Kansas football still a work in progress

Charlie Weis gives his team some not so kind words before halftime on Saturday, Sept 21, 2013.

Charlie Weis gives his team some not so kind words before halftime on Saturday, Sept 21, 2013.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It’s an old concept that has been a fundamental truth of sports for ages: Winning takes care of everything and can mask a lot of problems.

So even though everyone associated with Kansas University’s football program was overjoyed about Saturday’s improbable, last-second, 13-10 victory over Louisiana Tech, the Jayhawks (2-1) did not leave the field believing that all’s well in Lawrence.

“We obviously have a lot of work to do,” said KU coach Charlie Weis, who cut short his postgame meeting with the media because he wanted the players to be the ones talking about the win. “We’re an imperfect team. We have a lot of holes. We have a lot of things to fix.”

Today marks the beginning of KU’s second and final bye week of the season. The Jayhawks have two weeks to fix those things before their next game, Oct. 5 vs. Texas Tech.

The general consensus surrounding the team is that the Kansas defense is rapidly improving and has been the most obvious bright spot of the team through the first three weeks. KU’s defense has given up just 40 points to its first three opponents (13.3 per game) and also has recorded nearly as many sacks (9) and interceptions (4) as it had all of last season.

“We’re very confident with our defense,” defensive tackle and co-captain Keon Stowers said. “(Linebackers) coach (Clint) Bowen is doing a great job coming up with game plans every week. We’ve got guys out there flying around. The defensive line is playing good, the linebackers are playing good. I’m really confident with where our defense is right now.”

KU’s offense has invoked different reactions at different times, but largely seems to be struggling to find a rhythm and perhaps an identity.

Last year, the Jayhawks became known for pounding the ball at opponents and proved weekly they could run against anyone in the Big 12. Senior tailback James Sims, who moved into fourth place on KU’s all-time rushing list with his 78-yard effort against Louisiana Tech, is off to a solid start, and KU’s ground game as a whole is averaging 4.2 yards per carry, a number that dipped after Saturday’s 3.5-yards-per-carry effort.

The passing game took a small step forward against Louisiana Tech, with quarterback Jake Heaps leading the group to a more efficient performance and his receivers dropping fewer passes in more attempts. Despite questions at offensive line and receiver, the Jayhawks still believe their offense is packed with potential.

“I’m not really that concerned,” Sims said. “We just have to be more consistent with the little things and not try to do too much. If we just settle down, we should be fine.”

That’s precisely what the Jayhawks did on that final drive against Louisiana Tech, when Sims had room to run, and Heaps had time to throw. Heaps said coming through when it counted most was a sign of progress.

“This is a huge thing for our football team and our locker room,” Heaps said. “It may not have been the prettiest, but it was definitely a big step.”

Added Sims: “It was tough. It was a grind. But the outcome of the game was what we expected. It’s not a matter of how many yards or anything like that. As long as we get the win, that’s all that really matters.”

For just the second time since Mark Mangino left town, KU takes a winning record into Big 12 play. And because of the way the schedule fell, the Jayhawks get an extra week to enjoy it.