Maybe safety Ricky Thomas should be getting more attention at this point.
Thomas, a sophomore juco transfer from New Orleans, was part of a rejuvenated KU secondary that was spectacular through three games. Since then, though, he’s been out with an undisclosed injury.
And that’s caused a chain reaction that hasn’t gone well so far.
Cornerback Hasan Defense has moved to safety the last two weeks, and he’s received failing overall grades by Pro Football Focus both times. That maybe shouldn’t be unexpected, as a midseason position switch at the start of Big 12 play likely isn’t the most ideal setup.
In any case, KU certainly could use Thomas back as it prepares for West Virginia, as the team’s defensive challenge isn’t getting any easier this week.
Here are grades for all three units, a highlight from Saturday’s loss and a look ahead to West Virginia.
Play of the game
Pooka mania: True freshman Pooka Williams, somehow, continues to deliver at least one game-breaking run each game. In this case, it was squeezing through a crease at the line of scrimmage and keeping his balance in the open field on a 60-yard touchdown that turned this back into a competitive game.
Offense: B. Well, it’s a definite upgrade from the no-show against Baylor the previous week. Carter Stanley wasn’t perfect, but he also became the first KU quarterback to throw for three touchdowns or more with no interceptions in the David Beaty era. Williams made an impact again, and Steven Sims re-emerged as an outside threat with 10 catches for 89 yards. The Jayhawks’ biggest problems came on the right side of the offensive line, where Kevin Feder, in particular, had a rough day.
Defense: D-. It was boom or bust for KU’s defense, which forced some quick punts but also allowed far too many big plays. There were frequent busts in the secondary, and the result was Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius averaging more than 20 yards per completion. “Man, that number cannot happen,” KU coach Beaty said. “We have to be better than that.” Justice Hill also had a 189-yard rushing game, but credit where it’s due; he’s likely the most talented back KU will face this season. As a whole, though, KU allowing 8.6 yards per play is not good enough, ranking as the second-worst outing by a Big 12 defense the last two weeks.
Special teams: C. For the second straight game, there wasn’t much to report about KU’s special teams. Gabriel Rui missed a 52-yard field goal, but you can’t expect to make every one of those. Kyle Thompson’s punting was fine. Williams was impressive in breaking four tackles on a kickoff return, but he couldn’t quite get to the open field for a huge play.
KU will travel to West Virginia for an 11 a.m. game on Oct. 6, entering a contest where it is likely to be at least a four-touchdown underdog.
Pass defense will be the biggest concern, as Heisman candidate Will Grier ranks second nationally in passing yards per game (372) and third in yards per passing attempt (10.9).
The Jayhawks had little success stopping the Mountaineers’ offense last season, falling 56-34 in Lawrence.