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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trouble in the trenches: KU O-line struggling to keep defenses away from QB

Kansas offensive lineman Brad Thorson sits on a quiet KU bench during the third quarter, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Kansas offensive lineman Brad Thorson sits on a quiet KU bench during the third quarter, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

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— In the three phases of football that offensive lines typically are judged, Kansas University’s guys up front had issues in all of them during the Jayhawks’ 31-16 loss at Southern Miss on Friday night.

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Through three games, opposing defenses haven’t had a difficult time getting to Kansas University quarterbacks:

Opponent KU sacks allowed:

N. Dakota St. 4

Georgia Tech 4

Southern Miss 4

Note: Through two weeks, the national average was 1.5 sacks allowed per game.

Pass protection, run blocking and staying healthy each presented a variety of challenges for KU, which played most of the second half of Friday’s loss without junior center Jeremiah Hatch because of a back injury.

The problems, however, were there long before Hatch was injured, as the Jayhawks struggled to keep the Southern Miss front seven away from quarterback Jordan Webb. Because of that, Webb was sacked four times and forced to scramble nearly a dozen times more. USM’s excessive pressure neutralized KU’s offensive gameplan and may have been the reason KU coach Turner Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long called 44 run plays and 26 passes despite the fact that the Jayhawks trailed by two scores or more throughout the night.

“Obviously, we didn’t execute as well as we did last week, the offensive line especially,” senior Sal Capra said. “That surprised me. I thought we were going to go out there and execute better and play hard. We just made too many mistakes.”

Most seemed to be mistakes of execution, not effort. Showing a glimpse into one reason Webb has become the team’s unquestioned quarterback, the red-shirt freshman from Union, Mo., shouldered a lot of the blame and backed his front five when asked after the game about KU’s inability to protect him.

“We were playing hard,” Webb said. “Hatch went down, (Duane) Zlatnik came in, and we moved Capra to center, and they played hard. They played as hard as they could. There’s just some things that we have to work on. Maybe I held the ball too long a few times. I’m sure I did, and there’s just a bunch of stuff we just gotta work on and get better at.”

In all, the Jayhawks have given up 12 sacks this season. North Dakota State and Georgia Tech also recorded four sacks apiece against Kansas.

“A lot of it’s communication,” Capra said. “It’s hard out there with them changing defenses and switching.”

Injuries have not helped.

Hatch missed the first game because of an injury that lingered throughout the offseason.

Senior Brad Thorson, who was beaten repeatedly at right tackle Friday night, still is recovering from a fractured foot. And the Jayhawks also have been without junior starter Jeff Spikes, who injured his Achilles’ tendon in July and is out for the season.

Because of those injuries, the KU coaching staff has chosen to shuffle its lineup in search of cohesion. Zlatnik started the opener and came in Friday to help replace Hatch. Capra already has played two different positions — center and left guard. And red-shirt freshman Riley Spencer also has been factored into the rotation up front.

“I felt like the run was there, and we blocked it better in the second half than we did in the first half,” Capra said. “(As for the passing game), at times we do a really, really good job of protecting, and at times we do a really bad job of protecting. We just need to get some consistency.”

The lack of chemistry on the O-line has made it difficult for the Jayhawks’ offense to flow. Friday, freshman tailback James Sims ran hard between the tackles in racking up 74 yards on 20 carries, a nice encore to his 17-carry, 101-yard debut against Georgia Tech. However, in the first half of Friday’s loss, the ground game was slow to get going. Overall, the Jayhawks averaged just 3.1 yards per carry against Southern Miss, gaining 136 yards on 44 carries. Twelve of those totes came from Webb, who gained 39 yards with his legs but lost 28 because of sacks.

After the game, Gill stressed again that his squad needs to find a way to perform better in short-yardage situations. And that starts up front.

“We gotta do what we gotta do,” Gill said. “Put some guys out there, get some reps and get better.”

One thing Webb said might help was if the Jayhawks would throw down the field more. KU threw deep just three times Friday. One pass fell incomplete, one was hauled in after a great individual effort by tight end Tim Biere, and the other was the 41-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Wilson late in the game.

“Yeah, we really do,” said Webb, asked if KU needed to open up its vertical passing game. “We need to make bigger plays. We need to make more big plays, and hopefully we can keep doing that.”

Instead of doing it Friday, the Jayhawks and Webb were left scrambling.

“I wouldn’t say we’re trying to figure out our identity,” Webb said. “We want to be a good balanced offense and run and pass about the same. Hopefully we can get to that point.”

Despite the roller-coaster start to the season, Capra says the Jayhawks are aware of who they are and have a firm grasp on what they expect each week.

“You expect to win, you know,” Capra said. “You expect to go out there and play your best and get a ‘W.’ I never expect to go into a game not planning to win or not knowing we can win.”

Comments

jhwkfan162515 3 years, 7 months ago

Our O-line is soft. They need to grow a pair. Now. The Big 12 defenses are licking their chops to face this O-line.

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ubiquitin87 3 years, 7 months ago

Miss Cleo told me via phone call that the only way we're going to win the next two games is if the opposing teams create a pact: Owen Thomas (the... hanging football player from the University of Penn) style. Chances are though, our O-line can't even stop a bunch of corpses from manhandling our QB.

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grandpa 3 years, 7 months ago

I hope to see some of you guys at the Baylor game. We are going to win the next two games if they will continue to throw to #81 more!!!

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HawkNVegas 3 years, 7 months ago

Shotgun runs always are STUPID in the LONG RUN, even if you getta 50 yard gain. Once you do it, just one time, even if they get you for a loss of three, guess what they know?

YOU ARE GOING TO SHOTGUN RUN, run from five yards behind the line at the spot of handoff, with a horrible o-line, and by horrible I'm talking about actual factual provable production in a game.

The play calling is mediocre, we never use what works, always runnin in shotgun or anything else, run the ball repeatedly, 1st an 10 shotgun run, lose 2, 2nd & 12 Shotgun pass, nope shotgun but we run, to setup the pass right, right ? 3rd & 7 Shotgun run will catch em off guard nope, you just did it a super duper billion trillion times, guess what they know you might just do perhaps maybe I dunno you tell me?

Rock Chalk Jayhawk Go KU

But come on guys, keep the same attitude on the road you had at home after you lose to nd state, don't lose then get hype, just get hype, you'll never replay a game, just watch replays, watch study learn, just like college huh?

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HawkNVegas 3 years, 7 months ago

Shotgun runs always are STUPID in the LONG RUN, even if you getta 50 yard gain. Once you do it, just one time, even if they get you for a loss of three, guess what they know?

YOU ARE GOING TO SHOTGUN RUN, run from five yards behind the line at the spot of handoff, with a horrible o-line, and by horrible I'm talking about actual factual provable production in a game.

The play calling is mediocre, we never use what works, always runnin in shotgun or anything else, run the ball repeatedly, 1st an 10 shotgun run, lose 2, 2nd & 12 Shotgun pass, nope shotgun but we run, to setup the pass right, right ? 3rd & 7 Shotgun run will catch em off guard nope, you just did it a super duper billion trillion times, guess what they know you might just do perhaps maybe I dunno you tell me?

Rock Chalk Jayhawk Go KU

But come on guys, keep the same attitude on the road you had at home after you lose to nd state, don't lose then get hype, just get hype, you'll never replay a game, just watch replays, watch study learn, just like college huh?

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troutsee 3 years, 7 months ago

After the NDSU game, I was very disappointed, pessimistic, and felt like some of you. On the other hand, we looked real good against GT and not all that bad against S. Miss. I realize that the special teams need a lot of work, but I am encouraged about our run game on both sides of the ball. Pass defenders still look like they are giving too much cushion. We need more team speed and I think Gill is addressing that by who is getting to play and where they are playing. Also, based on his recruiting thus far, Gill has recognized the OL needs.

Remember we have a freshman QB and RB and DE. We will get better and better as the season rolls on. Don't jump ship yet. Even though I was ready to do so after the first game. We are making progress.

I still say that even though there were missed assignments on both blocked punts, I have noticed throughout his career that Rojas is a long strider and takes too long to get his punts off. I would put him back 17 yards.

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FreddyinLA 3 years, 7 months ago

All you clones who were telling us how great Tommy Tuberville was please give yourself an extended timeout penalty from posting. Boy, that was pure magically the performance of T-Tech last night. There was a reason he was run out of Auburn, you’ll find out again real soon.

If you’re also the same person keeping the wife and kids up all night making “Fire Gill” posters, just put your crayons away. Gill is not going to get fired this year. The new AD will take his time to “analyze” the situation, because quite frankly, making a decision now puts HIM on the clock. It’s all about extending the career when you get to those positions.

As I suspected, the Big Fella couldn’t recruit, and that’s an understatement.

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gchawk 3 years, 7 months ago

You can spot them, 100. I'm just wondering what a "loss pup" is.

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jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 7 months ago

The trouble is on the sideline with the coach named Gill. Loss pup is what he looked like and its not going to get any better. Its going to take years to restore some kind of football team after Gill and his coaching staff get done with it. It took Mangino 3-4 years to get it too a good team. We are back in the dark ages again, gang. Kansas St is king again.

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grandpa 3 years, 7 months ago

Webb is right when he says he is holding the ball too long. Watch some of the other quarterbacks in other games and they are releasing the ball faster. His slow release along with our poor performance by the offensive line is a big probllem. The coaching staff is entirely too slow in getting the plays in. There is no excuse for that. Our big offensive tackle who has been heralded as all conference is standing around with his hands on his hips half the time.Webb is right about the pass pattern, we should be running more slants and deep passes more often. Then Webb needs to be more accurate with his throws.Our backs are not picking up the blitzes. Our huge FB, Foster is very effective with his blocking. He was in for one play this last game. That is the fault of the coaches.

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Randy Maxwell 3 years, 7 months ago

KU dominated the time of possession. Now that and twenty bucks will get you a cup of overrated coffee at Starbucks but the point is to dominate time of possession you have to make some first downs move the ball, you have to be doing something right. We just need to sustain drives and put the ball in the end zone.

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kranny 3 years, 7 months ago

I've said all along that the game is won in the trenches. Mangino left the cupboard bare in the O-line department. Instead of recruiting HS linemen he chose to convert and ultimately that leaves a team compromised when injuries hit. When you move people around during the game rhythm is thrown off. They still have issues with dropped balls. Patterson is great but he needs to catch everything uncontested. I was a little disappointed in our defense. When our linebackers crowded the line in the second half they seemed to do better. Bottom line is that we have some talented players but top to bottom we have some holes talent-wise. I still don't understand Opurum standing on the sidelines and not coming in on offense. Quigley is simply not getting it done. His pass blocking is horrendous and he was responsible for at least one sack that I noticed. There is a reason that he didn't play the previous 4 years-other than injuries, he's not that good.

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hawksince51 3 years, 7 months ago

After watching the game, I certainly would not have singled out any particular group for the loss. Sure, the O-line did not play all that well but as others have pointed out the backs did not pick up most of the blitzes. And the D was pretty mediocre as well and often looked confused. Throw on top of that a blocked punt for a TD and you have a total team loss. It looked like what it was--a young team with a new coaching staff and system playing on the road for the first time against a pretty good team who rarely loses at home. After watching the KSU-ISU game I have to be realistic and say that I don't see a lot of conference wins for us this year. Maybe CU and Baylor.

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steamboat 3 years, 7 months ago

Talk all you want but these are young kids and they have a little idea of what to do and dammit I was impressed with the coaching during the off season but 3 games into the season and they SUCK!!!!!!!!! They're not doing a darn thing in terms of coaching. We got some good young kids but they gotta be coached too. Look at KSUCK, they don't have no real studs but they got coaches that got'em disciplined and they don't let up one play the whole game. Come on Gill and the coaching staff pull your freakin' head out. Run the plays that fit our team on offense and find a leader to be vocal on both sides ofthe ball. Right now nobody wants to step up !!!!!!!!! We can still have a decent season but it needs to start in our practices

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doolindalton 3 years, 7 months ago

Watch the tape. It isn't the O-line that's having the problems; it's the backs who cannot block when the defense sends a blitz package. To draw an analogy from basketball, it is similar to guards who don't block out and blaming the big guys for not rebounding.

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Ashwin Rao 3 years, 7 months ago

Our O-line looked too slow from my viewpoint, so they couldn't handle the smaller, but quicker D-line who ran around them in circles. The coaches do need to come up with a strategy for that! Otherwise I was quite happy with our performance (except that we lost!). I am quite happy with Webb as the QB! I agree with him that having a vertical passing game will ease some pressure on the scrimmage line!

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HawkfromHays 3 years, 7 months ago

The O-line played poorly but it doesn't help when NONE of the running backs can pick up a blitz!

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mulaza 3 years, 7 months ago

look at those boring freaking uniforms. no flash or excitement at all in the way we look. your telling me a high school kid will be amped to put those on?

you know how coaches sometimes take the logo off the helmets or jeresys to prove a point. i am suggesting we take the jayhawk off the back of our jerseys and replace it with the man/women symbol that prince used to go by

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Dyrk Dugan 3 years, 7 months ago

Quigley is far from a joke. with a full season carrying the load, he would be fine. He's a sixth year guy, who has had injuries and position changes....but Angus will help us this year.

this football team is all about the above story. the o-line was supposed to be our main weapon, our main strength with so many starters and experienced guys back...and they're grading a D at best. the only reason it's not an F, is because of GTech.

Hopefully, Hatch isn't hurt too bad...he was a real difference vs. the Yellow Jackets. until this unit clicks, wins will be very hard to come by. can you imagine what NU will do to us? shoot, how 'bout KSU? they have decent DEs.....we MUST get better.

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Dillon Davis 3 years, 7 months ago

Thank God we have like 6 coming in next year. Plus with Spikes and Hatch back, we'll be good. Our entire O will be back except for Wilson and Quigley. Wilson hasn't done much and Quigley's a joke. And we'll lose Sal and Brad but they're replaceable.

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Funhawk 3 years, 7 months ago

Everybody lay hands on your computer and pray for the O-line! They need help!

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