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Monday, December 10, 2012

Tait

Opinion: Dismal KU football season featured players and plays to celebrate

Kansas University running back James Sims, left, and linebacker Ben Heeney (31) stood out on either side of the ball during the Jayhawks' otherwise dismal 2012 football season.

Kansas University running back James Sims, left, and linebacker Ben Heeney (31) stood out on either side of the ball during the Jayhawks' otherwise dismal 2012 football season.

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Looking back on a 1-11 season without shaking one’s head is not easy to do, but, believe it or not, there were more than a few moments worth celebrating during the 2012 Kansas University football season.

Sure, the Jayhawks’ record worsened for the fourth straight season, and, yes, there were still a couple of lopsided results on the scoreboard.

But there also were signs of progress and, perhaps more importantly, several moments that defined what football under first-year head coach Charlie Weis would look like.

Here’s a quick look back at the best of 2012:

Offensive MVP: James Sims

For the third straight season, Sims led the Jayhawks in rushing, this time finishing with a career-best 1,013 yards in just nine games. After serving a three-game suspension to start the season, Sims responded with a stretch of six straight 100-yard games, which set a school record. The junior from Irving, Texas, looked bigger, faster and stronger all season and became the best back in the Big 12, even if the postseason awards did not reflect that.

Runners-up: Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli — It was tempting to put sophomore speed back Tony Pierson here, but I think the offensive line, particularly these three seniors, deserve a ton of credit for KU’s success running the ball during a season in which throwing it was not really an option.

Defensive MVP: Ben Heeney

For a guy who played next to no snaps a season ago, the sophomore from Hutchinson came up huge with 112 tackles, good for third in the Big 12, including 12 for loss and one sack. Heeney’s relentless style and physical play made him a player who stood out no matter how bad the score got.

Runner-up: Bradley McDougald — The anchor of the KU secondary, McDougald was great against the run (92 tackles), solid against the pass (three interceptions) and a leader throughout.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Taylor Cox

Had it not been for Sims’ breakthrough season, the junior-college transfer who runs just like him — perhaps harder — would’ve finished with much more than the 464 yards and three touchdowns on 91 carries he had. With Sims and Pierson both missing time this season, Cox’s presence made life much easier on the KU coaching staff.

Runner-up: Michael Cummings — The red-shirt freshman from Killeen, Texas, injected life into a stagnant KU offense in the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma State loss then replaced Dayne Crist in the starting lineup for the next several weeks. For a guy who had never played a down of college football, Cummings did about all you could ask while functioning as the trigger man for KU’s ground attack.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jake Love

Like Heeney, this former Oklahoma state wrestling champion showed no regard for his own body while physically matching up with some of the best players in the Big 12. Despite starting just four games, Love, a red-shirt freshman, finished with 36 tackles and a couple of monster games.

Runner-up: Ben Goodman — By the end of the season, Goodman was playing as well as anyone on KU’s defensive line. Look for him to use that finish, plus the confidence that should come with it, to become a player in 2013.

Game of the Year: Texas Tech 41, Kansas 34, 2 OT

The South Dakota State win was nice but expected. This one was a surprise, and the Jayhawks battled toe-to-toe with the 25th-ranked team in the country. Runner-up: Texas 21, Kansas 17 — On the heels of an embarrassing loss at Oklahoma, KU responded by physically whipping Texas and held a lead until 12 seconds remained.

Offensive Play of the Year

James Sims’ 30-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State — He called it in the huddle and capped it off with an uncharacteristic biceps flex in the end zone. This was the run when it became apparent that Sims knew he was a beast.

Runner-up: I’m torn here. It’s either Cummings’ 44-yard run on fourth-and-three during the game-trying drive in the final minutes at Texas Tech, or Pierson’s 55-yard touchdown run against Iowa State, when he chose not to pitch the ball to Crist on the reverse and instead kept it and sprinted to the end zone.

Defensive Play of the Year

Ben Heeney chasing down K-State QB Collin Klein at the goal line — Even though Kansas State won the second half 35-2, there’s no discounting how huge this play was at the time it happened. With K-State out of timeouts and driving to go up 28-14 at the half, Heeney tracked down Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein short of the goal line and sent the Jayhawks to the locker room with some serious momentum.

Runner-up: Tyler Patmon’s pick-six against Northern Illinois — The junior cornerback’s 54-yard interception return on the second play of the fourth quarter put KU up 23-13.

Special Teams Play of the Year

Nick Prolago 29-yard field goal against Texas — It doesn’t get any bigger than a pressure-packed field goal for the lead with 2:28 to play, and Prolago buried it.

Runner-up: Josh Ford’s blocked punt against South Dakota State — Ford kicked off his special-teams player of the year campaign in style by recording a stat that had been hard to come by around here for the past few years.

Most Improved Player: James Sims

He was good as a freshman and sophomore but became great as a junior. What’s next?

Runner-up: Tony Pierson — The already-dangerous speed back became a weapon in the passing game and proved he could handle an increased workload, particularly during the season’s first three weeks when Sims was out.

Feel-good Moment

News conference when Charlie Weis was introduced — The beginning of the Weis era marked the much-anticipated end of the Turner Gill era. During his introductory news conference in early December, Weis did more to hype up the program than Gill did in two years.

Runner-up: Any time James Sims carried the ball — The Jayhawks may have been beaten up and overmatched throughout much of the season, but you never would have known it by watching Sims run. He ran with pride and toughness on every snap and single-handedly earned KU respect from opponents.

Feel-not-so-good Moment

Getting housed by Iowa State at home — The Jayhawks put all they had into sending the seniors out with a victory. Weis hyped it all week, bought tickets to fill the stands and broke out the black uniforms as a surprise. After an emotionally charged hot start, the Jayhawks fell flat and lost 53-21.

Runner-up: The six-minute stretch in the third quarter against K-State when a 28-16 KSU lead turned into a 49-16 runaway.

Comments

JHWKDW 1 year, 4 months ago

I say people please can we move on from mentioning Coach Gill anymore? Im not going to rehash alot, but I will say his about the dude, he came in at a rough time, accusations of alleged abuse by Mangino, fights between the Football team, and Basketball team on campus, and all that Perkins scandal garbage going on. I once met him, and he seemed like a nice guy, in addition he acted professionally, and when he did not produce like he should have, he left professionally Hey he did not cut it as a coach here, in a way he was in over his head here. Ok im not defending him do not want to go down that road, but he is gone, I wish him success down the road. I am moving on from this topic for good after this.

You know I would have to say IMHO The Game of the Year was a 2 way tie between Texas and Texas Tech. We put a fear into both of them taking down to the last bit of the game in both game.

Also how in the heck did the 2 Fakes punt/field goal against Kansas State not get into at least a honorable mention? Really?

Well in all of these loses were some encouraging things I saw. Guys keep on keeping on in 2013.

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Jack Jones 1 year, 4 months ago

Ah, it's just too much fun - living in the past. Coach Gill is gone, and I wish him only the best going forward as a Head Coach. Is it just not possible to close the page on that particular period of Kansas University football? Same goes for the Coach Mangino era. It seems to me that it would be far more productive, not to mention relevant, to focus on our current FB program - including those for whom criticism seems to be a significant outlet for them. I believe Matt is on target to point out those things that deserve recognition despite the season's record; and can be built upon going into next year, and the years to come.

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Jayhawk470 1 year, 4 months ago

We have nowhere to go but up.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 4 months ago

A few things after reading some of the crap on this thread:

  1. Turner Gill was awful, and there's nothing wrong with bringing it up occasionally...especially in the unoffensive way Tait did. It goes without saying, I'm afraid, but Gill absolutely did not deserve a third year. It goes much further than record or margin of defeat. The man's priorities were completely off base, his players were failing academically, there was absolutely no authority, his in-game was awful, he was completely unwilling to adapt, and he never fully accepted responsibility for failure during press conferences (almost to the extent he didn't seem to believe he failed). He needed to go, and if we need to remind ourselves from time to time of how inept and destructive he was, so be it. Lash out, Jayhawk Nation.

  2. Weis is not off the hook in any capacity. He was simply wrong in many of his talent assessments. He led us to a worse W-L record with the only possibility of being worse is to lose every single freakin' game next year. He has to accept responsibility for this season. He has failed so far.

  3. It is reasonable to believe Weis' ego will play a significant role. He will be here 3 years tops, and potentially less if he does not perform next year. Someone earlier in this feed suggested that he will stick around longer because his ego demands he succeed as a college head coach, but ego could work the other way in this situation as well. He may seek a position in which he is more likely to succeed and retire on a high note.

  4. The administration and fanbase is a cause for concern. Not necessarily in the case of Turner Gill...you know...because he was terrible. But if Weis does not succeed next year, there will be people calling for his head. As a fanbase, we're just not intelligent enough to understand that successful football programs take time to build.

In this regard as well...we're basketball-oriented. Football may never have a true chance to succeed here because we give up on it so easily. We're fickle, impatient, and completely oblivious to what it truly takes to build a successful program. I mean, we didn't even know what a BCS victory celebration should look like. Mass Street should have been as chaotic for the Orange Bowl victory as it is for an Elite Eight victory.

We don't honor it like we should, because we don't, and maybe never could, honor it as much as we do basketball. Maybe we're destined to be a one-trick pony forever. Not a bad thing as long as you're dominating in that one trick. But it's precisely the reason you don't see Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina competing for conference championships in football.

We may just need to accept it.

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Boouk 1 year, 4 months ago

By the way, 6'0 210 pound JUCO S Isaiah Johnson, who runs a 4.5 40, just committed to us.

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 4 months ago

Some random thoughts presented on a Tuesday.

1] I anxiously await the day when the word "plays" is replaced by the word "games" in the headline above!!

2] For some strange reason, in the last four years I have not seen Kansas lose when I'm actually in attendance at Memorial Stadium....maybe I need to go more often!!

3] I think getting rid of the track is worth at least three more wins a year!!!

4] I think the uniforms and helmets should be the same color as the turf....camouflage green. The Hawks will become invisible!!

5] Student Attendance incentive...give each student a punch card that can only be scanned after the game is completed. If a student has a completed attendance schedule, he or she gets to add an"A" grade to average into the class of their choice!!

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hbjayhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Matt: As always, your insights, analysis and reporting is outstanding. Your coverage since Charlie's hire has been the best coverage of KU football (start to finish) since I have followed LJWorld in 1982. I can't wait to see if KU football ever emerges. Hopefully we are both still alive, but when you publish that book, "1922-2022: A look Back at Memorial Stadium and the 12 Great KU teams of the Century" . . . I hope your coverage lays that foundation. RCJH!

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Robert Brown 1 year, 4 months ago

It is amazing how some will grasp at anything positive, especially recruiting. We hear a blurb on someone who picked us and think we have turned the corner in terms of talent. The current conference rankings by Rivals, an organization who studies recruiting, is on the link below. Despite our heralded JUCO players, we are currently 9th of 10th in the Big 12. I'm sure some will say the ranking don't mean anything, but this is all we have to go by.

http://rivals.yahoo.com/footballrecruiting/football/recruiting/teamrank/2013/BIG12/all

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Jim Jackson 1 year, 4 months ago

Charlie is very egotistical, which one of the reasons I feel he will stick this out; to prove all the doubters how good he really can be.

Additionally, who is going to hire a 350 lbs 55 yr old guy to a head coaching job when he has a losing record? Weis wants to be the boss, not a coordinator.

He doesn't think getting to 6-6 is going to be that difficult, I agree with him (albeit it won't be that easy in the literal sense).

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BABBOY 1 year, 4 months ago

I find the comments from the KU faithful knocking Gill comical. I just find if funny that a fan base that fired the one coach that could win at KU in the last three decades (Mangino) thinks it has the creditability to tell other posters what they get or do not get in terms of coach hiring in the past..

I kind of supported Gill because of his work ethic but after watching last KSU-KU game on his watch it was clear they had problems on defense that were not being addressed. I think he should have got another year but after Terry Allen this fan base needs instant gratification or they give up on football and turn to basketball.

Not sure Weis is really addressing defense either as like Ron Prince (yeah I am comparing him to Ron Prince LOL) the guy over focuses on offense.

Having said that If you guys give Weis a chance (cause he is not Ron Prince), he will do something for you. But, my guess is someone in the AD program or the school will anger him and he leaves cause this program is all about basketball and football will never be number one focus and Charlie needs to be number one.

Whatever I wear purple.

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ku_foaf 1 year, 4 months ago

With rest of the Big 12 being so strong, this is what I expected. Nine bowl bound teams.

We did have some bright moments, and didn't always look like a 1-11 team. It was a shame we couldn't quite close the deal on Texas! One defensive play would have won the game, I didn't see it only listened.

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danno1313 1 year, 4 months ago

Any chance we ll see some 4 star recruits? Maybe just one?

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Steve Miller 1 year, 4 months ago

You all can paint a hog green, but it's still a hog .. The best thing about this article and this season is that you can scrool the page up and click on "Mens basketball". Football will never be a winning tradition for this university.

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beebe1 1 year, 4 months ago

Good article, Matt! I think it would support an argument that we have some talent. The comment on Patmon might indicate, given a chance, he could 'cover'. It, along with my early commrnts on #24, 23, and 55, would support an argument that the Defense was not taught to 'tackle'. You can even see evidence in the pro's of inability to tackle. (See SD vs GB in exhibition -- The SD receiver side stepped 2 left, the GB defense guy breezed past him and fell on his face, SD made it to the 6 yd line.)

The talent is way better than before. The biggest problem is inability to use the talent -- on Defense. Our coaches must learn how to teach 'Tackling', "Coverage', and devise a Defensive Scheme to use our people. 'Defense' has fallen out of favor the last 50 years, except perhaps at ND. We could really use a Defensive Coach that understands 'The Notre Dame Defense'!

0,

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Jim Jackson 1 year, 4 months ago

Gill was atrocious! He was NOT a Big 12 coach; he was too soft. His in game adjustments were astonishingly awful, the strength and conditioning program was run by an obese, incompetent who had been fired from Baylor; academics were disgraceful, conduct from players
was unacceptable and Gill would go home at 6 pm to have family dinner.

When you're head coach in the Big 12, i't's a 14 hour a day commitment. Gill ran the most disoriented program in the league, you should see Dorial Green Beckham's comments on how Gill's staff recruited, I believe a staff member didn't even show up.

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Kyle Sybesma 1 year, 4 months ago

If this is the Opinion Page then my opinion is to never see the black uniforms again. I liked the white helmet. Do it with the new "KU" logo.

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Sayers44 1 year, 4 months ago

Turner Gill -- After losing his first 4 games at Liberty, Gill turned it around and went 6 - 1.

Gill won six of his last seven games ---he does know what he is doing.

KU paid him 5 million to leave town and he did.

But no reason for you KU cheerleaders to badmouth Gill.

He is a winner, has always been a winner and would have been a winner at KU if patience was showed.

So we move on to a 1 - 11 season and the cheerleaders want to believe there has been progress. Yea Right!

Just because Wies can talk a good game, does not mean he can judge talent (example: Crist).

At the end of the day badmouthing Gill is in poor taste, especially when the new guy went 1 - 11.

1

Suzi Marshall 1 year, 4 months ago

Regardless of the record, this year's team showed great improvement over the last few years. The coaching and play calling was superior. If we come up with an O-Line next year...watch this offence fly with the backs we have, the recievers and Heaps passing. Looks like the Defense with the new recruits and great coaching will be solid. Next year, KU will compete for the conference championship....if we get an O-Line.

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Jim Jackson 1 year, 4 months ago

We have a strong JUCO class coming in, and we're not even close to being done, recruiting wise.

Let's not forget Mangina turned us into a 6-6 team in his 2nd season after going 2-10 with less talent and inferior facilities (Mangino recruited the heck out of JUCOs).

The Bill Snyder model works; Weis is going to take full advantage of it.

I am confident he is too intelligent to fail, especially after seeing Mangina execute it to near perfection.

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flyingfinn 1 year, 4 months ago

Whaaaaat come on Matt if Cummings is runner up for offensive rookie of the year we are in terrible shape for next year, this guy can not find a receiver period. Please Heaps be our answer at QB or we will be in for another long season.

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LJD230 1 year, 4 months ago

Next year will be better: 2 wins!! That is an improvement.

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OmaHawk88 1 year, 4 months ago

Good article, Matt. But I was hoping there would be a special teams play mention of Tony Pierson hustling 70 yards downfield and making the tackle to prevent ISU from scoring a "reverse 2-point conversion" after KU's 2-point attempt was intercepted. That play epitomized Tony's heart and determination, and displayed the never give up attitude that we saw emerge from this team from week to week. Plays like that one show how Charlie has changed the attitude of this program and gives us hope for next year--keep recruiting, Charlie!

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phi4life940 1 year, 4 months ago

I like this article. I know the season didn't turn out the way we hoped, but it's important to reflect and learn from it.

Next year we'll be better. Rock Chalk.

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Robert Brock 1 year, 4 months ago

Bringing up Turner Gill is so like bringing up Mitt Romney's dog Seamus.

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MoralVictory 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes, it was a rough season. However, during every home game in the stands and every game that I could watch on television, there were moments where I stood up and cheered at the top of my lungs.

The point of the article, for those of you who are too thick to get it, is this: there were moments to cheer and there were performances worth celebrating. No one is asking for participation awards but that doesn't mean that there weren't some high points worth mentioning.

To those of you who apparently think that Turner Gill should still be the coach, this news just came in: he was awful. He's being paid $2million a year for the next two years for being awful and he should have been fired after the loss in his first game as coach at KU.

Weiss gets no free pass. Definitive improvement is a must next year and this includes wins. That starts with recruiting. Let's see what happens....

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JayDocMD 1 year, 4 months ago

How sad is this:

"Special Teams Play of the Year: Nick Prolago 29-yard field goal against Texas "

That's right, a TWENTY-NINE yard FG is the highlight of the year?!

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Robert Brown 1 year, 4 months ago

It is interesting that the word "hype" was used twice in this article. Hype can have negative connotations especially when the hype is not backed up by performance. As a fan, it is frustrating when you buy into the hype and don't see the performance. That, in a nutshell, describes the admittedly early stages of the Weis era. A lot of hype.

You can make yourself believe whatever you want. You can convince yourself there was improvement and rationalize every bad performance,but the bottom line is that this team's performance was a huge disappointment. They got blown out in as many conference games as last year including a home blow out by one of the worst teams in the conference (ISU).

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Marc Frey 1 year, 4 months ago

Penthouse to the Outhouse moment. Our first offensive play of the year...Crist to Pick.....to....most any Crist pass after that.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 1 year, 4 months ago

I made it through another season without "offing" myself...

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swunruhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Good stuff Matt. However, the runner up feel good moment was when Weis named Dave Campo DC. The Jayhawks are very fortunate to have him and thank goodness he is staying and was even tweeting yesterday from his recruiting trip.

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Phil Leister 1 year, 4 months ago

Tait taking a page out of Keegan's book and writing an opinion piece.

Did all the guys receive a participation ribbon for completing the season? Sims, Pierson, and Heeney deserve accolades to varying degrees, but come on. Pointing out Prolago's 29 yard field goal? This whole article is a reach. I agree that the record doesn't reflect this team's improvement from last year, but let's not hype up close losses. "Almost" doesn't show up in the record book.

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LogicMan 1 year, 4 months ago

Let's celebrate everyone by giving each a trophy. That would improve their self-esteem greatly. There are no winners or losers in life!

Oh, wait. 1-11.

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biggunz 1 year, 4 months ago

The only list Tyler Patmon should be on is the Not Worth A S**t list. One of the worst defensive backs ever!

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pepper_bar 1 year, 4 months ago

I knew it before I even started reading this, Matt. I knew you couldn't write a whole KU football column without making a pointless snide comment about Turner Gill.

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