LAWRENCE — Kansas is off to a flying start. It isn’t because of the defense.
The Jayhawks have given up 882 yards through two games, and an unsightly 66 points combined to McNeese State and Northern Illinois.
Kansas senior linebacker Steven Johnson doesn’t think the statistics are as important as what some people make them out to be, and he said that’s all that will matter when Kansas heads to Georgia Tech on Saturday.
“Coach (Turner) Gill always says, ‘This offense can move all they want, between these two white lines, but as long as they don’t get past (the goal) that’s what counts,’” Johnson said.
Kansas didn’t do a very good job of that on Saturday —Northern Illinois scored six touchdowns. If it wasn’t for the Jayhawks scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the final seconds, they may not have hung on for a 45-42 victory. The clock running out stopped the Huskies better than Kansas did.
“We’ve been in the defense for less than a month,” KU cornerback Bradley McDougald said. “That’s not an excuse, but guys are going to start understanding their job better as the season goes on.”
Last season, Kansas surrendered 42 points five times, and that includes a 52-45 shootout victory over Colorado. But the poor performances alone aren’t the reason the defense has changed.
Carl Torbush resigned as defensive coordinator to deal with a low-grade case of prostate cancer, and Vic Shealy was promoted from cornerbacks coach. He installed a new system that the Jayhawks are trying to learn, and the progress has been slow.
The Jayhawks made a key stop on fourth down late in the first half against the Huskies. They were facing a fourth-and-6 from the 30 and a pass that officials called complete was eventually reversed. The Jayhawks marched down the field and scored, tying the game at 21.
The Huskies’ offense was almost a perfect balance: They ran 29 times for 147 yards and threw 33 times for 315 yards. The Jayhawks’ task this week should be a little more one-dimensional — Georgia Tech has run 113 times for 679 yards.
Junior quarterback Tevin Washington has taken majority of the snaps for the Yellow Jackets, completing 13 of 21 passes for 473 yards. And while Georgia Tech has only passed the ball 26 times total, the completions are going for 34.1 yards on average.
Last season, the Jayhawks defeated Georgia Tech 28-25 in their second game of a season, one in which the Yellow Jackets gain 291 yards on the ground. And while Gill said he thinks they did a decent job of stopping the run, he said there will be plenty of adjustments to make.
“We need to do some tweaking on our sideline and try and keep them off guard,” he said. “The main thing is our defense needs to tackle well. If you don’t tackle well, then it’s really going to be a tough situation because they always get you in opportunities where it a one-on-one situation. If our guys can’t make that tackle then they’re going to have a lot more opportunities to make big plays.”
Gill said that the speed aspect of the defense will help against the triple-option. He added that the Yellow Jackets’ scheme is different from what they’ve seen.