KU’s offense sputtered the second half of a game earmarked by many as one Kansas had to have to hit the magic six-win mark this season.
"It was a hard fought game but once again, we didn't close out. That’s the issue we’re faced with. We weren't able to finish the game two weeks in a row so we’ve got to take a good look at ourselves and find out why that’s happening,” Mangino said. “I thought (the offense) did some good things in some areas but there was just not enough consistency in our offensive play to be a good football team.”
And he was right. The same Kansas offense that capitalized on a number of first-half opportunities didn’t put up a single point in the second, watching a 30-11 halftime lead turn into a heartbreaking 31-30 loss.
But the coach didn’t stop there.
“I'm not pleased at all with the play of our offensive line. I’m ready to make some changes there. I want to commend Clark Green. Whatever yards they got today running the football, it was basically their own effort,” he said.
Mangino continued, “We have to play more physical and tougher and smarter on the offensive line if we’re going to improve on offense.”
A look at the trusty stat sheet tells an interesting – and maybe confusing – story.
John Randle ran the ball 16 times Saturday for 52 yards. However, KU’s version of The Playmaker got one carry in the third quarter. One. That’s one less than two, and just one more than, well, none.
Clark Green got six carries for 20 yards – and it all came in the third quarter.
If you throw in fullback Austine Nwabuisi who had a nice night (24 yards on five carries and a couple of key first down conversions), KU rushing game accounted for 27 carries and 96 yards.
But if you weren’t at the game and heard that line, you’d probably think that was Randle’s line all by himself and wonder where Clark Green was all day.
So where was Randle when the offense couldn’t get anything going in the third quarter? He was playing special teams and holding the bench down.
When asked, Mangino defended his game plan by pointing to Randle’s all-around value to the team. “John Randle’s on every special team – did you see that? See him covering all those kicks and running back kickoffs and doing all that?” the coach said. “We don’t have enough depth anywhere – on offense, defense or kicking game. We have to put our best people out there.”
But on this particular Saturday afternoon when the Jayhawks needed someone to make some plays, the Jayhawks’ best wasn’t available. He was running back kicks after each lead-narrowing Tech touchdown. Instead, the ball was in the hands of a still-inexperienced sophomore quarterback whose Big 12 baptism by fire continues.
The coach can point to his offensive line’s inability to block anyone, and he can point to Randle’s contributions in areas other than running the ball. But at three yards a carry, I’ll take my chances, especially if it means a running clock and a Tech offense that’s forced to watch from the sidelines.
True, John Randle does mean a lot to this team. However, at this point, the Jayhawks can’t win if he’s not running the football.
Other game notes:
Get your kicks: Once again, the KU kicking game betrayed them. Newly-installed kicker Scott Webb missed field goal tries from 45 and 43 yards out, which is the outer edge of his range.
Adding insult to injury, the second kick had enough distance but hit the left upright and bounced away. It would have put Kansas up by nine points and, perhaps more importantly, would have forced Texas Tech to score twice in the final 3:40.
However, Mangino says Webb will do all the kicking in Lincoln next week.
“He’s the guy,” Mangino said without hesitation.
Gut check time: The coach was quick to acknowledge the question many were asking after such a devastating loss. Will this team bounce back?
“I’ll be very blunt with you: we’ll find out if we have any fortitude to overcome this. If we’re a team with fortitude and toughness, we’ll overcome this. If we’re not, we won’t. It’s pretty simple,” he said.
Getting defensive: Once again, Mangino praised his defensive unit.
“The defense was fantastic today. They gave us every opportunity to win the game. The guys up front played well. In the secondary, we had guys put in one-on-one situations and they responded well. And it’s not just one guy. As a unit, we're playing very well."
A passing grade: Brandon Rideau continues to make people forget a tough season opener, catching 7 balls for 69 yards Saturday afternoon. Rideau is now tied with Isaac Byrd for fifth place on the all-time KU receptions list with 101. Rideau also moved into 12th on the KU career receiving yards list (1,272 yards).
Also sharing in the passing wealth, John Randle caught six passes out of the backfield for 59 yards. Eight different Jayhawks caught passes Saturday.