DeKALB – Most of Kansas’ success on offense during Saturday’s 30-23 loss to Northern Illinois came via the wildcat formation.
Jayhawks head coach Charlie Weis sent wide receiver Cris Mathews to take the shotgun snap, and he ran five times for 43 yards (8.6 yards a carry). Weis thought the wildcat would give Kansas a good chance to move the ball after seeing the Huskies give up 486 rushing yards against Army last week.
“They had some really good backs, and they had a lot of options with guys going every which way,” NIU defensive tackle Nabal Jefferson said. “They had a lot of options there, so they were effective on some of them.”
Eventually, the NIU defense stretched the perimeter to combat the wildcat offense.
“When they start stretching to the perimeter, then you go to something else,” Weis said. “You don’t go away from it because you don’t think it’s going to keep working. You see a defensive adjustment, and say ‘OK, if we get a chance to get back to that, we’ll get back to that, and let’s go back to this. This should give us a better chance.’ “
No problem with pressure: The Huskies sacked Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist four times, with Alan Baxter and Joe Windsor each coming up with two. To NIU head coach Dave Doeren, a big part of the defensive success in the fourth quarter was getting the Jayhawks out of the wildcat formation, which allowed the front four to get pressure.
Weis blamed some of the problems on protection, but also gave credit to NIU mixing things up on the defensive line. He specifically mentioned Baxter’s sack on Kansas’ final drive, when NIU had a defensive tackle outside of the offensive tackle, and had Baxter lined up wide.
“It was a little bit of an unusual front. We had men to block men, but it’s in an awful lot of space. So I’ll have to wait till I see [the film],” Weis said. “It was a combination of things. It’s just not the protection. Some of the protection issues you could obviously see, because it’s a breakdown in a hurry.”
Doeren also said his defense was able to get pressure without using the blitz.
“We didn’t have to blitz a lot,” he said. “Coach [Ryan] Nielsen went nuts on the sideline just saying ‘let em go, let em go, let em go.’ And he did. He cut them loose. It was fun.”
Mays faces hometown team: NIU redshirt freshman Boomer Mays is from Lawrence, Kan., where he graduated from Eudora High School. Starting his second consecutive game at middle linebacker, Mays made four tackles, one of them for a loss.
The Huskies have three other Kansas natives on their roster – sophomore tight end Luke Eakes, freshman defensive end Matthew Baltimore and senior center Logan Pegram, who’s out with a lower leg fracture.