It’s certainly not fashionable to write nice words about anyone associated with the Kansas University football team’s defense, but since fashion never has been a strength of mine, here goes:
If every player on the Kansas D brings the aggressiveness, sharp focus and unbridled enthusiasm Ryan Murphy brought in the first start of his college career, at nickelback against Iowa State, the talent-challenged unit has a shot to improve.
Murphy repeatedly disrupted Cyclones quarterback Austen Arnaud and was credited with a sack, a pass breakup and two QB hurries. Iowa State had allowed one sack heading into the game, best in the nation.
Sometimes it looks as if KU’s defenders are trying to avoid mistakes instead of trying to make a play. Not Murphy.
Nobody played well enough for the coaching staff to award a defensive player of the week, but if one had been given, Murphy, the 5-foot-10, 176-pound, third-year sophomore, might have earned it.
“You’ve got to give that kid credit,” defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said. “He’s really come along. He’s developed in the program. He played wideout, then corner, now nickel. He just kept fighting and improving. To be honest with you, he probably played the best of anyone in the secondary Saturday. The little guy played his butt off.”
A star double-threat quarterback at Free State, Murphy also was noted for making crisp tackles.
“Effort and toughness,” Bowen said, listing the keys to tackling well. “He’s got those things.”
One eager fresh face can’t change an entire defense, but his passion can have a contagious effect.
As troubling as the defensive performance was against Iowa State, the unit doesn’t appear as in disarray as the offense of Saturday night’s opponent, Colorado.
From the outside, it looks as if Buffs coach Dan Hawkins simply doesn’t have the heart to bench his son, even if objective eyes can see that going with Tyler Hansen gives Colorado the best chance to win.
CU offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau sounded like the voice of reason in stating, “I don’t want to get into this back-and-forth, back-and-forth packages. I want one guy, and I want the team to see that. And right now, Tyler’s our guy.” A couple of days later, Hawkins said both quarterbacks would play. He’s the boss. And he’s the father. And he clearly is having a tough time keeping those two roles from intersecting.
When KU coach Mark Mangino gave the job to Todd Reesing before the 2007 season started, he stuck with him and the loser in the competition, Kerry Meier, respected the coach for doing so.
“With the quarterback position you have to be comfortable and confident when you’re doing it, and it’s going to be tough if they’re going to start rotating quarterbacks,” Meier said. “If they made the choice to make the move and the switch, then I think they should stay with it and completely push the guy (Hansen) to make himself the No. 1 guy.”
However the snaps are divided, the Buffs’ quarterbacks will face a defense motivated by wounded pride. Kansas 28, Colorado 21.