has to at least consider shaking up the position because of its lack of production.
As bad as it was, KU's offense was better
Throw for negative-3 passing yards, and get better? Yep, that's the point KU's offense is at now.
Believe it or not, KU put up its best performance in Big 12 play against the Sooners. Take a look:
KU's 3.9 yards per play and 16.8 yards per possession are still not good, but they're better than what the Jayhawks put up in the previous two weeks.
The reason it doesn't look as good is because of context. KU (wisely) huddled on every play to slow down the pace of the game, and looking at the box score, it's one of the main reasons this game was close.
Give Weis credit for using this underdog tactic well (though he still needs a lot of work on fourth-down decisions). The Jayhawks will need to continue to shorten games against the Big 12's top teams to have a chance.
KU's defense takes step back
This game isn't like last week against TCU where nearly all the blame goes on the offense. KU's defense had its worst game in a few weeks.
KU allowed higher-than-NCAA-average totals in both yards per play (5.8) and yards per possession (31.9). The yards-per-possession number might have even looked worse if not for an OU game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter that gained a first down but netted just eight yards before a kneeldown.
On a windy day that should have hampered OU quarterback Blake Bell, KU's secondary wasn't its normal self. The Jayhawks had just two passes defensed (they average 6.7 per game) and also were burned repeatedly on third downs. Though OU averaged 6.8 yards to go on third downs, it converted seven of those 14 tries; the Jayhawks allowed third-down passing conversions on a third-and-12 (16 yards), third-and-6 (11 yards) and another third-and-6 (10 yards).
Though KU racked up the tackles-for-loss (nine), it overall didn't defend the run well, either. OU averaged a healthy 5.4 yards per rush and also had six 12-plus-yard runs on 44 carries.
Turnover luck helped Jayhawks
Honestly, it's tough from the box score above to see why this game was as close at it was.
Besides the aforementioned slow pace, KU's turnover luck also played the biggest role.
The Jayhawks had one interception while defending just two passes, which is a bit fortunate. Remember, about 21 percent of passes defended end up as interceptions.
On the flip side, OU's defense had five passes defended but no interceptions. Had one of those passes stuck, we're most likely talking about a blowout instead of a close game in the fourth quarter.
It's minor, but KU also recovered the only fumble of the game, which helped its cause as well.
Trevor Pardula doesn't save KU this time
The KU punter, who earned mid-season All-America recognition from Phil Steele earlier in the week, had by far his worst day while dealing with a steady wind and a flood of OU pressure.
Pardula's five punts netted just 27.8 yards; remember, this was the same player who netted 55.8 yards on five punts last month against LA Tech.
OU's punting wasn't any better (five punts, 25.8 yards), but on a day when OU clearly won the field-position battle (starting at its own 36 compared to KU starting at its own 30), the Jayhawks could have made up a lot of ground with an average game from Pardula. They didn't get it.
Can O-line keep it up?
The Jayhawks, who had no 12-plus-yard rushes last week against TCU and just two in Big 12 play coming in, had four in the first quarter and six overall against Oklahoma.
It was the most positive aspect of KU's game Saturday: The Jayhawks' offensive line showed flashes of knocking defenders off the ball after struggling with that virtually the entire season.
KU's linemen will have a chance to prove they can do it against Saturday against a shaky Baylor run defense
It'll sure help, though, if the Jayhawks can go forward — and not backwards — with their passing game.