University of Kansas football fans have always had plenty to complain about, and Saturday night could be viewed as just one more in a long line of out-of-synch performances – particularly on offense – against a solid-but-not-great football team over the years. I present the evidence:
- Kansas receivers dropped eight – count ‘em – eight passes. Credit Marcus Henry with five, including a 2nd quarter drop that hit him in a bad spot – right in the chest – in the end zone. Even sure-handed TE Derek Fine had a drop.
- KU QB Todd Reesing was just 16-for-35 passing. All those drops didn’t help, but Reesing also just plain missed a number of receivers, short-hopping the ball and going high and outside.
- KU’s high-octane offense was just four-of-15 on 3rd down conversions (26.7 percent).
- The Jayhawks, who didn’t have a turnover in the first two games, fumbled the ball five times, losing three of them.
- WR/PR Raimond Pendleton fumbled a punt in the second quarter, setting Toledo up at the Kansas 21. One play later, Toledo scored.
Funny thing is, this time, Kansas won. By four touchdowns.
It hasn’t been very often that Kansas fans have left Memorial Stadium having seen a win – let alone a convincing win – on a night when the offense was at far less than its best.
Even as he acknowledged frustration with KU’s errors last night, coach Mark Mangino was pleased with his team’s mental toughness and pointed to their resiliency through those mistakes.
“The positive is, some of the guys who dropped the ball came back and made really good catches and made plays and you like to see that. They can get over making a bad play or two and move forward,” the coach said.
True. And even after Henry’s drop in the end zone, no one hung their head or took on that deer-in-headlights, here-we-go-again look. In fact, the Jayhawks were very poised and maintained their composure extremely well.
“We’re not going to be flawless every week. Nobody is,” Mangino noted. “But part of having that good mental edge is overcoming mistakes. We had some mistakes and we did overcome them.”
QB Todd Reesing shouldered the blame for the Jayhawks’ problems on offense, but he also appreciated the reality of the situation.
“I’m disappointed in myself. I don’t think I played a very good game tonight,” he said, “but I think you have those nights, and I think everything’s fixable.”
Perhaps Kansas, after clicking on all cylinders the previous two weeks, was primed for a letdown. After all, they were taking on Toledo, who had lost the week before, 52-31, to a Central Michigan team that lost to the Jayhawks in week one, 52-7. Hardly a game to rip off your locker door over, right?
When asked about the possibility of a letdown, Mangino observed, “Just because there’s mistakes doesn’t mean there’s a letdown; it means there’s mistakes.” The coach noted that KU simply didn’t execute as well on offense this week as in the previous two.
But as a coach who absolutely detests fumbles, dropped passes and a general lack of protecting the football, this game had to be difficult for Mangino to watch. At least, until he looked at the scoreboard. Kansas posted a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter, and 17-7 was as close as Toledo got all night. Not bad for a Jayhawk team that wasn’t playing very well.
Reesing agreed, but he also knows that KU can’t afford nights like this against a better football team.
“It’s a good thing to know that, if we don’t have our best night on offense, we’re still going to put up some points and put ourselves in a position to win,” Reesing said. Then he continued, “We got away with it this week, and I’m glad we got a win, but we need to be more effective on offense and more consistent.”
Mangino was fully cognizant that his team has plenty to work on this week, but he was also pretty happy with where they are at the end of week three.
“There’s a lot of people around the nation who thought they were going to be 3-0 this week and they’re not. We go one week at a time. Now we get ready for the next one, and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
That next one is next Saturday, September 22, when 0-3 Florida International visits the friendly confines of Marvin Grove and Memorial Stadium on the banks of Potter Lake. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Other game notes:
- KU’s first quarter scoring drives of 81 and 92 yards were their fourth and fifth scoring drives of 80-plus yards already this season.
- KU has had over 500 yards total offense and over 200 yards rushing in all three games this season.
- QB Todd Reesing threw for four more touchdowns and 313 yards Saturday night. On the season, he’s thrown for 10 TDs with no interceptions and a total of 831 yards. If you’re scoring at home, Bill Whittemore holds the season record for TD passes (18) and Mike Norseth threw for 2,995 yards in 1985.
- CB and part-time WR Aqib Talib’s fourth consecutive game with a TD reception is the longest streak for a Jayhawk since Mark Simmons in 2003.
- KU has had three scoring drives of 90 or more yards this season, and all three have culminated with a Reesing-to-Talib TD pass. Coincidence? I think not.
- Marcus Henry made seven catches for 133 yards Saturday night. That makes him one of just four Jayhawks to have three consecutive 100-yard games, the others being Isaac Byrd, Willie Vaughn and Bobbie Johnson.
- DB Darrell Stuckey and DE John Larson both had their first KU career interceptions Saturday night.
- DT James McClinton led the team with nine tackles. DB Aqib Talib, LB Mike Rivera and LB Joe Mortensen added six each.
- Two freshmen had their first start Saturday night. Dezmon Briscoe started at WR, and Ian Wolfe got the nod at offensive tackle, starting for Anthony Collins, who did not start for disciplinary reasons.