TCU opens play in its new conference as a 26.5-point favorite against the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday morning at 11 A.M. in Lawrence. That’s almost the kind of line the Horned Frogs were accustomed to while in the Mountain West.
It’s been noted a few places (here’s one) that Kansas is not doing well, especially passing the ball. Against Rice Dayne Crist finished 16 of 28 passing for 144 yards with two picks. Junior kicker Ron Doherty missed a couple big kicks, including a 40-yarder in the fourth quarter that would have given KU a 27-16 lead.
The Jayhawks’ head coach, Charlie Weis, says that Kansas’s loss to Rice has prevented his team from hiding is mistakes. "Even if we would have won this week, the way the game went down, we would have disguised a lot of things we did wrong in the game at the end."
So there’s no masking the ugliness in Lawrence. Which is not the same thing as ignoring the bright spots—and there are a few.
KU forced three turnovers against Rice in the first half; this is becoming a trend, and a welcome departure from last year's woefully polite defense. Perhaps the days of, "Oh, is that your ball? Please, take it; we don't mean to interrupt" are over in Lawrence.
Also good: Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox both had outstanding runs against the Owls. Both average over 100 yards per game this season. The team’s best back, James Sims, won’t play against TCU (contrary to what Gary Patterson said at his press conference Tuesday). Defensive end Toben Opurum tallied a sack, two tackles for loss and forced a fumble.
Late in the game, however, the offense stalled, managing just 35 total yards. Coach Weis thinks he sees progress, even in the passing game.
"[Crist] was much more in tune with where we were going with the ball this game," Weis said. "Once again, there were a handful of throws in the game where I would expect a complete pass. When the quarterback is not under duress, and the receiver has some kind of separation, I expect a completion, whether it’s five yards down the field or 25 yards down the field. "Moving the ball wasn’t the issue. Finishing drives, that was the issue."
Crist is not focusing on the loss. "We don’t have time to sit around and mope. We’ve gotta move forward and get ready for TCU. That’s the most important thing right now." Charlie Weis thinks he knows just how to do that. "When you practice, that’s usually what does it. They were flying around really good. It was very competitive, and I think that’s the easiest way to get ’em going again."
There’s one more ingredient, thinks Crist: "It was clear, in watching myself on film, that I just wasn’t having fun out there. And that’s why I play the game. I plan on having a lot more fun from here on out."
It’s easy to imagine that throwing more interceptions than touchdowns is not fun. It is just as easy to imagine that the senior signal-caller is going to have to wait another week before he has fun on the gridiron. (Or perhaps Crist thinks it’s fun to eat grass at the invitation of misters Maponga and Fields? As my dear mother says, "It takes all kinds." Yes, mother, it does.)
In any case, when teams begin talking about having more fun, look for losses. Vegas is.
Injuries: junior linebacker Prinz Kande, will miss the remainder of the 2012 season after suffering a multi-ligament injury to his knee. Wideout Kale Pick and safety Lubbock Smith, who needed help off the field last week, are both expected to play.
Finally, one sports writer is already begging Kansas fans not to give up on the team just yet. He asks/scolds the universe:
"Is it really such an ordeal to show up for a tailgate, eat great food, consume your favorite spirits, share the company of friends and exchange opinions on which players will get better through the course of the season, which will look worse against better competition and which just plain don’t have it?... Is the view of the hill really such a bad backdrop for three hours in the sun on a day in which the extended forecast calls for a high of 81 degrees and a zero-percent chance of rain? ... This team has problems... but fan apathy this early in the season isn’t going to make things better."