TCU Holds off Kansas: 3 Areas KU Needs Significant Improvement
Growing pains were expected in yet another building year for the Kansas Jayhawks under first year coach Charlie Weis but blowing a two-score lead in a depressing last second loss to baseball powerhouse Rice University in Week 2 is never easy to swallow.
Despite considerable differences in this year's Kansas football team and the 2010 team under then-first year coach Turner Gill, today's matchup with No. 16 ranked TCU had a few similarities to the 2010 Week 2 game against Georgia Tech.
Kansas capitalized on multiple Georgia Tech mistakes with a few highlight reel plays to knock off the Yellow Jackets in a stunner one week following one of the program's worst home losses in school history—to North Dakota State.
Unlike 2010, KU was unable to produce an unexpected upset win. The Horned Frogs left Lawrence this afternoon with an odd 20-6 victory in their Big 12 debut as they brushed off four fumbles, three of which came in the red zone. All things considered, the Jayhawks played adequate enough to steal a huge early tenure victory for Weis & Co., but there remained a few glaring inadequacies that held them back.
The days of Marcus Herford, the 2007 Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, are long gone, and while Kansas boasts a bevy of speedsters with superior quickness, they failed to generate any respectable returns on TCU kickoffs.
Senior wide receiver D.J. Beshears, attempted three returns, including one he corralled three yards deep in the end zone and proceeded to delay for a brief moment before half-heartedly lumbering out and failing to reach the 15-yard line. Running back Tony Pierson also gave it a whirl, but those two, along with Jimmay Mundine, managed only 64 total yards on five returns.
A great deal of blame must be placed on the units up front as multiple TCU players had free sprints down the field but poor decision making and hesitation from the return men put the Kansas offense in a tough spot on each opportunities.
Physicality of Wide Receivers and Defensive Backs
Kansas caught a couple breaks with costly TCU fumbles in the red zone, but they did not catch any breaks in the TCU secondary, as the referees missed three crucial illegal contact and pass interference calls in the second half.
It became evident the back and side judges were letting TCU defensive backs play physical coverage, especially across the middle on slant patterns, but no adjustments were made by Kansas wide receivers to jostle for position.
Last season, the KU defense had more holes than George O'Leary's Notre Dame application, therefore, any improvement from Dave Campo and his veteran group of defensive backs are highly noticed. Big 12 teams routinely exploit poor tackling with their collection of bruising backs and shifty wide receivers, something TCU ball carriers Waymon James and Matthew Tucker took full advantage of.
Again, tackling is an area that is much improved from 2010 and 2011, but too many broken arm tackles allowed TCU to methodically drive downfield, regularly avoiding fourth and long punting situations.
Dayne Crist appears to be a young, confused quarterback in a system he is extremely familiar with. He looked much more comfortable in the pocket against TCU and even took a few shots downfield, but still finds himself making poor or timid throws to the outside.
Charlie Weis accepted some of the blame this week, saying he was putting too much on Crist's shoulders; nonetheless, he abandoned a near-dominant rushing attack in the second half with the Jayhawks down one score, extraordinarily contradictory of his earlier comments.
Crist's first quarter interception destroyed momentum from one of Kansas' three forced red zone fumbles and later sailed deep balls well over his speedy wide receivers. These throws are expected from a first year QB with little game action over the last two years.
However, his familiarity with Weis's system should produce more fluid checkdowns, and pocket awareness would eliminate rash decisions resulting in wasted first and second down plays.