LAWRENCE — As odd as this may sound, Kansas offensive coordinator Chuck Long had reason to believe that his offense was coming together during the Jayhawks' 55-7 blowout loss at Baylor.
In the first half, KU ran 47 plays, possessed the ball for 17 minutes, 47 seconds and chalked up 214 total yards, achieving balance with 84 rushing yards and 130 through the air. The Jayhawks also converted eight of 13 third downs.
The problem, of course, was obvious.
"The simple answer is we didn't punch it in," Long said. "We gotta have that end-zone mind-set of getting it in. It didn't happen."
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The KU offense, despite being ranked 89th in the country in total yards and 100th in scoring through five games, still expects to find the consistency it's been lacking as the season moves forward. First-year coach Turner Gill has had no choice but to ascribe to the oft-used theory that offenses come along more slowly than defenses.
Certainly, last week appeared like a perfectly-placed bye week for the Jayhawks. They got to watch Thursday's opponent, Kansas State, get trounced by Nebraska while making an overall appraisal of how this young KU offense can get the most out of its parts. Gill and Long were able to spend more time with redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb during the off week.
"We're trying to get a sense of what he's comfortable doing," Gill said, "then trying to evaluate what are the things we're able to do and be more consistent at and be great at that. We worked at it. Now, we'll see if it materialized particularly in a game. That's what we gotta do — carry it into a game."
Kansas' identity as an offense hasn't crystallized yet, but you get the feeling Gill and Long are close to seeing things more clearly. The Jayhawks want to put more emphasis on the things they do well, so expect more up-tempo pacing, more running the ball between the tackles in zone blocking schemes and more quick screen passes to get playmakers like Daymond Patterson and D.J. Beshears in the open field. A screen passing game also puts less pressure on KU's offensive line, which has struggled in pass blocking thus far.
When Patterson thinks of a Kansas offense clicking in 2010, this is what he sees:
"We're running the ball, moving the sticks on the ground," Patterson said. "We're setting up our screen game. We're going across the middle. We're doing a lot of different things. The defense isn't gonna key on one thing. That's when we're gonna be at our best, when we're mixing it all up and not just relying on one facet of the game."
The Jayhawks of the past two seasons were mostly one-dimensional, going away from the run often. If there's one thing this KU offense can look to as an improvement over the past, it's the ability to run the ball with some authority.
"We definitely have more balance," KU wide receiver Johnathan Wilson said.
After going through the Nebraska buzz saw last week, Kansas State enters the game ranked 106th nationally in rushing defense, allowing 247 yards per game.
Gill was asked if he saw anything in the K-State defense that his team could exploit.
"We saw some things. I'm just gonna leave it at that," he said.
The comment, which came out almost too quickly, was a hint that it's K-State week and also that Gill believes his offense is capable of more.
If nothing else, the Jayhawks appear to be comfortable with their personnel, which is a start.
"We're getting closer to having a set 11," Long said. "With that, you start to develop an identity."
Sims off-limits to media — Kansas running back James Sims, the Jayhawks' leading rusher, will not conduct interviews with reporters for the rest of the season, Gill said Monday.
Sims, a true freshman from Irving, Texas, indicated to Gill that he wasn't ready for that responsibility, and Gill didn't want to force him.
"It was mutual," Gill said. "He felt he was uncomfortable. I said, 'If you're not gonna follow through on things, I'd rather you not do things this year. Next year, we'll get you more involved.' "
Sims had previously spoken to reporters once after a game and once after a practice. Sims has rushed for 329 yards and three touchdowns in four games.