Friday, January 17, 2014
Season report card: Kansas
By Brandon Chatmon
It was an odd season in Lawrence, Kan.
The Jayhawks defense performed better than expected but Kansas’ offense stumbled around and was the main culprit behind KU’s 3-9 record. That said, Charlie Weis’ bunch won more games in 2013 than they did in 2012 including their first Big 12 win since 2010.
James Sims was the only positive in an otherwise ugly KU offense. Sims rushed for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns in his final season but the rest of the offense stumbled throughout the 12-game season. Tony Pierson, one of the Big 12’s most explosive players, struggled to stay healthy and quarterback Jake Heaps disappointed as a starter.
KU finished No. 118 in points scored per game (15.3), No. 117 in yards per game (294.5), No. 120 in yards per play (4.28) and No. 121 in third down conversion rate (27.9 percent). The Jayhawks' offense never found any rhythm or any confidence throughout the season. It was a odd turn of events for a team that was expected to lean in its offense for any success it had in 2013.
The defense wasn’t great but it played better than expected at times and often found itself paying for the offense’s struggles. The Jayhawks allowed 31.8 points per game and 5.82 yards per play, finishing in the bottom three in the Big 12.
James Sims, who ran for 1,110 yards and 7 TDs, was about the only bright spot on a dismal KU offense.
Safety Isaiah Johnson was one of the surprises of the Big 12 with his active play and competitive nature. He finished tied for second in the Big 12 with five interceptions as he earned Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year honors. Linebacker Ben Heeney was another key contributor with his team-high 87 tackles and 8.7 tackle per game average which ranked fourth in the conference.
Even with some stellar individual performances, KU’s defense couldn’t really keep the Jayhawks in games and didn’t make the key plays needed to spark more victories.
Special teams: C
The Jayhawks' special teams were fairly solid. Trevor Pardula was one of the Big 12’s top punters, finishing second in net punting (40.12) and first in punts inside the 10-yard line (14). He had 51.2 percent of his kickoffs result in touchbacks. But KU’s placekicking and return game was below average as the Jayhawks’ third unit never really changed the momentum of games and sparked a win.
Weis’ team improved over last season's group but remains at the bottom of the conference. The offense was the Big 12’s worst unit and the defense, while improved, still wasn’t good enough to keep it in every game. The only reason the Jayhawks escaped a lower grade was their 31-19 win over West Virginia which snapped a 27-game conference losing streak.