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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jayhawks wary of West Virginia game-breaker Tavon Austin

West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) slips past Oklahoma’s Javon Harris (30) for a rushing touchdown on Nov. 17 in Morgantown, W.Va. Austin ran for 344 yards against the Sooners, a feat Kansas University coach Charlie Weis hopes he won’t repeat against the Jayhawks on Saturday.

West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) slips past Oklahoma’s Javon Harris (30) for a rushing touchdown on Nov. 17 in Morgantown, W.Va. Austin ran for 344 yards against the Sooners, a feat Kansas University coach Charlie Weis hopes he won’t repeat against the Jayhawks on Saturday.

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At some point during the middle of November, West Virginia senior Tavon Austin stopped exclusively catching passes and started running the football.

Boy, did it work.

In the two games since transitioning from super-wideout to duper-tailback, Austin, a 5-foot-9, 171-pound speed demon from Baltimore has rushed for 418 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries while also holding down his regular role as a wide receiver and kick returner.

“Almost every week I’m talking to you guys about a special player. Well, this guy ranks right up there at the top of the list,” said KU coach Charlie Weis, who, along with defensive coordinator Dave Campo, will have the pleasure of being the final Big 12 team to have to deal with Austin when the two teams square off in the season finale at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va. “Whether they line him up in the backfield or motion him across the formation, he’s a pain in the butt that you always have to account for.”

Unlike most teams, the Jayhawks (1-10 overall, 0-8 Big 12) have been given the luxury of getting a few extra days to prepare for West Virginia’s high-powered offense, which averages more than 500 yards of total offense per game, including 335 yards through the air. Although that production has been spread out between a number of fast and talented players, Austin, with 521 yards rushing, 1,149 yards receiving, 903 yards in returns and 16 total touchdowns, has been the most versatile weapon of them all.

In WVU’s 50-49 loss to Oklahoma, Austin ran 21 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns and added four catches for 82 yards.

“I have a lot of respect for (Oklahoma’s) defense,” Weis said. “And he made them look silly.”

Last week, during the Mountaineers’ win at Iowa State, Austin was limited to 173 yards of offense on 23 touches, but scored the game-winning TD on a 75-yard pass late in the fourth quarter.

“Five-nine, 171, you can throw that right out the window,” Weis said of Austin’s size. “Because at running back, he’s as good as I’ve seen there and wide receiver, he’s good there. And he’s their kickoff returner and punt returner. Other than that he provides no worth at all to their team.”

It’s not as if Austin is the only player who could give KU fits this weekend. Senior quarterback Geno Smith (3,597 yards passing and 37 touchdowns) is a potential Heisman Trophy finalist, junior Stedman Bailey (95 catches, 1,342 yards, 21 touchdowns) has been explosive all year on the opposite side of the field as Austin, and the Mountaineers feature a few other running backs, wideouts and tight ends who all have added to the team’s insane offensive output.

“Obviously, this team is as dynamic of an offense as you can possibly go against,” Weis said. “If we don’t show up against these guys, it’ll be 100-0.”

Road roster trim again

During KU’s last road trip, which produced a double-overtime loss at Texas Tech, Weis trimmed the travel roster from 70 to 54, leaving home a couple of regulars who, in Weis’ opinion, did not add much to the team when playing away from home.

Asked how he would handle the travel squad this weekend, Weis was blunt.

“This will not be a big number either,” he said.

Weis still motivated

While Tuesday’s news conference featured plenty of talk about KU’s upcoming opponent, Weis also spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the season and looking ahead to the future, a future that includes seven KU coaches hitting the recruiting trail Sunday.

“I love when people say, ‘Why did you take this job?’” Weis said. “I didn’t take the job to go 1-10. I took it because I felt that this would be a challenge, taking this team and turning it from a program at the bottom to back to not only respectability but being a perennial winning football team. And that’s what I intend to do before I leave here. I might be here a long time, but that’s just the way it’s gonna have to be.”

Mangino on CU radar?

According to multiple reports in Colorado, former KU coach Mark Mangino, who has been out of coaching since being forced out at KU following the 2009 season, has landed on the wish list for the Colorado Buffaloes, who, for the second time since 2010, are looking to hire a football coach after handing Jon Embree his walking papers earlier this week.

Mangino, who moved with his wife to Florida after leaving KU, recently expressed a desire to get back into coaching now that his wife Mary Jane’s health problems are behind her.

A couple of programs have contacted Mangino about coaching vacancies throughout the past three seasons, but the timing never was right.

It may be today, and Mangino’s name figures to be tossed around a lot among the handful of BCS programs currently looking for head coaches.

Comments

Jason Keller 2 years ago

Mark "donut" Mangino wants to get back into coaching ehh? "You mean it's legal to smoke pot in Colorado?"....."Yep".... "Where do I sign coach?"

KGphoto 2 years ago

Ha! Yeah, well you still gotta be 21.

Lucas Town 2 years ago

Mangino in Colorado will never work. The players at Colorado are even softer than Mangino's guys he had at KU. There will be allegations of mistreatment at the welcoming ceremony. Also, I don't think the NCAA cares whether pot is legal in Colorado or not. Fail a random drug test and there will be no game time.

NebraskaJayhawk 2 years ago

“I love when people say, ‘Why did you take this job?’” Weis said. “I didn’t take the job to go 1-10. I took it because I felt that this would be a challenge, taking this team and turning it from a program at the bottom to back to not only respectability but being a perennial winning football team. And that’s what I intend to do before I leave here. I might be here a long time, but that’s just the way it’s gonna have to be."

I hope Weis believes what he says and does what he says he's going to do. I guess there's nothing that he's done so far this season that would contradict his words, but it's hard for me to think of someone else getting Mangino. Make us believers, Charlie.

Armen Kurdian 2 years ago

Yup, I think we stop this Austin guy and we win by 40 points. In fact, we can probably get away with just playing 9 instead of 11, that should cut down on injuries.

Mike Hart 2 years ago

Just curious.. jhawks1510... why do you bother posting besides just to be ignorant.

okiedave 2 years ago

mhart1123 - lighten up a little. Jhawks1510 facicious humor was actually making a good point and funny besides.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 2 years ago

Agreed.

Even die-hard fans need to learn to laugh a little bit. Otherwise, you'll have a psychotic breakdown.

We need to watch this game for one reason, and one alone....to see how the players of next year look.

Listen, it can't be easy for these players to go to Morgantown touting a 1-10 record, and an even worse conference and road losing streak. Their attitude, effort, and execution will tell us just how far this team has come.

I've lost faith. Give me a reason to believe again, Charlie.

Ron Prichard 2 years ago

...junior Stedman Bailey (95 catches, 1,342 yards, 21 touchdowns)...

Wow! 21 touchdowns by a wide receiver! As a team we have...? Zero!! I wonder (not facetiously or maliciously) if our offense has scored 21 touchdowns this year so far.

That is an incredible statistic.

troutsee 2 years ago

We do not match up well against this team. Let's pray for a miracle. Certainly the effort put forth by the coaches and players disserve one but they are going to have to work hard to attain it. I'll be watching and hoping that we get a performance like we gave against TU and TT. If so, WVU is in for a long day.

On another note, the longer our losing streak goes, the more the other team is going to prepare for us because no one wants the distinction of being the first team to lose to KU.

For that reason, every team we play will be ready for us. No one wants to be hung with the embarrassment of losing to KU.

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