KU Better than Most Expected

<p>If you were listening to Max and Bob and ordered a pizza at kick-off, chances are good that by the time Pizza Shuttle rang your doorbell, the game was over.</p>

Now granted, KU wasn’t taking on a national power, or even a BCS-conference team.  But even if they were playing the junior varsity from Our Lady of Perpetual Weeping Sores, you couldn’t help but be impressed with this Kansas football team and their 63-14 win over Toledo.

"I’m really proud of the way our players played in all three phases of the game.  We built on last week's defensive performance and turned in another stellar defensive performance.  Our offense clicked and it was opportunistic. We took advantage most of the night of good field position, and even when we didn’t have good field position still made things happen.  This is a good win,” Kansas head coach Mark Mangino said.

This week, the coach was quick to talk about the much-improved offense, featuring John Randle (186 total yards) and Adam Barmann (310 yards passing), which finished with 501 yards total offense.

"Adam settled in and is doing what he is capable of doing and John Randle had a big night.  They both had a pretty good night and you’d like to see them perform like that all the time,” Mangino said.

"I was blessed tonight,” Randle said.  “The offensive line played really well and opened up holes. We were really explosive tonight. Adam stayed poised and the offensive line protected him – and he can throw, so that opens up everything.”

“John’s a great back.  He’s real shifty and he can make plays for us,” said Barmann.  “I felt more comfortable, sitting back in the pocket, and I had all day to throw.  We just made plays tonight.  We got chunks of yardage where last week we just couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm.  When you get into that grove, things just start clicking for you.”

Toledo’s problems started early, when they got off the team bus at the stadium only to be informed that they were already behind 14-0.

Okay, it wasn’t really that bad, but it was close: KU scored 28 points in the first quarter to lead  28-0.  That’s the most points the Hawks have ever scored in a first quarter against a Division I opponent since records started being kept in 1965.

In the first quarter,…

  • Adam Barmann threw nine passes and completed seven of them, two of those for touchdowns, for 99 yards.  Toledo’s Heisman hopeful quarterback Bruce Gradkowski also threw nine passes, completing two for 11 yards.
  • John Randle had 112 yards of total offense – 52 rushing and 60 receiving – and two TDs.
  • Lance Moore, Toledo’s outstanding wideout who led the nation with about nine catches per game last year, had one catch for four yards.
  • Kansas had 156 yards total offense.  Toledo had 35.

And it really didn’t get any better after that.  Toledo’s longest run from scrimmage all night was by Nick Kaczur, Toledo’s All-American offensive tackle, on a fake punt to keep a second quarter drive alive.  As for Lance Moore, he finished with just three catches and nine yards.

Toledo officially waved the white flag with 11:55 to go in the game when Gradkowski took a seat on the bench.  While his line was pretty solid – 15 of 28 for 215 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions – Toledo was just never able to get anything going.

“A lot of little things went wrong tonight,” said Gradkowski.  “Anytime we would start to get in a rhythm, they would knock us down again.  Kansas came ready to play.”

Mangino agreed, citing the defense’s intensity and continued improvement.

“Bill Young and all the defensive coaches had a great game plan going in.  Our defense is playing with confidence.  Our defense is playing very physical.  We don't have many headline players, but we have a good team concept and good team chemistry."

The third phase of the game – special teams – really helped the Kansas cause Saturday night, too.

  • Scott Webb replaced Johnny Beck on extra points and picked a great night to do it.  He had nine chances at PATs and drilled all nine.
  • Deep kicks by the much-maligned Johnny Beck and good coverage by his mates on the kicking unit combined to pin Toledo deep in their own territory on kickoff after kickoff.
  • Finally, punter Chris Tyrell averaged 46 yards per punt on his four attempts.

Mangino was very pleased with the performance of his special teams.  “Hey, if we have to do things by committee, we’ll do things by committee.  Whatever it takes to win.  That’s all we care about,” he said.

Now, I won’t yet go out on even a big, fat limb and predict a win against Kansas State or that Godless Red Polyester-Wearing Horde up north.  But when Mangino talked earlier this fall about Kansas being a pretty good team – one that could win a game or two will surprise some people –

maybe we shouldn’t have giggled.

“One of the reasons we’re 2-0 is because our kids are hungry,” said Mangino.  “They sat around all summer and went to all the websites and read about how lousy they were.  Then they read all the newspapers and magazines about how lousy they were.  I don’t have to worry about (motivation).  Our kids are hungry.”

In the first two weeks, the improvement of this football team is clear.  The upgrade in team speed immediately jumps out at you, particularly in the defensive backfield.  New players are making great plays, and older, established players are making plays that they probably wouldn’t have made even just last year.

The jury is still out on how the offensive line will stack up against the big boys – next week’s game against 0-2 Northwestern will give us at least some idea since they’re a Big 10 school.

However, the Kansas defensive line harassed Gradkowski into hurries and knockdowns all night long, and the Jayhawk offensive line gave a fast-maturing Adam Barmann enough time to knit a sweater and still complete most of his passes.

Combine a Jayhawk rout of a Toledo club that will probably still contend for their conference title with the results of the other Big 12 North games last week, and perhaps the great abyss between this perennial Have-not and the conference’s Haves isn’t as wide as we thought.  Maybe this team will indeed surprise someone this season.

Other Jayhawk notes:

From the “Did You Know?  Better Yet, Did You Care?” File: Coach Mark Mangino is 5-0 when prowling the Memorial Stadium sidelines in his navy blue sweater vest.  No, I am not making this up.

What a difference a week makes: Last week, Brandon Rideau knocked down four passes.  This would be terrific if he were a defensive back.  Unfortunately, he’s a wide receiver.

Rideau bounced back strong Saturday night against a struggling Toledo defense, hauling in six passes for 81 yards including a touchdown.  What happened this week?

“I just had to tell myself, I just have to do it.  I talked to my dad.  He was at the game last week, and he said, ‘I don’t know why you didn’t do your job, because I know you can.’  So I just told myself that all week and I came out and had a pretty good performance.”

On the upside, Rideau was recognized for his special teams play, which included two blocked punts, by his fellow Jayhawks as well as the Big XII.  He was awarded a game ball last week by his teammates and was named Special Teams Player of the Week by the conference.  And that never hurts your chances at regaining a little lost confidence.

Doghouse, schmoghouse: When asked if John Randle was finally out of his coach’s doghouse following well-documented off-the-field difficulties, Mangino quickly responded, “John was never in my doghouse.  He’s a good, young man who made some foolish decisions, and that’s behind him and I have confidence in him that he will continue to do the right things.”

The coach continued, “He was never in my doghouse.  Now, I wasn’t happy with him, and we had some heart-to-heart talks, but I always had faith in him as a person.”

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