Sunday, November 11, 2012

RBs Sims, Pierson provide KU football with dynamic 1-2 punch

Kansas running back James Sims salutes a pack of KU fans after his touchdown against Texas Tech during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas running back James Sims salutes a pack of KU fans after his touchdown against Texas Tech during the first quarter on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.


The concept has been used dozens of times by football teams at all levels.

Call it thunder and lightning, smash and dash, hit and run or power and speed. Regardless of the moniker of choice, it now also can be called incredibly effective for Kansas University’s football team.

After weeks of watching junior running back James Sims and sophomore speedback Tony Pierson deliver solid performances separately, the Jayhawks used the two tailbacks in unison for extended periods of Saturday’s 41-34, double-overtime loss at Texas Tech. KU racked up 390 rushing yards, the most by a Kansas team in the Big 12 era.

KU coach Charlie Weis said Sunday night that using Sims and Pierson at the same time was something he first considered right before Pierson injured his elbow and missed time while recovering. Now that Pierson, who ran for 202 yards on 16 carries in KU’s latest loss, is healthy again, Weis said he loved the idea of using them both.

“Every week, I go sit in there on Monday morning and try to best utilize our guys to get ’em involved in the offense,” Weis said of his weekly game-planning routine done on the day he calls “by far” his favorite of the week. “And when I looked at our sideline and saw either one of those guys standing on the sideline when the other guy was in, I felt we weren’t putting our best players on the field.”

So Saturday, they both played. Sims ran hard 30 times and picked up 127 yards and a touchdown, while Pierson used his top-line speed to torch the Red Raiders on the edge.

“They both can run inside and outside,” Weis said. “But if you were just picking one to do one, you’d pick James inside and Tony outside.”

With Sims and Pierson having such obvious strengths, Weis said it had become a challenge to find ways to keep KU’s running game unpredictable, but Pierson insisted that, because each guy can handle the entire load, the KU running game has kept opposing defenses off-balance.

“With me and James in the game, they don’t know if it’s an outside run or an inside run,” Pierson said.

Weis wasn’t so sure that was true.

“You have to give the next defensive staff credit that they’re gonna realize when No. 3’s (Pierson) in the game, the ball’s going outside, and when 29’s (Sims) in the game, the ball’s going inside,” he said. “So you can’t think like that.”

One thing that helped KU’s cause Saturday was that red-shirt freshman quarterback Michael Cummings (41 yards) also was a threat to run. When Weis first conceptualized this type of two-back approach, senior Dayne Crist was KU’s starting quarterback. But even though Crist is not a runner like Cummings, Weis said all that mattered was that the quarterback offered something.

“Either way, (the defense) has extra things to worry about than just the two (running backs),” he said.

Sims’ sixth straight 100-yard game — a school record — moved him into eighth place on KU’s career rushing list. In seven games this season, he has 875 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 carries. Clearly, he had done fine by himself. But Weis said he believed adding a healthy Pierson and even more creative game plans to the mix would make KU’s attack even more dangerous.

“Once we get through these last couple of games, where we’re gonna run it and everyone knows we’re gonna run it, and we can get to the offseason, where, through development and personnel substitutions, (we) get the passing game going, I think this has established a physical identity that’s gonna make us a much better team down the road,” Weis said.

A plea to KU fans

Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff against Iowa State will mark the final home game for 23 KU seniors. Although Weis has been with them for just one season, he took to Twitter on Sunday to encourage the KU faithful to come out to support them. Sunday night, he explained why.

“Well, it means a lot to me,” Weis said. “There’s two different ways that new coaches treat players when they come in. Some coaches say, ‘Wait ’til I get my guys here, everything’s gonna be great.’ And then there’s other coaches who say, ‘These are my guys.’ And that’s who I am.”

He continued: “I think it’s really, really important, with all the trials and tribulations that went on with this team, that the coaching staff and all the non-seniors do everything they can to send these guys out with a good taste in their mouths. And we really need as many fans as possible. I can’t ask (the fans to show up) for me. Right now, I’m a new head coach that’s 1-9. But I can ask ’em to do it for (the seniors).”

ISU favored

After coming oh so close to their second victory of the season, the Jayhawks move forward as single-digit underdogs for just the second time this season.

After being favored in their first two games, the Jayhawks have been underdogs in every game since. That stretch has included KU being double-digit underdogs in all seven Big 12 games.

But the early Las Vegas lines list the Cyclones as eight-point favorites, marking the first time since Week 4 at Northern Illinois that KU’s opponent was favored by fewer than 10 points.

Although the line opened with Iowa State favored by eight, by Sunday night the line had dropped in some spots to ISU -6.5.


Terry N Tom Denner 1 year, 5 months ago

The son & I are really looking forward to this weekend game. Smell a victory in the makings. Really excited about next year with Sim's & Pierson back to be the 2 headed KU monster running backs. Next year and KST at home !! Ass kicking on KST here it comes !!!


NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

It's about time we get back to a two-back set. That's what made us good in 07-08.


jayhawkintx1973 1 year, 5 months ago

If Crist doesn't make it in the NFL, I'd take him here to develop into O Coordinator, and potentially a head coach some where.


wsjayhawk1 1 year, 5 months ago

All I'm saying is your pass defender has to play up on the man when the field is shorter in OT. I know it's a gamble but a loss is still a loss so why not take the risk when you're losing every game.


Randy Maxwell 1 year, 5 months ago

Sterling, Dent, Martin and Admire are a good start. will add 1 or 2 JC's to go along with Howard, Spencer and Lewandowski, cupboard not bare


Ethan Berger 1 year, 5 months ago

My main worry is O line for next year. It appears we get an upgrade at qb and wr, while maintain two great rbs. However, we lose our 3 best o linemen. I fully believe in Gunhard, but it will be big task. Defense we will keep improving.


Jack Jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Would love to have access to film highlights - + as 6-mo Ks > Prescott, AZ transfer, and 65-year long KU radical fan, supporter, ( with Forrest C. 'Phog' Allen autograph - he was guest speaker at our ( 1954 Russell, Ks HS Athletics Banquet) - I am crushed at having to only be able to follow games by your Twitter Posts, which by the way, I obviously very much appreciate having at least that form of media available.



Jack Jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Mr. Sims - Mr. Pierson MR. INSIDE - MR. OUTSIDE see,

Mr. (Glenn) Davis & Mr. (Felix) "Doc" Blanchard - US Army FB circa 1945-46

Army FB record 27-0-1 Mr. Blanchard Heisman Trophy winner - 1945

                               Mr. Davis  -  Heisman Trophy winner  - 1946

Pretty good company.


hawkdds 1 year, 5 months ago

Wish we could also get Cox more playing time somewhere, he's a bruiser and goes 100% like Heeney.


nostradavid 1 year, 5 months ago

I saw all the running highlights again last night on the coach's show. Awesome!


Jonathan Allison 1 year, 5 months ago


I agree about Dayne Crist. He's still worth a look if you're an NFL GM in need of a 6'5" 240lb backup QB with a big arm, and a high football IQ, who could materialize into a decent starter down the road.

He's gotta be better than the guy backing up Manning all those years in Indy!


Randy Maxwell 1 year, 5 months ago

In conference games only Sims is by far the leading rusher in the Big 12 and Ben Heeney is the leading tackler. Two things to build on for next season


JayHok 1 year, 5 months ago

Once you start to see what a win feels like it puts it all into different perspective. For the first time since I dont know when I say there realizing, hey we're one stop from winning this game. One stop. Haven't we stopped teams time and time again this year when we weren't expected to? Well we didn't quite get it done on those two OT possessions but we all know how close we are.

When I see KU's team I see a bunch of winners. My heart especially goes out to Dayne Crist. It just wasn't working this year. I really like the class that most KU fans have shown regarding Dayne. I really think in the NFL combines he'll be surprised to see 6'5" receivers with massive glue hands who can fly up the field. He certainly has the tools. Who knows if the ACL surgery was still affecting him. He's certainly worked with the right system to do well in the combines. The NFL is just a whole different ball game and his game to me fits much better in the NFL if his accuracy can increase with the open field and taller receivers. He already knows progression ideology which many college QB's are clueless about.

Look how much Klein's accuracy increased over two months after getting over an injury.

Rock Chalk Dayne and ku TEAM!


wsjayhawk1 1 year, 5 months ago

Is it just me or all the accolades for Campo sort of overblown considering the pass defense in the 2 OTs. When you have a short field(25 yards) you can't have a prevent defense with 7-10 yards playing off a receiver. Envery time a pass was completed by TT the defensive back was 5 or more yards off of him. They would have scored 100 times in 100OTs. With a short field you need to play up on a receiver because there's no chance they can go long on you. Just saying. However this is a much better coached team than Gill's.


justinryman 1 year, 5 months ago

I would love tobe there. These seniors deserve us there. They have been through more than any other group of seniors in College football.

Unfortunatley circumstances keep me from being in a car that long or around a lot of people or lots of noise.

Go get em Jayhawks!!!!


nuloser 1 year, 5 months ago

Hey, wildjayhawk, I have to agree with you on the progress of your football team. We up here were not that keen on Gill as a coach. He is alright for as low assistence job but, far from being anything better. KU did the right thing firing Gill when they did, and really shouldn't have hired him in the first place. Kansas does have a great football coach and team there in Kansas and that is the Kansas State Wildcats who have one of the best in the nation. This sure is making a lot of NU people up here jealous. As I can say I am not a NU fan at all.


wildjayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Things are looking up and the Ku football team is on its way up. Sure glad Gill was replaced and now Ku has a coach that knows how to coach. Gill couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag given the instructions. Looks like the Mangino years are coming back as far as a football team KU can be proud of.


vd 1 year, 5 months ago

“Well, it means a lot to me,” Weis said. “There’s two different ways that new coaches treat players when they come in. Some coaches say, ‘Wait ’til I get my guys here, everything’s gonna be great.’ And then there’s other coaches who say, ‘These are my guys.’ And that’s who I am.”

WRONG, ask Webb and all the other players you said goodby to. When Weis looks in the mirror, does he see a fit 190 lb. 25 year old?


shelleysue 1 year, 5 months ago

Looking forward to a win for the seniors on Saturday. Thank you for hanging in there and playing with enthusiasm and pride in spite of all the challenges and not so fun times you've seen in your years at KU. You are helping turn this program around, and this is one fan who will will always be grateful. ROCK CHALK!!


milehighhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Not to nitpick, Matt, but I'm not sure about your Pierson/Weis passage: ** “With me and James in the game, they don’t know if it’s an outside run or an inside run,” Pierson said.

Weis wasn’t so sure that was true." ** Weis's quote was in reference to Pierson and Sims playing one at a time, but Pierson was making the point that when they play together, defenses don't know what to expect.

Either that or I completely misread the section. Otherwise nice work, sir.


Bob Zielinski 1 year, 5 months ago

This team is definitely improving. You have to consider the level of competition KU is playing as well. They have the most difficult schedule in all of college football and they are matching up weekly against very high-powered offenses.

Yes, a win or two over Northern Illinois, Texas or Texas Tech would feel better but this team is moving in the right direction for certain.


JerseyCityHawkFan 1 year, 5 months ago

I hate to pack it in early this season, but the more I see this team play, the more excited I am about next year. Sims has 875 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns in 7 games, and that's with absolutely no passing game to help him out! Can you imagine what this guy could do next year with a full season and a QB?!? Even if Heaps is a bust, he has to be better than what we've seen this year, and we'll always have Cummings to fall back on, if necessary. I really believe this offense is poised to do some big things next year.


fan4kufootball 1 year, 5 months ago

This team has definitely improved this season and we have been there every time to cheer them on! Yes - we like to win but we will be there as long as the team (including coaches) has the passion for the game and plays hard! See you on Saturday!


troutsee 1 year, 5 months ago

Show up against ISU. This team has earned our support. We can win the next two games.


Keith Hummel 1 year, 5 months ago

It was so frustrating and depressing to lose yet another close game, and extend our streak of futility, but I'm not sure I have ever been more proud of a KU football team. Our team left everything on the field Saturday and went toe-to-toe with a very good and very dangerous Texas Tech squad. It's no mystery what our offense was going to do, and yet we consistently ran the ball up down the throat of the top-rated rushing defense in the Big12. And I can't say enough about or defense that held the number 1 passing offense in the nation to 6 points in the second half, and forced 2 OT's. As many have said, we have the best 1-9 team in the nation, and the future is looking very bright. Let's reward these guys and show our appreciation by showing up for the Iowa State game this Saturday.


tophawk87 1 year, 5 months ago

Turner Gill was given two seasons to build a winning program. If the Athletic Dept. is consistent, Weis has one more season to turn this thing around. By the way, Turner Gill is 5-5 so far this season and Weis is 1-9. Most fans believe two years was not enough time to develop a winning program, let's hope Weis can do it by next year.


W Keith Swinehart II 1 year, 5 months ago

It's helpful that both Pierson and Sims can catch the pass as well as run. Cox, also, is turbulence that can be tossed in with the thunder and lightning.

An aside comment, sportscasters on Wichita TV last night were uncharacteristally complimentary on the change in direction of the KU football . A "change in culture," discipline and stability were some of the descriptions used. The segment wrap was the opinion that the football program at KU seems to be in good hands with Coach Weis. Nice statements coming from a TV source that typically boosts WSU and K-State.


NH_JHawk 1 year, 5 months ago

This team and the coaching staff deserve our support. Even though the wins aren't there yet, I have confidence that we will start to see them next year. Despite the loss Saturday I felt good overall about how we played in Lubbock...miles apart from anything we witnessed the last 2 years in terms of being competitive. Watching Sims and Pierson run all over the Red Raiders was awesome! RCJHGKU! Let's win this last one for our seniors!


swunruhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Dave Campo deserves a huge raise. Without him this team gets killed. HCCW hired the right guy to run the defense!


bville_hawk 1 year, 5 months ago

! at end of every sentence. JHWKDW might want to think about switching to decaf.


JHWKDW 1 year, 5 months ago

Hey there has been improvement, if someone says they have not seen the improvement, they have not been watching the games, or know anything about football! It is not done in one day, and the mess the previous 2 regimes left takes time! Weis and his coaching staff have kept us in all but 1 maybe 2 games this season! The coaches on his staff that are awesome are Grunhard and Campo! Them guys are winners, and are improving our team!

Especially in the 2 games against Texas and Texas Tech!Hey we put fear into two nationally ranked teams, they did not just blow us away, or have a mail in win against us!

And the fact we got 2 running backs as good as they are! Well I wonder if Sims will try the NFL draft! Well we will see if we can get better results from the QB that is they key for KU football to moving forward! You know maybe I am a bit sentimental, but I kinda hoped we could have Reesing as a QB or WR coach!

Well I hope we can get this win against Iowa State!Win Lose or Tie!I am behind KU Football RCJH!


Jim Erickson 1 year, 5 months ago

It's amazing how much the game of football has changed. The teams who could run the ball usually won big. We have a great rushing attack, maybe the best in the league, and it means very little. KState aside, the teams in the Big 12 that win are the teams that can throw.

Football has changed. The pass is king. Heaps + McCay 2013!!!


yovoy 1 year, 5 months ago

Though I'd been going to games since I was in school, it was at this "wheels-have-all-but-fallen-off" stage of the Mangino regime that I started to go to games and actually CARE. I sat through heat, cold, rain, and wind for those guys, and I stopped going when the bandwagon got too full ('08, but I went to the O-bowl), but I'll be there for the Seniors on Saturday. I'll be there next year as well.

I like the grit these guys play with.


Boouk 1 year, 5 months ago

To finish the season with one more win would be huge for KU. Our seniors deserve a win and a great crowd on Saturday.


iamakufan 1 year, 5 months ago

We will not be able to attend but we will sure be watching it on tv, as we have every televised game. This team has done some good things and our guys deserve a lot of pats on the back.


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