Despite a 2-1 record going into their bye week, the Jayhawks’ offense must improve if Kansas hopes to surprise the Big 12 and win their first conference game in three years.
The defense and special teams were the stars of the Jayhawks’ 13-10 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday as the defense forced three turnovers, with two of them coming in the red zone, and kicker Matthew Wyman hitting a game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired.
Despite stellar performances in two facets of the game, Kansas’ offensive inconsistencies from the first two games of the season carried into the Louisiana Tech game. Quarterback Jake Heaps threw for 279 yards, his most in a game this season, but he threw two interceptions for the second consecutive game. Tony Pierson played a bigger role on offense with a team-high nine catches and 82 yards, but he and the other Jayhawk running backs struggled on the ground with only 117 yards on 33 carries. Kansas’ running backs are the strength of the team and if they can’t get the running game going, they will continue to struggle to score points.
Despite winning the turnover battle and field-position game, Kansas’ offense continued to stall until the fourth quarter. Heaps was able to lead his team down the field for an 80-yard touchdown run following a Louisiana Tech fumble into the endzone and after the Kansas defense was able to force another turnover with less than two minutes to go, Heaps led the Jayhawks down the field for the game-winning field goal.
Kansas shouldn’t be too worried about their running attack going into the bye week, Louisiana Tech focused on stopping the run and dared Jake Heaps to beat them. If Louisiana Tech didn’t turn the ball over twice in the red zone, they win the game and their defensive game plan is considered a success.
The Jayhawks should turn their worries to the passing game, where a depth chart shakeup only marginally motivated the Jayhawks to improve the play of the team’s wide receivers. Kansas’ top three receivers against Louisiana Tech were Pierson, Brandon Bourbon and Jimmay Mundine. Wide receivers Rodriguez Coleman, Christian Matthews and Josh Ford combined for only six catches and 74 yards.
The Jayhawks did improve on an important facet of the passing game from Rice to Louisiana Tech: dropped passes. Weis said he counted eight dropped passes from the Jayhawks in their loss to Rice but just one in their win against Louisiana Tech. That being said, Kansas still has a long way to go. Of course, an improved passing attack from the Jayhawks opens up the running game, KU’s offensive strength.
If the Jayhawks can’t improve their passing attack, they will continue to lag behind the pass-happy Big 12 and add to their 21 consecutive losses in conference games.