The tendency when dealing with sports is to overreact. Football and college athletics in general often strike an even more emotional chord with fans following their teams and schools. Even the opinions and reactions of opposing fans often live in the world of extremes and don't take into account the big picture.
For Kansas the big picture certainly looks to be one of building, rebuilding or whatever phrase you choose to use. But taking a step back, there were some positives signs in Hattiesburg, Miss., that provide some hope as the Jayhawks continue to transition to a new coach and a new system.
Offensively Kansas is in the process of transitioning from a pass, pass, pass offense to one that provides a little more balance. Turner Gill and Chuck Long have talked about maintaining the time of possession, moving the chains and trying to help the defense through the offense. Yes Kansas is still a no-huddle team, but there is a noticeable difference from a season ago.
Taking Friday's game against another up and down opponent as an example, Southern Mississippi coach Larry Fedora talked about wanting to run 75 to 85 plays from scrimmage. Obviously his confidence in doing so probably had something to do with his belief that Kansas would either go up-tempo and create a longer game as well, or in his belief that they would be able to stop Kansas consistently.
At the end of the game however the Jayhawks controlled the time of possession, matched Southern Miss. in terms of first downs and protected the football to the tune of zero turnovers. The offensive playcalling consisted of 44 rushing attempts and just 26 passes. For their part the Jayhawks also managed to limit themselves to just three penalties throughout the course of the game. In general every one of these items on their own is considered a positive. Not a bad snapshot for a team that never really seemed to have much momentum.
The problem for Kansas is that they don't show the ability to make the big play. Keeping the clock on your side, managing the game and slowly but surely moving the chains are great abilities to have, but they have to be supported by an ability to put points on the board or a by a stout defense. Right now Kansas hasn't done either consistently. Average yards per play for Kansas on Friday, just 3.9. On the opposite side USM averaged 5.9.
All in all it's a team that has a long way to go. There are winnable games on the schedule this year, but putting together the whole package is going to be the challenge. There are areas that Kansas can build off of and players the staff can build around. It just isn't going to be at the flip of the switch. Coaching issues a year ago or not, this is a program that dropped seven straight to end 2009 with some of the top players in the schools history taking the field. Consistency on the field AFTER losing them, was never going to be easy.