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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Keegan

KU defense turns grimace to grin

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Jayhawks throttle Gophers

For the first time in school history, Kansas University wins bowl games in consecutive years.

Historic win shows big steps for KU

It may not have been the Orange Bowl, but KU's Insight Bowl victory was momentous for several reason.

Audio clips

2008 Insight Bowl

Feature

2008 Insight Bowl

KU will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the 2008 Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

— Just moments earlier, Kansas University had won its third bowl game in four years, 42-21, Wednesday night against Minnesota in the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen was sporting that signature grin, the one that lights up his whole face, the one that had been replaced by a clenched jaw in the early stages of the Big 12 season.

Bowen, his adrenaline still flowing at full speed, was recounting the crazy opening moments of the game. Minnesota, which all season had run a spread offense with its quarterback working out of the shotgun formation, revealed a power running game. It was no less shocking than if heavy-metal fans showed up for a Metallica concert and were shocked with three hours of bluegrass.

All year, the Golden Gophers tried to be a Big 12-style offense, and suddenly they had converted to Big Ten bruisers.

And for a while, it looked like a success.

“Stuff we’d never seen on film,” Bowen said. “They hadn’t run I-backs one time all year. And they come out with two tight ends. Unbalanced line, tackle over. They did it all. Hey, that was the most panicked I’ve ever been right there.”

Minnesota led, 14-7, with 6:03 left in the first quarter.

“That first nine minutes of that game was as hectic as I’ve ever had,” Bowen said. “Once we got it all figured out, we got settled in.”

Did they ever. For the remaining 53:57 of the game, Kansas allowed seven points, those coming in the fourth quarter.

“Our coaches got the defense together, got them settled down after the first quarter and made the adjustments that were needed at the time,” said KU head coach Mark Mangino, who improved to 3-1 in bowl games and won his 20th game in two seasons. “... Our defense really played really outstanding, had a very courageous performance on defense.”

All three senior linebackers had memorable finales. James Holt had three sacks. Mike Rivera (14 tackles) and Joe Mortensen (13) matched career highs for tackles.

The defense never was better than during a goal-line stand on which Minnesota could not score on second-and-goal from the two. One, two, three running plays were snuffed.

“I kept thinking about that’s what we live for is that big fourth-down stop,” Rivera said. “We just exploded into it. It was a great stop.”

The linebackers and classmates won all three bowl games they played in at Kansas, an accomplishment no other class can boast.

“The KU legacy we hope we leave is for our new linebackers coming up and everybody that will be replacing the seniors, no matter how tough it gets, you will just grit your teeth and keep going,” Holt said. “I think that’s what our seniors were all about since we got here.”

Holt embodies what the KU football program is all about. He arrived undersized for his position, embraced special-teams duties, poured everything he had into weight-room workouts and turned himself into a first-team All-Big 12 performer.

Playing in Mangino’s program isn’t easy, but as the seniors who hoisted three bowl trophies can attest, it’s rewarding. Mangino sets expectations high and drives players out of their comfort zone, pushing them to heights few outsiders would have guessed they could reach.

Similarly, coaching for Mangino can’t possibly be easy. Again, he expects so much and isn’t afraid to show his displeasure when expectations aren’t met. Bowen’s baptism as a solo defensive coordinator surely had its rough days and nights beyond game days and nights. Compounding matters, Bowen had such big shoes to fill, those vacated by widely respected defensive mind Bill Young.

Like the players who work for Mangino, Bowen will continue to improve. His first season went as his last game of the season did. Shaky beginning and an ending that left a huge smile on his face.

Comments

Dirk Medema 11 years ago

Great corrections by the D & Coordinator. Much quicker adjustments than USF, and my guess is that they will come all the more quickly in the future.Rock Chalk

mikehawk 11 years ago

It is amazing what Big Daddy has brought to Kansas. He ain't much to look at, but the big man can coach. And the Reesing and Meir boys, the stuff of KU legends in the making. I don't know who the back up linbackers are, but I hope they have big feet. I live in Oklahoma and the football fans down here know their game, and they have taken notice in a very complimentary manner of our little football team.

Dyrk Dugan 11 years ago

the season ended up great....just like MM says, you just keep sawin wood, and gettin 'er done. this team is the epitome of what Mangino is as a coach...just keep working and working.the senior LBs will be hard to replace....but so were Kane, Floodman and Reid 3 years ago. Schermer is ready....Quigley may make the switch for a year...and we'll see what recruiting brings. But with our bulk D Line back, some promising redshirt frosh ready (Marshall, Zlatnik) and our secondary back, our defense will be fine. And Bowen will only get better.Mangino is demanding...but what else should you be as a coach? this program has never had any long term consistency of good play...and MM is building that.can't wait till next year! GO Jayhawks! Congratulations on another bowl win.

eric poncharello 11 years ago

When I was little boy, I would go down to my relatives in oklahoma. They would give me a hard time wearing a KU FOOTBALL jersey and I kinda felt bad. But!!! being born and growing up a JAYHAWK, I can see and really appriciate what coach Mangino has done for the program and the fans. NOW, as a man, I wear my KU FOOTBALL jersey with another level of pride. We have the respect of oklahoma football fans which means alot because they can be snooty!! I just want to say THANK YOU!!!! coach MANGINO!!!!!PS, From a BIGBOY to another BIGBOY, Let's have a fun and HEALTHY 2009!!!!!!

scmitchem 11 years ago

I thought that Bowen has done a fine job. I think that things will only get better for him with the new defensive line recruits coming in next year.

Dan Harris 11 years ago

Everybody that came on this board ripping Bowen week in and week out need to give him some credit for the job he did yesterday. Great job Hawks, can't wait untill next year!

rasta_meta 11 years ago

Bowen still has a long way to go before he can be considered a good coordinator. I do think he is a pretty good coach, but coordinating is a different matter. The best defensive coordinator that I have seen first hand is Mike Hankewitz and if you watched the Missouri-Northwestern game you saw what a good coordinator can do with inferior talent. So, for the love of god, stop always blaming the players and their talent level. While it does affect what you can and cannot do, a good coordinator makes the offense play into the defensive strengths and we have enough talent to play better than we did this year. I never expected us to have a USC type of defense, I just expected it to be able to make a few more stops a game than it did early in the season. I think we played our best two games against Missouri and Minnesota on defense though.However, it was nice to see the linebackers finally make the plays that should have been making all year and I did see improvement in schemes over the course of the season, so I am hopeful that it will continue to improve next season. I hope Bowen spends some time in the offseason studying what other good DC's do with schemes as it can only make him better. Just like players have an offseason program it is important for coaches to continue to learn as well.

actorman 11 years ago

Rasta meta, while I don't completely disagree with you and I had my share of criticism for Bowen during the year, I also think that Rivera and Mortensen had much more to deal with injury-wise than was let on. I imagine that if they had been healthy all year, it would have made a significant difference to the overall defense.

rasta_meta 11 years ago

actorman, Fair enough....but I wonder if it would have been better to play their back-ups if they were that banged up...if not, then our talent issue has more to do with depth that starting talent and we simply need a few more years of good recruiting to get depth.

JBurtin 11 years ago

Our backups would not have been a good option this year.-Dakota Lewis will sacrifice himself to make a play, but he is badly undersized.-Springer is a monster, but it looks like he tore an ACL or some kind of similar injury.-We did play Arist Wright on a regular basis, but unfortunately he was the backup of the one linebacker that actually was healthy-Schermer is a hard working kid, but I don't know if a healthy Schermer would have been any better than a dinged up Rivera-Josh Richardson still isn't up to size and will still need some time to develop-Drew Dudley made a temporary switch to fullback this year and I believe snuck in a redshirt that the coaches didn't want to burn-I believe Chea Peterman still had to sit out per transfer rules-The rest are either freshmen or walk-ons or bothFurther, I think the kinds of injuries that Rivera and Mortensen had were of the variety that is simply going to stick around for a while. If you had taken them off the field until they became fully healthy, then they would have missed nearly their entire senior year.I'm personally not so concerned with wins and losses that I want to deprive a player of his last chance to play in college. As our talent level has risen each year I've seen many times when coach Mangino refused to take a less talented senior off the field to be replaced with a more talented young player. The biggest example of this is when every KU fan knew that Jr. Jon Cornish was simply better than the Sr. Clark Greene, but Greene had been a rock that Mangino had used as the foundation for bigger success with this program, and Mangino was simply not going to abandon his foundation.I think that Mangino's loyalty to his players is one of the biggest reasons that these guys will absolutely run through a brick wall for him. I'll take a couple of losses for a man with that kind of character. The game is for my entertainment, the wins are for the players. Let them decide how badly they want those wins and what they are willing to give up to get them.

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