This week, me, Panjandrum, and EMAW get back to talking a little Xs and Os in preparation for the game this weekend. Mostly, that's because we actually feel like there may be a way to win this game absent divine intervention. Thus, we put together our collective football wisdom, which in my case is almost entirely based on video games, to first-guess the decisions our coaches will make this weekend.
EMAW: From a defensive standpoint, there should be one main focus for our defense this week, and that is finding a way to disrupt the confidence of Todd Reesing. It's become apparent that as Reesing goes, so goes the Jayhawk offense. During the South Florida game, KU started to fall apart once George Selvee started spending as much time in the Chickenhawk backfield that he does at the buffet. Tech also found a way to keep his numbers at a manageable level (of course putting up 63 doesn't hurt). We can't let Reesing have time to hit Dezmon Briscoe for any big yardage plays. There also needs to be a middle linebacker in zone "help" coverage over the middle of the field to prevent any 17-yard Kerry Meier first-down receptions on third and long. If we can force Reesing into a couple of interceptions and keep Dezmon Briscoe from burning us on the deep ball (this means you too, safeties!), our offense should be able to give us a chance to win against a sub-par KU defense.
While KU may not be as strong as last year's squad, they still have more talent than us at several positions. Therefore, I'm not completely sold that we will walk in and have our way with them (as some of my KU friends think we will). I do think it will take a concerted effort of running the ball early and being physical on the defensive side that will give our offense a chance to win it late in the game. This, of course, being said with the hope that our coaching staff has learned from their late game mis-management in Boulder a couple weeks ago.
Panjandrum: Well, I think EMAW kind of hit it on the head; stop Reesing, and you stop KU.
One of the biggest problems this year with KU is their lack of a running game. Crawford has been a bust so far, and Mangino has misused Jake Sharp badly. I think the Jayhawks are really missing the change of pace that Brandon McAnderson provided. However, I'm not going to assume that KU won't run like mad on this team; like any of our opponents, if you set your mind to it, you can rush for 250+ without breaking a sweat.
That said, you have to pick your poison defensively. You can completely focus on taking the running game out of the equation, and put the game solely in the hands of Todd Reesing. I think several teams have taken this approach, and it's had mixed results. Reesing, as much as I like to poke fun at him, is a very good quarterback, and if he's on, it doesn't matter if you shut down the running game because he will still move the chains, and the Hawks will still put up points. Also, he's proven that he can take a hit and bounce back up and keep right on trucking. So, I'm not going to throw out the same game plan that I submitted for Tech; I actually think you sit back in zone most of the day and hope he throws a couple of picks. Stick with the four man front, spy the running back, and drop six. I really think some combo packages are in order because Reesing isn't going to get fooled by standard zone.
Also, and this is just an aside, but I've always thought that Reesing was better when KU rolls the pocket or when the play breaks down and he throws on the run. The dude has some wicked vision, so I think KSU has a better chance of forcing turnovers and incompletions when he's sitting behind the tall linemen trying to find his receivers.
No, that's not a joke about his height; I just think that's a rational concern.
Regardless, on defense, confine Reesing in the pocket, and force him to throw into zone coverage. Hey, maybe you'll force a turnover or two.
On offense...TAKE CARE OF THE BALL.
Josh, I'm imploring you...take the sack. Just do it. I know you're our only hope, but don't force it. You're good enough to play within yourself and let the game come to you.
That said, run Josh please. Early and often. Scuttlebutt is that KU is hurting on the DL, so punish them with a healthy dose of man-mountain. Also, if Dold is healthy, run him a lot. Run Lamark Brown if he comes back. Run Dee Bell or Keithen Valentine. Just run the damn ball.
Remember, the magic number is 40. Anytime that KSU rushes the ball 40 times, they win the game. Sure, they only averaged 2.0 yards per rush against OU, but KU is not OU. You can get YPC. Just run it baby. All day. Long.
TB: Usually, I don't get on this train until after the game, so this week I'm going to switch things up and start screaming about it beforehand. We really, really, really need to try and establish a running game early against KU. Yes, I realize KU only gives up an average of 113 rushing yards per game, but we have to try. Tech had 138 rushing yards against the 'beaks last weekend, which isn't a lot but it's a worthy goal. Establishing at least something resembling a running game does two things for us. For one, it helps us control the ball a little more, which keeps our defense off the field (always a good thing with our defense). Secondly, it slows down KU's pass rush and thus will give Josh Freeman more time to throw, which is always a good thing for him. That in turn should lead to more completions, and longer, sustained drives, which would result in our defense staying off the field. Win-win!
Defensively, I think we're all in agreement that Todd Reesing must be neutralized. PJ hit on something I've noticed in the few times I've watched KU this year, namely that Reesing seems to almost be a better quarterback when he scrambles than when he stands in the pocket. Maybe it's his height (or lack thereof), maybe it's something else, but when he's on the run, he ALWAYS seems to find someone open. Plus, he's a threat running the ball, so in sum I think it behooves us to keep him contained in the pocket as much as possible. So my plan is basically contain Reesing, make sure the running backs don't average 10 yards per carry, and keep a watchful and wary eye on Dez Briscoe and Daymond Patterson.
Panjandrum: You know what would really screw up the Hawks? A delayed handoff.
I'm not kidding. Put two guys in the backfield, two receivers out on the edge, and one TE, and fake a handoff to the strongside with Dold, and then actually hand the ball off to Brown on the weak side. Or Valentine. Whoever.
We throw the ball so much faking a throw would probably gain more yards than faking a handoff.
TB: My brain might explode if I saw that.
Also, if I see any more play-action passes when we haven't so much as even handed the ball off yet, I'm going to lose my mind.
EMAW: I had this thought pop in and out of my head on Saturday as well. Why don't we run more draws? It's an interesting point that probably isn't questioned enough. I do think the reasons for our poor rushing attack can be found more than just poor performance from the offensive line, and should be pointed more at the game plans and specific plays that are designed. A fake pass to a receiver in the flat and then a handoff up the middle could be what we need to gain an extra 4-5 yards here and there.
In fact, as we've all seemed to agree upon, our rushing problems probably have more to do with the fact that we don't commit ourselves to the run early enough. I understand our strengths lie within the passing game, but even running the ball 3-4 times within the first couple of series would allow our offensive line to get in the game and possibly change the pace of their pass rush.
I'm sure I've beat this dead horse beyond its limits by now....