Gone to Sizzler, all day long? When will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?
Enough about the departed Mangino, he of the purportedly epic temper & verified epic appetite. In with former Buffalo head coach & program reviver Turner Gill, the great Nebraska option QB of the '80's. And what's Gill thinking at night after losing his debut to FCS power North Dakota State, 6-3 ? "Thank god for Houston Nutt!" Yup, if Coach Giggity & his band of Rebels hadn't soiled themselves last week the spotlight would be glaring intently on Gill & his Jayhawks, who managed a woeful 268 yards & three turnovers last Saturday. That's what happens when you spurn Admiral Ackbar, bitches......
But it's off to Lawrence, Kansas & Memorial Stadium on Saturday for the Jacket's first road test of the year in a game that most people are writing off as a big win for Tech. I do think Tech should win handily but let's take a look at how things might unfold. We'll look at the Jayhawks first:
To say Kansas struggled last week would be kind; they mustered absolutely nothing offensively. Benched this week is the aptly named Kale Pick, who started last week & failed to muster any offensive continuity. In is redshirt freshman Jordan Webb, who is reportedly a better passer than Pick. Kansas, under coordinator Chuck Long, runs a spread offense that was thought to be focused on running the football. But with Webb under center the offensive focus may change for the Jayhawks this week as they try & throw the ball more after a dreadful day trying to run it last week. Expect lots of short passes designed to exploit our linebackers, particularly curl & hook routes into the flat & over the middle. Cornerback-turned-slot receiver Daymond Patterson (5'9", 175) was the Jayhawks most effective offensive weapon last week, leading the team in rushing (3 for 63 yards) and receiving (4 receptions, 66 yards). Tight end Tim Biere is highly thought of but didn't register much impact in last week's offensive debacle. If Gill lives up to his press conference, expect true freshman running back James Sims to get a look this week as the feature back. The offensive line had a dreadful day on Saturday & I expect a much better effort from a veteran group this week. It's hard to judge Kansas offensively after their poor outing last week and while no offensive juggernaut, it's hard to imagine them not improving this week.
Jake Laptad is the Jayhawk's best defender
The Jayhawk defense looked pretty good last week holding North Dakota State to a pair of field goals. Led by last year's Mississippi State defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, the Jayhawks play a 4-3 and are led by DE Jake Laptad and LB's Justin Springer & Steven Johnson. Torbush played essentially a 4-4 against us last year & we made him pay through the air as Nesbitt threw for a career high 266 yards. I expect more of the same this season from Torbush. Kansas did lose DE Tyrone Sellers last week to a leg injury & it looks as if they are undersized & vulnerable up front. Again, last week may or may not be an accurate indicator of the Jayhawk defense, it's hard to tell, but I don't expect we'll have too much trouble moving the ball on Saturday.
Kansas Special Teams:
Nothing special here: two missed field goals & a blocked punt next week. They'll need to vastly improve this week.
Tech enters Saturday having lost two starters to injury last week, LG Will Jackson (knee) and safety Cooper Taylor (heat) and with two reserves not dressing, DE Emmanuel Dieke (shoulder) and Ray Beno (coach's decision/discipline). Taylor & Beno's return is uncertain while both Dieke & Jackson hope to be back next week. The Jacket's will look to tighten things up & limit mistakes as they aim for their first road victory of 2010.
Expect sophomore Orwin Smith to get the start across from Roddy Jones at A-back. Nick McRae will step in & play LG for Jackson. The Tech offense looked a bit rusty last week but it's nothing some solid game repetitions can't cure. Expect CPJ to bang the ball to Allen & use Nesbitt on the midline, forcing the Kansas defense in tight. When that happens, look for some rocket toss sweeps & triple options to the edge. CPJ kept things very vanilla last week & I expect more counter option and mis-direction (including a reverse for a TD) this week. It will be interesting to see how much we throw the ball. I expect we'll try to hit the seams & use Stephen Hill over the top, our usual recipe through the air. Expect us to key on Laptad as he's their best run defender. After watching Navy on Monday, the biggest difference I see in the two offenses is the blocking on the perimeter. If we can get people on the ground at the edge the way Navy does, we'll be damn tough to deal with (as if we already aren't......). This is an area I expect CPJ focused on this week & will improve on Saturday.
Improved play from TJ Barnes would give the Tech defense a big lift
While last week was far from perfect it was undoubtedly a learning experience for our new defense. On the downside, we missed a ton of tackles & had problems with gap control. The upside is that we made adjustments & were able to shore up our deficiencies during the game, something we couldn't do last year. Expect TJ Barnes to get a longer look at nose tackle this week after playing well last Saturday. Hopefully Jason Peters, who all but disappeared against SC State, will be more of a presence this game. Brandon Watts should continue to see increased time at inside linebacker while true freshman Jeremiah Attaochu plays more on the outside at the WILL spot. Watch for Attaochu, #45, this week. I expect Kansas to pass a lot on Saturday & my guess is that Groh turns him loose to rush the QB. Speaking of rushing the QB, our defense was particularly vanilla last week. We called almost nothing fancy (a few simple blitzes) and kept things basic. I expect we'll unveil a bit more of the package this week with some more exotic blitz schemes. Watch for safety Isaiah Johnson in particular as Groh was fond of turning him loose on the blitz this spring & fall. In the secondary I expect a fair amount of nickel coverage this week so both Tarrant & Sweeting should see the field a good bit.
Tech Special Teams:
Sweet Justin Moore and your booming leg! Holy mother of touchbacks! A few more of those & I'll swoon clean over & faint. No good reason, just a hunch, but we score a special teams TD this week. And if you do nothing more for the love of Kelly Rhino watch Julian Burnett covering kicks. Over/under on number of guys pancaked is three. Total distance in the air of those pancaked, 45 feet. I'm taking the over on both.....
Three Keys for Kansas:
1) turnovers; none for them, must cause three
2) short passing game; dink & dunk down the field; exploit our LB's on curl & hook routes
3) flawless kicking game
Three Keys for Tech:
1) Here & Now: no looking ahead, focus on today
2) Don't beat ourselves - no turnovers
3) Keep everything in front of us - limit big plays, make them earn it
How it goes down:
This has all the makings of a classic trap game: 1) opponent coming off a disastrous loss looking to redeem themselves, 2) a road game halfway across the country, & 3) a big conference game against a division foe on the horizon next week. We haven't succumbed to one of these under CPJ & I don't think we will Saturday. It would be hard for Kansas to play any worse than last week; they'll show some pride & rebound. Expect them to move the ball between the 20's with short passes designed to isolate our LB's in coverage, especially with hook & curl routes. But the going will get tough for them in the red zone when there is less real estate & our defense will hold up. Offensively, we'll simply batter them to death. We'll force them to commit to the dive & then exploit the edge where we have a big speed advantage. I expect to see more offensive variety this week, if for no other reason than to give UNC something to think about. It's relatively close at half but a long reverse TD & a special teams TD in the third quarter followed by a patented CPJ 10-minute death march drive (featuring Luke Cox) put it out of reach at the start of the 4th quarter.
Final Score: Tech 38 Kansas 17