I only saw the last minute of the game live - just finished watching the tape. Much more detail to come during the week, but here's the from-the-hip version.
DKR said that Ol' Ugly is better than Ol' Nothin', and maybe someone like Srr50 who's versed in the lore of that era can tell me if he ever had one this ugly. Because while this one is better than Ol' Nothin', it's by a margin so small that it has to be expressed in scientific notation. Taken in sum, this would have been Mack's most embarrassing (non-OU) loss and it likely stands as his most embarrassing win. Things are far from well at the top of the program, and I'm sure this week will not lack for Mack-roastings. With that said, I'm sticking to my position that I don't make the hiring and firing calls at Bellmont and at this point I have no idea whether 6-6 or 10-2 is more likely to result in positive change at the top. I'm taking each play, each game and the season as a whole at face value - I want to win them all, and I'll worry about the rest after the season. Your mileage may vary, of course, and everyone except ransomstoddard is welcome to take their thoughts in any direction they like on anything I post, but I'm going to stick to the play on the field from here on in.
So, *gulp*, how 'bout that play on the field?
This got ugly because David Ash and just about every blocker we have decided to turn in some very poor performances today.
For Ash, it's just a burn-the-tape kind of day. Something like this was bound to happen at some point, but it was uglier than I expected and I have no idea why he was as off as he was. In fairness to him that second INT got tipped at the line, but he was inaccurate and just didn't seem to be stepping in to his throws at all. About ten or twelve absolute downfield strikes delivered against Ole Miss, OSU, WVU and Baylor were immediately forgotten by some on Ash's underthrown pick along the sideline, but there's no denying it was just a terrible pass. He missed high, low, left and right today and just seemed to be in a funk. Mama said there'd be days like this, but....ugh.
Big ups to Case for hitting a couple of big throws to Shipley and Davis, and big ups to that KU corner for dropping the game-ending INT with two minutes to go. I'm grateful for his play, but Ash is the starting QB unless he's nursing an injury that no one knows about. If Mack lets any doubt linger about that fact after Monday's press conference it's a horrendous failure of leadership.
Just about everybody on the OL had some bad moments that stood out. Poehlmann got abused early, Hawkins had an awful penalty and a few other blown blocks, and Espinosa was nowhere near crisp on his combo blocks which played a big role in de-railing Inside Zone all day long. Greg Daniels also had more bad than good, and while the TE's managed a few solid down blocks on Pin n' Pull DJ Grant's TD had very little competition for Tight End Play of the Day.
Shipley and Mike D get obvious props for their late-game heroics, and Shipley in particular was a steady presence all day long. It was tough sledding for Bergeron, and his effort on an early blitz pickup was just bad. Gray had to fight for some hard yards and take some backfield shots in addition to flashing some open-field wizardry. Our outside speedsters did Outside Speedster Things, and we may need to see a lot more of that action a lot earlier going forward if Inside Zone isn't happening for us.
All in all, it's nowhere near the offensive momentum you'd like to see heading into a Lubbock snake pit. That Tech D can absolutely be had, but if we don't up our execution and attacking mindset we're going to have real problems. Mack fucking around with shit like "we haven't made a decision on next week's starter" is in no way, shape or form going to help the offense get its collective head right. For God's sake, Mack, don't be stupid about this.
I am 100% convinced that Manny had playcalling duties yanked from him after Kansas' second TD.
We started out playing it straight with gap-filling blitzes on the first drive and looked lights out. Outright fuckery from Cobbs handed KU a lot of free yards on their second drive, and they mixed in a nice call on a fake screen throw to beat Vacccaro to get downfield. That, combined with our 15th consecutive fourth down conversion allowed and Reggie Wilson letting himself get cut by a back got them in good position and we got bailed out by a bad snap, but while the results were ugly we weren't doing anything too stupid. Cobbs tried to hand them a first down on the third drive, but the DL rose up on second down and Okafor helped force an incompletion on third down. So we're out of the first quarter with no damage done.
Then, I guess it was Manny time.
We start out the second quarter by stunting the BACKUP LBs right into two blockers, allowing Sims to jet 64 yards. He ran the first 30 in a one-yard wide corridor thanks to the idiotic call. Cobbs and Phillips then combined on what should be career-ending tackle efforts to hand Sims another 30 yards, and Vaccaro chipped in a horsecollar to add another fifteen yards. We then did our 'everyone stands up' trick one too many times, got caught in a quick snap for a TD run and it's tied at seven.
KU's next TD drive was keyed by:
- A 20 yard run where we slanted everyone and left Edmond to take on two men in the zone read - he guessed wrong.
- An 18-yarder on an option where we did a New Mexico replay with Vaccaro abandoning the pitchman to crash on the QB and set the back free.
- Cobbs running himself absolutely out of the play on the TD.
We're down 14-7 and looking like hammered dogshit on D.
And then a funny thing happened.
We called ten consecutive plays where we either played it straight or slanted three with a blitzer immediately in the gap. That comprised three Kansas drives, because we started kicking them the hell off the field. During this stretch, not only did the DL start looking like the unit that we've been waiting on all season, but the light really seemed to go on for Kendall Thompson. He was reading, pursuing and filling like an honest-to-God linebacker, and getting actual support from his defensive line had to be a pretty big factor.
All of a sudden, with a DL getting to fight head-on battles rather than running laterally like fools and Thompson showing up we looked like a legitimate defense. No, that's not cause to sound the trumpets as Kansas is a bad, one dimensional team - but they're reasonably good at that one dimension and outside of Diggs' foul-up to key their last field goal drive they were never in position to threaten us again.
A few other defensive notes:
- I am absolutely done with Adrian Phillips. He is simply not playing football, and with Turner's emergence and the fact that Mykkele Thompson is the far, far lesser evil at safety I am absolutely willing to live and die with what Duke Thomas can give us in the slot any time we don't have Vaccaro down there. I don't know who's in charge of what on the defense any more or who the players are still tuned in to, but I can't see how any coach willing to keep giving Phillips snaps can look any other defensive player in the eye and ask him to step up his game.
- DeMarco Cobbs simply can't be given linebacker responsibility any more. He has shown some coverage ability and can blitz, but if he's not explicitly doing one of these two things he can't be on the field.
- Ashton Dorsey played a hell of a game, and absolutely wrecked Kansas with penetration on several occasions. All our DTs had moments, but his play really jumped out once we started playing it straight.
- Cedric Reed has a long way to go to fill Jackson Jeffcoat's shoes, but he's becoming a pretty solid run defender. He made a number of stops close to the line and nearly made a few more behind it.
- Reggie Wilson has the athleticism to do some nice things at DE, but the next time he lets himself get cut by a running back he needs to get some quality pine time even if it means throwing Shiro Davis into the mix.
- It was up and down for Diggs - he had that awful, awful PI and a bad missed tackle, but he also laid some solid licks and there wasn't much going down in the passing game. I'm hoping he can re-discover his A game in a real hurry.
- Byndom had a really nice lick when he blitzed to fill the gap on a slant in Jayhawk territory. Keep showing us you want it, CB.
If we go into Lubbock trying to scheme our way to an A, we'll get an F and get embarrassed. If we scheme for a C our players might just carry us to a B - if the offense can burn this tape and play like the unit they're capable of being, that could be enough to pull out a win next week.
It was a ho-hum day except for King's rock-solid punting work. We didn't have a ton of chances to return things, but you'd really, really have liked to see one big one against a special teams unit as poor as KU's. Chalk it up to team-wide malaise, I guess, but that's another area that needs a big-league pickup prior to hitting the high plains next week.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Taken as a whole, this game sucked out loud. There's no excusing our lifelessness on offense, and you more or less just have to hope it was one of those days for Ash in particular. There were a lot of individual defensive performances to be proud of in the second half, but you should certainly step on a one-dimensional team and things will be a hell of a lot harder from here on out.
I'd rather have won this one than lost this one. Now go put on some costumes and get drunk - Lord knows I'm going to.