The Kansas Jayhawks finally found some balance on offense as they dismantled New Mexico State, 42-16.
If you've been following the Jayhawks for the last several years it's not a secret that they've relied heavily on the pass and the playmaking abilities of Todd Reesing. Immediately upon taking over the program, Turner Gill began preaching balance and the running game as a critical part of what he wanted to do. Perhaps he knew in the back of his mind that finding a player that could distribute the ball as well as Reesing was going to be tough, or perhaps he just has a different philosophy, but either way balance was the expectation for 2010.
Through three games Kansas looked fairly anemic offensively. At best the were a ball control offense, which sometimes means you are a bad offense. That's fine if you have a solid defense and good special teams. Unfortunately Kansas has an average to slightly better than average defense and poor special teams. The result? A 1-2 start with no real clues as to what a Gill led offense looks like.
Saturday Kansas was finally able to put the pieces together against New Mexico State and you got the sense sitting in the stands that the game played out the way Gill had hoped the opener against North Dakota State would have.
Statistically the Jayhawks surpassed 500 yards of offense for the first time all season and in doing so achieved an almost even split with 237 of those coming on the ground and 264 coming through the air. The Jayhawk offense compiled 26 first downs, 11 on the ground, 12 through the air and the remainder on penalty. Kansas averaged nearly 7 yards per play offensively while scoring 42 points and winning the time of possession battle by a slim margin of 3 minutes.
Yes it was a lesser opponent and most likely Kansas won't accomplish this with the same ease against anyone remaining on the schedule, but it provided the staff and players an opportunity to finally see and feel what it is they are trying to achieve.
For Gill, it seems to be a belief that a balanced deliberate offense can keep an opponent guessing and help the Jayhawks control the clock. Do that and your defense has more time to rest and hopefully perform above the level they would have otherwise. So far the defense has outperformed expectations in nearly every game, if they can get the offensive support they received in this one Kansas has a real shot at 6 wins.
Now obviously it's important not to read too much into a game against one of the bottom feeders of FCS football, but if Kansas didn't have a game like this on Saturday there was virtually zero chance of it occurring from that point on.
With a taste and a feel for what it needs to look like, Kansas enters a critical stretch with a winnable road game against Baylor and a Thursday night showdown with the Wildcats of Kansas State. Tough games, both of them, but it might also be two games that define where the Kansas season is headed. Without a win in comfortable fashion against New Mexico State, this two game stretch would have looked more like the end than a potential beginning.