Monday, September 18, 2000

Punt woes persist

KU seeks to improve special teams play


Kansas University's football team might have found a new long snapper and might be moving back to an old protection scheme and a 14-yard drop in the wake of poor punt-team performances the first two weeks of the season.

Then again

"We're not sold on anything in the punt team," KU coach Terry Allen said Sunday, a day after the Jayhawks escaped Alabama-Birmingham, 23-20, at Memorial Stadium. "We're evaluating the snapper. We're evaluating everything in the punt team."

In KU's season-opening 31-17 loss at Southern Methodist, the Jayhawks had three straight punt-team blunders a fumbled snap, a high snap and a blocked punt that led to three straight SMU scores.

On Saturday night against UAB, another bad snap led to a 42-yard fumble-return touchdown that started a run of 20 unanswered UAB points.

Bob Schmidt, the Jayhawks' fifth-year senior starting center, assumed the long-snapping duties from junior Steve Kullberg at the half, and Schmidt threw nothing but strikes the rest of the night.

Is it a coincidence that Kansas is having trouble with its punt team the same year it changed the coach overseeing it, and he moved punter Joey Pelfanio two yards closer to the snapper? Maybe, Allen said, and maybe not.

Ted Gilmore coached the punt team last season, and Pelfanio stood 14 yards behind the snapper. He didn't have a punt blocked all last season.

This year, defensive coordinator Ardell Wiegandt took over the coaching chores after Gilmore left after one season for the University of Houston and instituted a 12-yard drop.

"That's part of the protection scheme," Allen said. "Joe's pretty quick getting it off. His numbers getting it off are good. We changed our scheme to 14 last year. Is that part of the problem? I think the snap and catching the ball are the problems, but we're evaluating everything."

Allen's day-after evaluation of the UAB victory wasn't much different from the day-of evaluation.

"Darned right a win is a win," Allen said. "Obviously we had the nemesis with the blocked punt and the turnover, but we played extremely hard defensively. We struggled a little bit offensively at the quarterback position, but we got a win. I always thought UAB was a pretty good football team. They're going to beat a lot of people. I still think they're a much better football team than SMU."

Was Kansas a better football team against UAB? Maybe.

But the Jayhawks (1-1) seem determined to disprove more than a couple of old coaching adages. They don't play like they practice, and they didn't seem to improve much between the first and second games.

Defense, however, was an exception. The Jayhawks surrendered just 69 total yards in the first half and 238 total against UAB.

"Our defense won the game for us," KU senior tailback David Winbush said. "I think we showed we can finish a game. We went four overtimes with those boys two years ago. We showed we can finish a game and can play defense."

"We got up 14-0 and became very lackadaisical," Schmidt added. "No, let me change that. The offense became very lackadaisical. Our defense played very hard and very well. They won the game for us."

Kansas will play host to NCAA Div. I-AA Southern Illinois on Saturday. Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Players of the game: Kansas coaches named the following award winners after the UAB game. Winbush, offensive player of the game; Algie Atkinson and Nate Dwyer, defensive players of the game; Marcus Rogers, hit of the week for his shot that knocked UAB quarterback Daniel Dixon out for part of a series; linebacker Matt Danielson, defensive scout teamer of the week; and QB Mario Kinsey, offensive scout teamer of the week. The coaches declined to name a special teams player of the week.
Upon further review: After watching film of the UAB game, KU's defensive coaches revised the tackling leaders as follows: Carl Nesmith, 14; Rogers, 11; Atkinson and Tim Bowers, 10; Dwyer, 8; Chaz Murphy, 7. Atkinson had a team-best two tackles for losses, while Dwyer and Murphy each had 1 1/2.

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