The Red Raiders are a team still trying to find itself, particularly on defense. A new defensive coordinator and a whole host of new players make for a work on progress as the coaches evaluate the players and plug them into the lineup based upon the evaluations.
One consequence of this learning process is inconsistent and uneven play. Another is improvement. And although Tech's defense did not play well against Kansas on the whole, they played well for more snaps than they did against Nevada, and that does constitute improvement. The defensive grades reflect the improvement.
Quarterback: Following last week's win over Nevada, offensive coordinator Neal Brown referred to Seth Doege as a "winner." And one thing winning quarterbacks do is lead their team to victory when they're less sharp than usual. That is what Doege did against the Jayhawks. He didn't have his customary accuracy and threw an interception that was entirely his fault, but Doege held the offense together and ignited it when the team trailed by 20 points and was in grave jeopardy.
Running Backs: Eric Stephens, like the team in general, started slowly. In the first half Stephens seemed not to be seeing the field as well as usual, missing cuts in the open field and running into his own players. He began running more patiently and found his groove in the second half, however, and finished with 124 rushing yards, three receptions for 23 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. A good day's work. DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams chipped in 10 carries for 32 yards.
Receivers: This unit turned in an outstanding effort. Eric Ward has been a revelation that last two games and turned in a spectacular two-touchdown outing against the Jayhawks. But Cornelius Douglas came from out of nowhere to quietly lead the team with 98 receiving yards, and Jacoby Franks' leaping touchdown grab was almost as phenomenal as Wards' touchdowns. Bradley Marquez also had a nice game with four catches; he could be Tech's most effective receiver on the bubble screen because he gets upfield so quickly after the catch.
Offensive Line: The line struggled a bit in this game. Lonnie Edwards and LaAdrian Waddle both gave up sacks, and Waddle had a terrible time dealing with Tobin Opurum, at least early on. Justin Keown's ineligible man downfield penalty nullified an Alex Torres-to-Eric Ward touchdown pass as well. But the line gradually settled in and kept Seth Doege clean in the second half while giving Eric Stephens some room to run. Deveric Gallington and Terry McDaniel played very well on the right side.
Defensive Line: With the exception of Leon Mackey on a couple of plays, Tech's four-man rush was totally ineffective against KU quarterback Jordan Webb. He was altogether too comfortable in the pocket. Dartwan Bush, in particular, was absent without leave. Kerry Hyder continues to be an active presence; he tallied seven stops on the day, while Delvon Simmons showed good effort chasing a Kansas ball carrier down from behind and tackling him 20 yards downfield.
Linebackers: It was the worst of times; it was the best of times. In the first quarter while the Red Raiders were busily falling into a 20-point hole, true freshman linebackers Sam Eguavoen and Blake Dees clearly did not belong on the field. Accordingly, Chad Glasgow replaced them with Cqulin Hubert and Daniel Cobb and the benefits were immediate. The insertion of Hubert and Cobb, along with back-to-back interceptions by D. J. Johnson turned the game around for Tech. Hubert may well have been Tech's defensive MVP, while Cobb was strong against the run, notching 11 hits.
Secondary: It was feast and famine for this unit. The DBs were partially responsible for allowing Jordan Webb to complete 16 of 22 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns, although a punchless pass rush and coverage breakdowns by the linebackers were also factors. Still, Cody Davis was sometimes too slow to help on deep coverage, which allowed one TD. He later made amends by tipping a ball, which Cqulin Hubert ultimately intercepted. D. J. Johnson's two interceptions were colossal. Jarvis Phillips and Eugene Neboh were pretty solid in coverage for the most part.
Special Teams: The Red Raiders were average at best on special teams, which was surprising given their dominance against Nevada a week ago. Tech allowed 24 yards per kickoff return and the coverage unit was not helped by Donnie Carona's fairly short kickoffs, one of which sailed out of bounds. Carona did, however, nail a 46-yard field goal. Ben McRoy and the kickoff return team just never got untracked. Ryan Erxleben had one bad punt but was otherwise okay. Punt coverage was excellent.