Kansas fell 23-14 to Rice, Saturday night in Houston. The loss was a disappointing one because the Jayhawks defense looked as good as they have in likely four years, if not longer. That alone gives the coaching staff reason to think that better days are ahead. Saturday's visit from Louisiana Tech would be an ideal time to put that hypothesis to work.
Here are five things that stand out from the Rice game, as Kansas sits at 1-1. Eagerly anticipating their matchup with Skip Holtz's Bulldogs, Saturday morning at Memorial Stadium.
The Kansas defense turned in a great effort against the high flying Owls. In total, they held Rice to just 16 points, with seven coming by way of an interception return for touchdown in the first quarter. If that's not enough, three came off a short field, which led to a ridiculous 57-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell. If the Kansas defense led by Ben Heeney, continues to do this, they will win some games. I promise.
2. Tony Pierson needs to touch the ball more.
And he will. Head coach Charlie Weis pointed out that Pierson drew double coverage all night and even on his 77 yard touchdown reception, was double covered and simply broke away, before outracing the Rice defenders. He will see the ball more and look for him to get more carries via the run game against Louisiana Tech. Look for a big day from #3.
3. The Wide Receivers
The Kansas wideouts struggled against Rice. They will respond, as the Jayhawks depth chart was shaken up. Rodriguez Coleman and Tre Parmalee will start against the Bulldogs, but don't read too much into it. Justin McCay and Josh Ford will compete, see playing time and will respond. Competition is what it's all about and that will be seen going forward.
Weis vowed to fixed the kicking game and he has himself a punter. Field position is vital and his contributions will pay big dividend later in the year.
Weis said following the game that he spent some time talking to players on the back of the plane on the way home. He normally doesn't do that, but he sense his team was deflated. The reason is beyond encouraging. They were down because they fully went into the Rice game expecting to win. Weis pointed out the fact that the mindset of expecting to win had never appeared going into a road game.
It's a subtle thing, but a sign that the team is going. All it will take is one break and it could snowball from there. Saturday's game against Louisiana Tech is crucial and will show the makeup and character of this team, as they get ready to conclude the non-conference portion of their schedule.