The UTEP game was really enjoyable for me as I got to sit with other traveling Jayhawks in the stands at the Sun Bowl. It was a long drive from Phoenix, but watching the Jayhawks was well worth it.
My prediction about the UTEP game came up a little bit short on offense and underestimated the defense. I guessed 45-17 and the actual result was 34-7. Let’s dissect what went right and what went wrong in the game.
Once again the Jayhawks had an excellent game on the ground. Jake Sharp went over 100 yards and Toben Opurum played many meaningful minutes. Clearly he is a very talented back who should show improvement with each game. Rell Lewis also got some carries late in the game and could be another viable option for a few carries each game. What was really impressive was the running of Kale Pick, especially on the last play of the game. I don’t expect that his 20+ yards per carry average will continue, but I feel a lot more comfortable that the Jayhawks will have a quality quarterback at the helm next season.
Without the offensive line opening up holes, the running game wouldn’t be nearly as successful. Huge questions were posed about this group before the season and they have played great so far. The only negative has been the inaccurate snaps from both Jeremiah Hatch and Brad Thorson. Coach Mangino claims this will be corrected and I have faith that the staff will indeed get it fixed before it creates a problem in a future game. With many of the linemen being young and/or playing in a new position, I also feel there will be a lot of improvement in their play throughout the season. Even more promising is that all of the starters return next season.
Dezmon Briscoe had a very start to his season with over 100 yards in receptions. UTEP did their best to limit the Jayhawks’ passing game and yet there was over 300 yards passing overall. Even more interesting is that the receivers didn’t really have a great day. They dropped a few passes and made some mistakes in route running. This leaves room for improvement that I’m sure will come in future games.
Todd Reesing was disappointed in his performance and so were many fans. He didn’t have an awful game though he didn’t really seem to be the same quarterback we know so well. His scrambling was limited and several of his passes were off the mark. Everyone has a bad day and I’m sure Reesing will do whatever it takes to play better in the weeks to come.
Once again, I predicted the Jayhawks would score 45 and yet they only got 34. Add the three missed field goals and/or a touchdown and they would have been very close to my guess. Too many opportunities for scoring were missed. That can’t happen when the conference games roll around.
Trevor Vittatoe came in with the resume of a really good quarterback. That had me worried that UTEP would put some points on the board and give the Jayhawks a scare. It is hard to complete passes when you get knocked down and the Jayhawks defense was chasing him constantly. There were six sacks on the game and many more times when he threw under heavy pressure. Given the play of the Jayhawks’ defense in 2008, it was a pleasant surprise to see them playing so well in this game. The only touchdown came on one long pass play where there were some defensive breakdowns. It was a mistake that didn’t affect the outcome of this game yet it will provide teachable moments so the problem can be addressed for the future.
Overall this was a very good win for the Jayhawks. They won comfortably and yet they still have a number of areas where we should see improvement as the season progresses. Next up are the Duke Blue Devils and I’ll preview that game in a future post.