Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Season report card: Kansas Jayhawks
By David Ubben
Time to take a look back at each team's season in the coming weeks, beginning with the squads who won't be in the postseason. Next up: the Kansas Jayhawks.
More report cards:
OFFENSE: There was plenty of early promise, spearheaded by an improved Jordan Webb and young skill-position talent that pushed the Jayhawks to 42 and 45 points in season-opening wins over McNeese State and eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois.
It didn't last. Webb threw for six touchdowns and no interceptions in those two games, including a 281-yard performance in a comeback win against the Huskies. He'd only top that number one more time the rest of the year, and the Jayhawks trailed 56-7 at halftime of that game. He followed up the six scores in the first two games with just seven over the next 11, including just two touchdowns over the final seven games. He closed the season with one touchdown and six interceptions in the final three games. That won't cut it, even though Webb's numbers were up across the board, compared to last season.
The running backs are the strength of the team, but even still, it ranked just ninth in the Big 12 in rushing offense. Part of that is trailing for most of the season and being forced to throw with an offense poorly equipped to do so, but James Sims and Darrian Miller offered promise with 727 and 559-yard seasons, respectively, though each's yards per carry was around only 4 yards. Tony Pierson (5.58) and Brandon Bourbon (6.79) were much more productive with their select touches.
Shine it up however you want: At the end of the year, Kansas ranked 106th nationally in total offense, and last in the Big 12 by nearly 17 yards per game. It also ranked last in the Big 12 and 95th nationally in scoring. That's not good enough in this league. GRADE: D-
DEFENSE: Oh my. For all the offense's struggles this year, it never had a chance because of the defense. You saw the grade for the offense. What's it supposed to do when the defense gives up at least 59 points in four games, and gives up at least 40 points in eight games?
No chance. Kansas got better late in the season, holding Iowa State to just 13 points and notching a halftime lead in a 24-10 loss to Mizzou, which prevented the Jayhawks from making history as what would have statistically been the worst defense ever. Big 12 offenses had a lot to do with that, but even the ground-based Georgia Tech offense racked up 66 points and a school-record 604 yards rushing, so don't blame fast-paced passing offenses across the Big 12 for the ballooning numbers.
Kansas ranked dead last nationally in total defense by 6 full yards per game, and last nationally by two full points per game. No other grade makes sense. GRADE: F-
Overall: It's pretty easy to see how Kansas went 2-10 with a 10-game losing streak and six losses by at least 30 points. It's also easy to see why Kansas felt it needed to make a change. Generally, two years is too quick to make a change, but this Kansas team was awful and didn't show anywhere near enough progress to warrant a third year for Turner Gill. You don't need to win championships in two years to keep your job, but you can't be worse after going 3-9 in your first year as Gill did. Kansas would like to forget these past two seasons and focus on what should be, if nothing else, an exciting future with Charlie Weis and two big-time quarterback recruits-turned-transfers: Dayne Crist of Notre Dame and Jake Heaps of BYU. GRADE: F