Despite Another Loss, Kansas Defense Making Strides

By Andrew Curtis

Coming off a devastating loss at home in week 2 to Rice, nobody knew what to expect from Kansas going into a matchup with 16th ranked TCU, and certainly didn’t anticipate a close game going into the 4th quarter.

The Jayhawk defense came out fast and furious, swarming to the football, getting stops when they needed to and displaying a bend-but-don’t-break mentality.

KU forced a turnover on the first two possessions, one on TCU’s bad snap to quarterback Casey Pachall, which rolled practically halfway across the field and was recovered by Josh Williams, and the other on a forced fumble by Bradley McDougald, who had 12 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles.

The defense was getting into Pachall’s head early, but KU couldn’t capitalize on his mistakes, managing just 3 points on two turnovers which gave Kansas good field position. KU managed only a field goal after the first TCU turnover, and Dayne Crist gave the Horned Frogs the ball right back with an interception on the first play after the second turnover.

That’s not going to get it done against a team like TCU, and even with 4 turnovers, TCU still came out with an ugly victory in Lawrence, 20 to 6.

Speaking of Crist, he seemed much more comfortable despite producing zero touchdowns, the interception and a key fumble on the goal line near the end of the game. A touchdown would have cut it to a one score deficit, with at least a chance at an onside kick and a shot to tie the game.

Even though Charlie Weis abandoned the running game (which was working) early and put too much pressure on the passing game, Crist stepped into his throws and made better reads.

He finished with 303 yards passing and found a new weapon in receiver Andrew Turzilli, who had his first 100-yard game. Crist also finally figured out how to involve running back Tony Pierson in the passing game.

Alright, back to the defense. Kansas’ 4 takeaways against TCU put them at 12 in 3 games this season. That’s tied with Mississippi State, and, no, this isn’t a typo, Alabama, for first in the country.

To put into perspective how good the TCU offense has been and how bad KU’s defense has been in recent memory, this was the first time TCU has been held under 21 points in their last 27 games dating back to the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. KU’s defense is surrendering just over 20 points per game, a huge improvement from the Turner Gill days.

New coordinator Dave Campo is making an impact, and it starts with the front four. KU’s defensive linemen, led by senior Toben Opurum, combined for 24 tackles against TCU, the most in a game since 2009.

The KU defense is simply keeping the team in games. So after your body is taken out of shock, realize that the challenge ahead is too good to pass up.

Kansas has a chance to snap its 13-game road losing streak when it travels to play Northern Illinois, a team it defeated 45-42 last season in Lawrence, thanks to a last-minute scoring drive. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch presents dual-threat ability, ranking 4th in the nation among quarterbacks in rushing yards and 19th in total offense.

The opportunity ahead for Kansas is tremendous. A win in DeKalb would be a huge step forward. Getting leading rusher James Sims back from suspension will make a big impact on the offense’s efficiency. If the defense continues to improve like it has, KU has a great shot at a victory on the road.

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