I don’t think it was any surprise that KU was able to beat Duke handily. The Jayhawks were prohibitive favorites and they again covered the betting spread with the latest victory. We did see some good things and some areas of concern in this game and that is where I’ll focus in this post.
Just as in the UTEP game, the offense got off to a slow start. This isn’t a problem now, but could be a more significant problem in future games. The Jayhawks have a powerful offense and they need to put points on the board early so that there is pressure on the opponent.
Part of the reason for the slow start could have been the calf injury to Jake Sharp. He was in on a few plays, but was largely ineffective. This led to increased playing time for Toben Opurum and he delivered. As impressive as he played, his comments afterwards were even more impressive. Opurum realizes that he has a lot to learn and sure seems to be absorbing as much as possible. He should be a very important weapon for the Jayhawks as they move into conference games and should benefit them for at least two more seasons.
Another area of concern were the passes dropped by KU’s top receivers. There is no doubt in my mind that the coaches will work hard on this to prevent a costly drop in future games. The bright spot was that Todd Reesing seemed to be much better than the previous two games. If all the parts of the passing game start clicking, this offense could be absolutely amazing.
Of course the biggest key to the running and passing game lies with the five men up front. The wild snaps of the UTEP game seem to have been solved. Duke was able to put some pressure on Reesing and that is disturbing since the Blue Devils are not nearly as good as some of the defenses the Jayhawks will see later in the season. I know the line as a whole is very young and still learning. It is time for them to gel as they are the key to winning the big games in the conference.
If we could simply erase Duke’s first drive of the game, the KU defense would look to be in good shape. Unfortunately they allowed two big plays right off the bat and gave up seven points. This reminded me of the one big play in the UTEP game for the only touchdown. Big plays like this could lead to a loss and the defense needs to address this right away. It was impressive that the defense clamped down for the rest of the first half. Even better was the pick six that started the second half.
I was certainly impressed to see the defensive front continue to put pressure on the quarterback. My question is whether they will be equally impressive when they face the much larger offensive lineman on the schedule. The defensive backfield has definitely improved since the first game and appears to have some good reserves if needed. Linebackers were considered a huge question before the season and they have shown great improvement as well. Most importantly is the role played by true freshman Huldon Tharp. Continued improvement from Tharp will certainly come as the season progresses.
So far the Jayhawks have avoided major injuries. Jake Sharp could be held out this week to insure that he will be at full health when the conference season rolls around. While there have been a couple of players fighting the flu, it is nowhere near as bad as it has been elsewhere. I doubt the Jayhawks can continue to avoid injuries and illnesses as they are part of the game. They did compensate well in Jake Sharp’s absence and hopefully they can do the same if another important player is unavailable.
Next up on the schedule is Southern Mississippi. I’ll do a preview of that game later in the week.