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Monday Rewind: Rice

The Kansas offense huddles together late in the game against Rice during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

The Kansas offense huddles together late in the game against Rice during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

A friend and fellow reporter floated an interesting question my way shortly after the Kansas University football team somehow lost to Rice despite having a decent grip on things for most of the game last Saturday.

The question: Did KU’s 25-24, last-second loss to Rice rank as one of the Top 5 most disappointing losses of the past three seasons?

My answer: No.

There’s no doubt that Saturday’s loss left a lot of KU fans scratching their heads and perhaps forced some to consider whether they’d be back any time soon. But, to my ears, the most common reaction among the fans exiting Memorial Stadium sounded a lot more like “Well, well, well,” than “What the hell?”

This latest loss, though surely tough for KU fans to swallow, also is tough to evaluate. The Jayhawks should not have lost. Everyone understands that from the players to KU coach Charlie Weis, who went out of his way to inform us that he clearly pointed out to his team that losing games was not acceptable.

If you’re an excuse maker, your list is long after this one. It’s still early. There are a lot of guys still shaking off the rust. It’s a completely new team running a completely new system with a bunch of players still searching for their chemistry. Like I said, the list is long. But here’s the worst part — even if you’re not interested in making excuses, all of that remains true.

Before moving on, let me tell you, briefly, why I don’t think the loss to a team from Conference USA ranks in the Top 5 most disappointing losses in the past few seasons. For one, the Jayhawks weren’t embarrassed. They fought and played with fire but came up short. For two, they didn’t quit. For three, they didn’t brush off the loss as no big deal when it was over. It was clear that they were upset about letting this one slip away and even more clear that they plan to do something about it.

So what now?

Well, I realize it would be easy for most to revert back to the old “When does basketball season begin” line that we’ve heard around here for oh so long. And if that’s your thing, I won’t hold it against you.

But I still think there are plenty of good things going for this football program and I’m willing to let things play out before calling this season a bust.

Let’s take a look at a few positives and a few of the negatives.

Positives:

1. I think the defense has improved. They’re more active up front, they cover better in the secondary (even if they’re still not all that aggressive) and they’ve thrown up more three-and-outs in the first two games of the 2012 season than I can remember coming in 2010 and 2011 combined. What’s more, I think this is a group that, as long as it remains confident, will continue to improve each week.

2. The running game looks good. Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox make for a nice one-two punch, and, in seven days we can start to talk about James Sims again. If KU can continue to run the ball as effectively as it has during the first couple of weeks — and that’s definitely a decent-sized if with the schedule stiffening — the Jayhawks should have a shot at being competitive in the Big 12.

3. KU is forcing turnovers. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo said it just the other day and hundreds of coaches before him have said it, too: Turnover margin is the most important stat in football. If the Jayhawks continue to get takeaways at the current rate, things eventually will tip in their favor. What’s more, turnovers are contagious, and once you get a few, you start taking the field believing you’re going to get more. That’s huge.

Negatives:

1. Dayne Crist hasn’t been very good. You know it. I know it. He knows it. So it’s no big secret. But I can promise you one thing: He hasn’t delivered back-to-back sub-par performances by choice. The guy’s trying. And he deserves some more time to get it figured out. As long as he remains healthy, he’s still the guy that gives KU the best shot to win each week. But he’s got to perform better quickly so the rest of the team is still willing to follow him.

2. There does not seem to be a killer instinct with this team yet. Stop me if you’ve heard this one... Getting fired up for games does not seem to be a problem for the Jayhawks, but staying juiced throughout does. When your energy drops, your focus drops and when your focus drops, bad things happen. I’m not sure if it’s a case of these guys expecting too much and then being a little dazed when they don’t deliver, or if it’s just a familiarity thing and that old cliche about bad habits being hard to break. Whatever it is, though, this team needs to avoid that second half lull at whatever cost.

3. KU lacks playmakers on offense. Outside of Tony Pierson, who has flashed big-play ability in both games, the Jayhawks have not had another player step into that role yet. Senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson has the potential, but a lot of his work thus far has come in a possession-type role. DJ Beshears also has the potential, but he’s looked out of sync in both games. Someone else needs to step up. The tight ends have looked good and Crist appears to trust them, but you don’t always think of tight ends as playmakers. Maybe it’s time for Andrew Turzilli or Josh Ford to embrace the moment. Or maybe it’s up to Crist.

Time to see which list gets longer.

;

Comments

AirCapJay 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't think this team has time to let Crist improve. By the looks of it, it might take half a season before Crist get going. If Crist struggles against TCU, I say lets go with one of the backups and push the running game to the max. That's our best chance to win a couple more games.

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Layne Pierce 1 year, 7 months ago

Yes. It is going to be a long season. The only question is whether we are going to be competitive and if there are signs of positive change. I for one, do see some positives. We are less a laughing stock than we were before.

Fact is we do not have any concrete way to win until Crist starts figuring it out. Our running game gives us a shot. If Crist improves, this team can still win 2 or 3 games.

Rock chalk jayhawk ku.

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DocPossum 1 year, 7 months ago

Vast improvement will not happen overnight. The more support the team has, the sooner the change will occur. Strength and conditioning is improving but it is not finished. A full year of recruiting will help for future years. Who the coaches were able to bring in this year on short notice was very positive. Students leaving in the fourth quarter had to be a downer for those on the field. If the student section was full, screaming, and making it hard for Rice players to hear would that have helped Saturday? Crist may not be good enough for some of the above posters, but he turned down Wisconsin to come to Lawrence. Imagine what this year would be like without him. His presence helped get others to commit. Anyway ND had taller receivers, Floyd 6'3'', Rudolph 6'5", Eiffert 6'6", and Goodman 6'3" in their sets to go with smaller slot receivers. These guys went up and grabbed the ball, so maybe Crist is spoiled. Crist will improve.
Perhaps McCay will be the man next year, but this is this year. So you have to go with what you have until taller receivers are available or step up. It will likely be a long year but watch and support your team as it evolves, improves and learns how to win. Its apparent that the football staff is putting in much effort at turning this thing around. The students and fans should do likewise! The turnaround will happen faster.

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Doug Merrill 1 year, 7 months ago

I wonder if there isn't some chance that Cummings could be considered for a red shirt if Crist stays healthy...and that could be one (other) reason that Crist wouldn't be pulled any time soon.

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danette8084 1 year, 7 months ago

Fact is, Crist hasn't played in a game for over 2 years, maybe longer given his injuries. Being benched in the 1st game of 2011 hardly counts as "playing" last year. Give this guy time. Tait's "rewind" comments are fair.

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AsadZ 1 year, 7 months ago

I am curious if students stayed to see players sing Alma mater on Sat?

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BPSkelly 1 year, 7 months ago

While I likely agree with many of the points above (Crist, "D", playcalling, tackling, etc) the one thing I keep coming back to is this...

... had they MISSED that FG, while we'd all feel much, much, much better about the situation at hand (2-0) the reality is this team isnt very talented. Weather were 2-0 or 1-1.

I think whats so jarring for fans is the fact that many of us logically figured we're simply building -- and I still think we are --- but emotionally we just werent ready for that first really true dose of reality. It's here with a vengeance apparently. I've already gotten 5 emails from alums/friends with the "how many days until Late Night". In fairness, ive thought this as well.

But im still confident that there is building going on here. I actually thought the schemes we're running make sense... IF we had more talent. We just dont. The "Pro Set" offense is ideal when you have actual decent D-1 players at those positions. I dont think KU can claim that. We'll see what adjustments are made if any. Im still keeping faith that we'll pull off an upset or two. Crist cannot be this bad... but maybe he is. Im willing to play it out though. What options do we have?

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oldalum 1 year, 7 months ago

One of the articles on the front page said Pick wasn't as serious as they had feared. Kande is the one who will probably miss the next game.

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jeffthejayhawk 1 year, 7 months ago

I too noticed the CB's playing way too far off the Rice recievers, but the Smith and McDougald were playing so close to the line they had no help over the top. That's on Campo - not the players. I saw Patmon many times looking frustrated after Rice completed another 8 yard out. We make a couple tackles down the stretch and we are all talking about how our D stepped up. We are close to turning the corner. The offense looks completely different without Pick. I thought his injury was what changed the game. Has anyone heard the severity of his injury? I also noticed in the 1st half we would run Pierson 3 times and then pass 3 times. If I am noticing this from the stands we are in trouble.

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Fototherapist 1 year, 7 months ago

If the only goal this season is to say that the Jayhawks are competing better, then I think they are showing that. Is there room for improvement? You betcha. I think Weis should start looking at different QB's and receivers. I doubt that will happen as Weis seems to have a deeply personal connection with Crist. He made it clear from day one that Crist is the man. It'll be interesting to see if Weis will take Crist out if it's clear that he's not improving. Only time will tell on that though.

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CO_Hawk 1 year, 7 months ago

Does anyone have an update on removing the track from Memorial? If we want our football program to be taken seriously this is a necessity....

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fan4kufootball 1 year, 7 months ago

I really think that allowing the second string QB to run a few plays would provide a little competition for Crist - possibly giving him enough pressure to step up to the plate. NO ONE is indispensable.... So far Crist has not lived up the expectations touted in the media.

It was a Big loss for the fans. I sure hope fans will still fill the stadium this Saturday.

Does anyone know anything about the overhead cable camera that was used Saturday? Was it a one-time thing by the sports network covering the game or was it an addition to the stadium by KU Athletics after the ESPN deal that was reached last week?

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Justin Lindsley 1 year, 7 months ago

I was at the game. I couldn't believe how "quiet" the stadium was. I'm not sure if it the crazy long TV timeouts that sucked the energy out or if it was just the game itself. There were a lot of short plays. There was no big break play to get everyone amped up. I just remember thinking that it was just dead in the stadium. It might be hard for the players to stay pumped with no emotion coming from the crowd. However, they need to give us more to cheer for!! Rock Chalk.

We have coaches who know the game. There is no question about that. We obviously are still lacking enough talent to get it done. Hopefully, Charlie will be able to infuse the program with more talent and then things will look much brighter!

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WindmillGIANT 1 year, 7 months ago

I know Weis said sometimes it looks like its the QB's fault to fans, when it's receivers running the wrong routes or running bad routes etc...but if I had to pin this loss on one thing, it would be Crist's inaccuracy. He doesn't lead receivers on crossing routes, he throws at them so the ball is high and behind them. He overthrows straight deep routes. And on out routes, he doesn't anticipate the receivers break, he waits until he seems them make their break and then delivers the ball too late. At least that's what it looks like to one amateur eye on the sideline. Also don't know why we try to throw deep out routes so often - the hardest there is to complete - when we are struggling so much. Can't we just run slants, short outs, screens, etc? I know we have to get some deep passes to keep the defense from cheating up, but at this point, running straight fly routes seems like a better option than deep timing routes.

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Jim Jackson 1 year, 7 months ago

Some points of emphasis for me:

Crist looks like a statue out there. Is he scared to run for first downs? We need him to.

Our receivers are MINISCULE. Beshears and Patterson are 5'10 at the most! That in-out pattern in the end zone would have been a TD to Patterson if he were a couple inches taller.

Oline did a GREAT job of run blocking and pass blocking. Crist had all day, many times but our receivers were not open. Time to put Josh Ford out there.

Good job by the D line.

NCAA really screwed up by not letting McKay play.

I have faith though, let's hope the fans show up for TCU. Rock Chalk!!!

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Andy Tweedy 1 year, 7 months ago

I agree with point number 3, but without Jaworski breaking down tape for me ala MNF pre-game, I just don't know who to blame on that. Crist has looked pretty bad at times, and I haven't seen a lot of open receivers, but he sure had a lot of time to throw Saturday. I just can't imagine we have no receivers who can get open in that amount of time. I'd really like to hear more details about why the coaches think we can't get a big play. And what about Cox? He looks like a difference maker at times.

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Doug Cramer 1 year, 7 months ago

Matt - you have done a tremendous job with your journalism covering this team. I really appreciate it because I love KU football. Your positive personality is a nice characteristic to have...and those of us that read your articles like you a lot. Man you have put a lot of work into it...and we can see the passion for it !

But...I have a few topics to discuss:

1: I told my wife in the 4th quarter...right before we got the ball back with our last possession...that "if our offense doesn't finish this game off with a long drive to burn the clock...we will lose". Basically...if we have to depend upon our defense to win this game...it's over.

This defense is terrible...the line is terrible...our linebackers are below average...and our secondary looks slow. We couldn't stop anything that 4th quarter. The Rice offense did what ever they wanted to on us...and we couldn't stop them. Our defense just flat out stinks...and thats with 3 turnovers ! It gets worse if we don't get those turnovers.

2: Be careful to think we will force turnovers every week. Turnovers are analogous to hits in baseball. You don't always count on getting hits every game. Sometimes you get them...but sometimes you don't.

3: In your list of excuses...you mention that "it's a completely new team." While there are several different players on this team...several of the old players are still playing...and not much has changed with the way they play. They still miss too many tackles...our corners still play way too far off the line of scrimage...and our defensive line couldn't pressure a quarterback to save their lives.

4: You are correct...in that the running game looks pretty dam good. Our offensive line has performed well with run blocking. However...I'm not so sure our O-line has looked very good with pass protecting ??? The pocket looks congested on every play...and Crist doesn't have as long to pass...like our opposing QBs have had. And we're talking about Conference USA and FCS competition !

Bottom line...I'll be surprised if we even beat Northern Illinois in two weeks. If we don't beat Northern Illinois and Rice...how the hell are we gonna compete with anyone in the Big 12. I mean...look at Iowa State...they beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. We may not even have a chance against them.

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manginorh00lz 1 year, 7 months ago

This really wasn't that bad of a loss, all things considered. KU should have won, yes, but this game was going to be a challenge. Every game this season will be a challenge. As long as KU can win some conference games, the season is a success.

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