Despite losing their 20th game in a row on the road, there were quite a few positives from the Jayhawk’s 23-14 loss to the Rice Owls.
- Defense – KU’s defense really impressed me tonight. The biggest difference in the game was Jake Heaps’ first interception of the game, which was returned for a touchdown by Rice. KU’s defense gave up only one offensive touchdown and three field goals. Despite Kansas’ horrific offense tonight (we’ll get to that), Rice only mustered up 100 more yards than the Jayhawks. With a better offense, the time of possession would have certainly been more even (Rice had the ball 33 minutes to KU’s 27). Dave Campo should be proud. The highlights of the defense included:
- Ben Heeney – Heeney was a BEAST tonight. Heeney was crucial in the second and third quarters as Kansas tried to make a come back. He finished with 15 tackles (11 solo) and had a crucial sack of 8 yards.
- Isaiah Johnson – Johnson’s interception was crucial to get Kansas back into the game. Rice was moving the ball pretty well and Johnson returned it for 31 yards. The ensuing drive resulted in a touchdown to give Kansas the 14-13 lead . Additionally recorded nine tackles, seven of which were solo.
- Dexter McDonald – While it didn’t lead to a score for Kansas, McDonald’s interception at the six-yard line stopped a rolling Rice offense.
- Michael Reynold – Reynold was able to get two sacks tonight.
- Tony Pierson – Pierson’s 77-yard touchdown reception was the highlight of the game. Despite having 90-yards on three receptions in the first half, Pierson only had one reception in the second half. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either. Pierson came up big last year against Rice when he rushed for 120 yards on 19 carries.
- James Sims – Sims rushed for 109 yards on 19 carries, including a 39-yarder. Sims was stopped several times behind the line of scrimmage, unfortunately. That’s on the offensive line. It was Sims’ 12th 100-yard or more performance of his career.
- Trevor Pardula – Pardula was brilliant tonight, averaging 47.8 yards per punt including three 50+ yard punts (high of 59) and two which were inside Rice’s 20. He complimented the defense performance extraordinarily.
Yes, that’s a lot of positives for a loss. Unfortunately, the negatives greatly outweighed the positives:
- Jake Heaps – Heaps just didn’t get it done today. I dismissed Heaps’ completion percentage last week (10-for-20) because of dropped passes. Heaps was 13-for-28 today and yes, some of it was due to dropped passes but he made a lot of poor passes, too. He almost cost Kansas on their second touchdown drive when he intentionally grounded a ball. Fortunately, he found Tre’ Parmalee for a 17-yard pass that pushed KU to the 1, which he promptly punched in for a touchdown. Heaps needs to be more consistent. It would also help if KU eliminated …
- Too many dropped passes (Jimmay Mundine) – It was incredibly frustrating to see the Kansas receivers dropping passes. Jimmay Mundine had two crucial dropped passes, one in the opening drive of the game for KU and on Kansas’ last drive of the game.
- Tony Pierson – This isn’t a complaint on Pierson but on the offensive play selection. Pierson was clearly KU’s best playmaker in the game tonight besides James Sims. Pierson only had four receptions tonight which is just sad. The CBS announcers mentioned he should be targeted more often. I have to agree. He should be seeing 65 percent of the throws, if not more. Until another wideout can prove they can be reliable, Pierson should be the go-to guy.
- Offensive line – Very terrible protection tonight. Heaps was sacked three times which forces Heaps to make some poor throws and led to interceptions. Also, they did a bad job blocking for Sims.
- Matthew Wyman – Wyman missed a field goal tonight, which could have come back to haunt the Jayhawks. It turned out to not matter too much but Wyman needs to be a strength for this team.
Let me know who impressed you most and what concerns you the most in the comments below.