LAWRENCE — For a better part of a decade, the Big 12 has served as the nation’s Petri dish for guns blazing, offensive football. Spread attacks. High-profile quarterbacks. Points on points.
And somewhere along the way, with offenses still exploding across the country, it feels like Kansas lost track of the trend. For nearly three years, watching KU play offense has been a little like watching a baseball team struggle to hit home runs during the Steroid Era. The conditions seem ripe. Everybody’s going deep. But the Jayhawks are stuck slapping singles.
“We have to score way more points than what we have been scoring,” KU coach Charlie Weis says. “It’s really that simple.”
Those words came earlier this week, as Weis and Kansas prepared to embark on a nine-week trip through the Big 12.
On Saturday morning at Memorial Stadium, one of the conference’s original sons of the spread, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, will lead his 20th-ranked Red Raiders into KU’s Big 12 conference opener.
Kingsbury, a former Texas Tech quarterback, has engineered an offense that’s averaging 38.8 points and 520 yards per game. For the Jayhawks, the points and yards have been a lot tougher to come by.
After averaging just 18.3 points per game in 2012, Kansas is ranked last in the Big 12 in scoring, piling up just 58 points in three games. The Jayhawks are ninth in total offense (TCU is 10th) and 10th in passing offense, averaging just 186.3 passing yards per contest.
When it comes to answers, Weis will first mention things like better execution.
“It’s simple things,” KU quarterback Jake Heaps says, “like in the run game, all guys have to be in unison. And it seems like such a broad thing, but it really is (important), because all it takes is just one guy to miss his assignment.”
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks have failed to extend drives, completing just 37.8 percent of their third-down chances. The numbers are even worse on third-and-long, and Weis would also like to see the Jayhawks show more big-play potential.
“We have not been getting enough big plays, that’s one thing,” Weis says. “A lot of times you are watching games and you see some short pass that goes to the house — and we haven’t gotten a whole bunch of those.”
After starting the season with victories over South Dakota and Louisiana Tech, sandwiched around a loss at Rice, Weis can point to plenty of areas of improvement. The Jayhawks’ defense has been solid, the kicking game often spectacular. But as Kansas begins the Big 12 grind, it won’t mean much if the offense stays in hibernation through most of the fall.
“The defense has held their own well enough for us to have won all three games,” Weis says, “and we have not scored enough points offensively.”