Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kansas University notebook


Kansas' kick return, punt teams struggling

Little doubt the biggest mystery surrounding the Kansas University football team has been the sudden disappearance of its kick-return game in general and Marcus Herford in particular.

One publication tapped Herford as a preseason All-American return specialist. And why not? Last year, Herford averaged 28.6 yards per return and bolted for two touchdowns. Two years ago, he averaged 26.1 yards.

Now, as a senior, Herford looks like he's running in cement. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder is averaging a paltry 12.8 yards per return.

Saturday against Colorado, Herford was right on his average. He returned two kickoffs, each for 13 yards.

As a team, the Jayhawks are averaging 12.4 yards per kickoff return. How bad is that? The worst. KU ranks 119th out of the 119 NCAA bowl subdivision teams.

Last year, KU ranked No. 7 nationally by averaging 25.21 yards every time it returned a kickoff.

If the Jayhawks are ever going to break out of the kickoff-return horse latitudes, this may be the Saturday. Oklahoma already has had two of its kickoffs returned for TDs.

Meanwhile, the Jayhawks' punt-return game has been OK, but the punt coverage has been below par, mainly because opponents are returning too many of them.

KU has punted only 25 times in its six games, but 15 of those punts - more than any other Big 12 Conference school - have been returned. Kansas ranks 75th nationally in net punting.

More hang time on punter Alonso Rojas' kicks would help, but more speed among the punt coverers might be a bigger boon.

National title race of no interest to Mangino

As the national championship picture has begun to take shape loosely - Saturday marked the halfway point in the college football season - at least one Big 12 coach hasn't seemed to notice.

KU coach Mark Mangino said Monday that, despite his team's No. 16 ranking and its ability to potentially make a run at the Big 12 North title, he hasn't spent too terribly long working out national-championship scenarios in his head.

"In all due respect, right now, I haven't given a thought to who's going to play in the national championship game," said Mangino, whose team has remaining games against No. 1 Texas, No. 7 Texas Tech and No. 11 Missouri. "That is not something that I think about. What I'm preparing to do is to play an outstanding Oklahoma team."

Sharp handling workload well

Kansas running back Jake Sharp obviously had no problem producing in Saturday's victory over Colorado - he finished with a season-high 118 yards rushing and three TDs. What impressed Mangino was that Sharp was able to maintain his performance throughout the game.

"We like how he showed no signs of wearing down in the fourth quarter," Mangino said. "He was strong, he was running hard, he was blocking well, he was catching the ball. We just have faith in him. He's the type of guy that'll do whatever you want him to do."

In Kansas' past six quarters of play, Sharp has rushed 49 times for 188 yards and four touchdowns, while hauling in six passes for 120 yards and another score.

Baseball awards

KU baseball coach Ritch Price named a player and pitcher of the week during the first month of fall workouts. The first week's honorees were outfielder Brian Heere, a Lawrence High product, and left-hander Travis Blankenship, a transfer from Johnson County CC who prepped at Free State High.

Also named players of the week were juco transfer shortstop David Narodowski, freshman outfielder Jason Brunansky and senior first baseman Preston Land. The remaining pitching honors went to freshman right-handers Lee Ridenhour and Kevin Burk, and soph right-hander T.J. Walz.

Happy Birthday, Fam

Don Fambrough, who coached KU's football team from 1971-74 and from 1979-1982, will turn 86 on Sunday.


kvskubball 13 years ago

Oh no, now people are going to gripe about baseball news posted on the "football" page!

Mangenius 13 years ago

I have noticed a lot less starters on the special teams units this year. I was hoping this was a sign of greater depth. But with the lack of production I guess not. I bet the shake up will be a few more starters on special teams

Kevin Millikan 13 years ago

Coach Fambrough, I remember well my uncle Blackie Sanders introducing me to you many years ago, it was a pleasure. I hope you have a great birthday.

eastcoasthawk 13 years ago

The only reason that punt went 77 yards was because it was in the sun spot for the returner. Same thing happened to Fields later in the game. They were both smart enough to back off instead of trying to catch something they couldn't see. Rojas lucked out on that one.

FlaHawk 13 years ago

Hurray for Coach Fam who will turn 86! Would KU faithful be with out him. THe last year he has slowed down a agood but, but still what a man!IT takes guts to come back anc Coach the Hawks during their long dry spell and he was up to it!Go Hawks! Go Coach Fam!

KU 13 years ago

Speaking of punts being fumbled, what exactly happened on the one where #28 fell on his back?? I was at the game but didn't have a clear look at it. Did he catch the ball laying on his back or did it hit him and we got lucky and covered it?

kvskubball 13 years ago

I don't know that I would say that our punt return game has been ok, when 2 balls were fumbled last week, even though we kept the ball both times, we didn't get any return yards on either one! And Rojas kicked one punt 77 yards... with no return, improvement can still be made, but that really helped the team get out of a field position hole! So I say give the guy some credit!

KU 13 years ago

JBurtin....Thanks for clearing that up. I think 28 is feeling a little snake-bitten right about now. The first couple of games he was very aggressive on the punt returns and did a great job.He's probably heard an earful about failing to field some of those punts that were inside the 20 but not inside the 10 that gave us poor field position and now he's not as sure of himself as he was at the beginning. Overall, for a true freshman, he's done a pretty decent job.But after Fields ripped off that 40-50 yard return Saturday, 28 might find himself watching for a while.

JBurtin 13 years ago

He caught it, then it kind of rolled out of his hands to his side, so he snatched it back up again.The wind was doing some funny things last Saturday. Iowa State was kicking into the wind and I think he thought he was in position, but once it got low enough to get out of the wind I think it sailed on him by an extra yard or so.He came out of the game after that. Probably because Mangino was irritated that he didn't just let it go instead of falling on his back to try and catch it. That was a recipe to give up a touchdown.

Ben Kane 13 years ago

The correct answer isn't that you haven't thought about who will play in the championship game but rather that you plan to stick with the starters who got you there. RockChalk.Kick some OU butt this weekend! Stick that +19.5 in their face.

bmcmich1 13 years ago

KU -- FYI #28 is Daymond Patterson

mbmerriman 13 years ago

its Matsakis, his dad used to be the coach at ESU, and then went on to coach at Wyoming where he met Mike Leach, the dad Matsakis was famous at ESU for running the ultra spread with 3 down line men and 7 recievers, he never punted and never kicked field goals, the quarterback did kickoff. the son coached at ESU for a while then he came to KU, i personally think he should be fired because the special teams were terrible last year except for hereford and webb

Lance Hobson 13 years ago

Happy Bday to coach Fambrough! October 12th is a great day to be born...

sdoyel 13 years ago

Who is our Special Teams coach? He needs to get his @ss in gear.... Special Teams can make or break your team. It is the most underrated part of a good college football team.

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