By Andrew Curtis
It’s time to take a step back and assess the damage. Just two weeks ago, the Kansas football team was in good spirits and more confident than it had been heading into the season in the past 3 years.
Kansas opened the season with a win that wasn’t anything to write home about despite wins coming few and far between recently.
Now, after blowing an 11-point 2nd half lead in a crippling loss to an underwhelming Rice Owls squad, things are looking pretty bleak at the Anderson Family Football Complex.
The fact of the matter is, Charlie Weis might have bit off more than he can chew, at least for the time being. The quarterback play from newcomer Dayne Crist has been suspect at best.
With the game on the line last week, Crist threw a costly interception with just 3:47 left on the clock, leaving time for Rice to set up for a 45-yard field goal as time expired to win the game.
However, you can’t put the loss squarely on Crist’s shoulders. First of all, you have to question why Weis was throwing the ball in the first place.
With a two-point lead in the final minutes, the worst you could do in that situation is milk the clock by running the ball, forcing your opponent to use its timeouts. Even if you don’t execute, you would still have the luxury of punting the ball to pin the other team deep in its own territory with little time left.
These types of decisions are what did Weis in at Notre Dame. As a coach, you can’t be too aggressive in these moments like Weis was, nor too conservative.
Secondly, two missed field goals had a huge impact. The 53-yard attempt early in the 3rd quarter was clearly out of Doherty’s range, and KU was already clinging to an 11-point lead.
This gave Rice the momentum it needed to mount a scoring drive. The Jayhawks clearly would have been better off by punting the ball and playing the field position game.
The other miss came early in the 4th quarter. This one clearly was on Doherty. 40 yards is makeable, even for a college kicker, and he hit the upright. Rice then had a 7-play, 93-yard drive, wearing out the KU defense, but missed the two-point conversion.
Thirdly, the offense’s inefficiency didn’t do the defense any favors. Kansas was just 3 for 10 on 3rd downs. Rice won the time of possession, converting both key 4th down opportunities in a 4th quarter in which KU had the ball for just 6 plays.
Things certainly won’t get any easier. Kansas has arguably one of the five toughest schedules of in America from this point on the rest of the season.
That starts this Saturday, when the 26.5 point favorite TCU Horned Frogs, owners of the nation’s longest overall winning streak (9), as well as the longest current conference winning streak (24), come to town, making their Big 12 debut.
TCU presents a stiff challenge for KU. The program led by Gary Patterson brings a unique brand of football to the Big 12 that features a stout defense and returning QB Casey Pachall. The Horned Frogs have been as consistent as anyone over the past 10 years, reaching new heights by winning the Rose Bowl in 2011.
Even with a defense that has improved noticeably, forcing 8 turnovers in the first two games, and a rushing attack averaging more than 200 yards per game, Kansas is staring defeat in the face once again.
We’ll see how this team responds to adversity under new leadership, beginning with the game this Saturday.