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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: In defense of a much-improved defense

Kansas safety Lubbock Smith drags down Texas running back Johnathan Gray during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Lubbock Smith drags down Texas running back Johnathan Gray during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Charlie Weis talks following KU's 21-17 loss to Texas

KU coach Charlie Weis talks following KU's 21-17 loss to Texas on Oct. 27, 2012.

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Box score

KU vs. Texas

As the last of the heated benches that the Texas football team takes on the road so that the players stay warm was being loaded onto a truck, more than one person who had watched a near upset in sunny-but-cold Memorial Stadium no doubt uttered a question from a barstool: How did Kansas lose that football game?

Better question: How did a Kansas football team that now has a 17-game losing streak in Big 12 games almost beat a roster jammed with names that made headlines screaming the latest Texas recruiting victory?

The answer: The Kansas players who don’t run as fast, wiggle as smoothly, stand as tall and weigh as much as the Longhorns don’t need artificial means to ignite their desire to play the game.

The Kansas defense came up one play short on a few different plays during the final drive of Saturday’s 21-17 loss to Texas, but the unit that statistically and by every other measure was the worst in the nation last season showed just how far it has come in defeat.

“Heart,” KU running back Tony Pierson said of what his team’s defense showed him.

Heart beats heat every time if the talent is equal, which in this case it was not.

“That’s something we talked about this week,” KU junior linebacker Huldon Tharp said of the heated benches. “They’re kind of soft when it comes to the cold. Those Texas guys aren’t usually used to it. Having a bunch of Texas guys on our team, you kind of notice as soon as they get here they aren’t used to that cold weather. Honestly, in my mind, I was hoping it was even colder than it was. It kind of warmed up throughout the day.”

The play of the defense led Weis to leave time for a couple of potential late-game extra plays in his holster when he trusted it to pull off another goal-line stand and said he didn’t want to let the defense’s momentum in that situation get broken by calling a timeout.

Trusting the defense to win it, even at the expense of a slightly less desperate situation for the offense at the end, didn’t go unnoticed by the players asked to win it.

“That just shows he has confidence in us and that’s something we’ve been looking to get as a defense,” Tharp said. “Last year, we didn’t get a whole lot of good stops, especially on the goal line. I think today we proved we’re a force to be reckoned with. It’s nice to know we have a coach who has confidence in us like that, especially against a high-powered offense like Texas has.”

The Longhorns entered the day ranked third in the Big 12 with 40.8 points per game.

“I know nobody on our team is intimidated by anybody in the Big 12, and I think that’s an attitude we need to keep carrying forward,” Tharp said. “Guys are starting to realize just because we’re not a bunch of high-profile recruits and five-star guys doesn’t mean we can’t compete with them. It’s nice to know our team is starting to figure that out.”

The biggest play of the day for Dave Campo’s defenders came after Bradley McDougald, the most accomplished player on the defense, fumbled a punt he should not have tried to field, giving Texas the ball on the 19 early in the third quarter.

Kansas sophomore Ben Heeney, born to play middle linebacker because just about any other lot in life just wouldn’t come with legally administering quite enough pain for his taste, bailed out McDougald.

Texas sophomore running back Joe Bergeron, who at 230 pounds outweighs Heeney by five pounds, rushed for two touchdowns last year against Kansas, four against West Virginia a few weeks ago and five against Baylor last week, was the obvious choice to plow into the end zone on fourth and one. Heeney didn’t let him. And Tharp lent a hand.

“Ben had an amazing hit on him, stopped his momentum,” Tharp said. “I just helped clean him up.”

Weis liked Heeney’s chances.

“He's been a wild bullets type of guy,” Weis said. “What I’m saying is, he’s firing his bullets all the time now. He only knows one speed, and it’s full speed. He’s one of the guys in that situation that’s capable of stopping somebody, because he’s not waiting to wrap you up; he’s waiting to deliver a blow on you.”

Weis, who said the loss made him “miserable,” also said the defense showed it can play with the “big boys.” Heeney said the loss gave him “a stomach ache.”

“We’ve known that all year,” Heeney said of being able to play with the big boys. “It’s just games like Oklahoma or K-State, we just ... ”

He couldn’t think of anything else to say, so he said what was on his mind: “Peed down our own leg. This game, we felt like we should have won the game. We all feel that way. It sucks it had to end the way it did.”

In the Big 12, the defense must never rest. Up next for Kansas is a trip to Waco to face Baylor, a team that entered the weekend ranked third in the nation with an average of 48 points a game.

Last year, Kansas allowed more than 40 points in eight of 12 games. This season, KU opponents have scored more than 30 points in just two of eight games.

The record for Kansas (1-7) hasn’t improved, but there is no arguing the defense that couldn’t stop Texas one more time and fell 12 seconds short has gotten much better under Campo without significant personnel upgrades.

Comments

nostradavid 1 year, 5 months ago

Keep On Truckin' - Jayhawk Defense!

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Jeff Soisson 1 year, 5 months ago

We stuffed Texas on fourth and one, when was the last time we ever did that? Baylor has one of the worst defenses in D1 so let's run the ball, keep their offense off the field and WIN BABY WIN!

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Ron Prichard 1 year, 5 months ago

"Last year, Kansas allowed more than 40 points in eight of 12 games. This season, KU opponents have scored more than 30 points in just two of eight games."

This is an amazing stat. I love what Campo is doing with our defense. I also love the fact that our three best linebackers yesterday are sophomores and a redshirt freshman, I believe. Wherever Love came from since the beginning of the year, that kid can flat out play.

This will be a process that will take a few years, but the progress is noticeable to anyone who cares enough to look at more than just our record.

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Jayhawk470 1 year, 5 months ago

If only our win-loss record reflected the improvement this team has shown. Instead, the only thing the national media sees is our 1-7 record, and they laugh and say, "Ha ha, Charlie Weis is running KU even deeper into the ground!"

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Dirk Medema 1 year, 5 months ago

"the defense ... has gotten much better under Campo without significant personnel upgrades."

Campo has done a great job, and so has Holsopple. Some of it is an upgrade by player development (Heeney replacing the starting Mike, Love, ...) but adding Williams and Tavai (tho I haven't heard his name much lately) and getting Williams back from injury is a significant personnel upgrade.

Regardless tho, love what they have done with the D, and excited for many games to come this year and beyond.

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HawkfromHays 1 year, 5 months ago

Campo called a pretty good game after the D got steam-rolled on the first drive, though it was helped by some UT mistakes (Ash is terrible). They put forth a great effort, but I think we would have been better served to bring more than 3 pass rushers on the last drive rather than let McCoy sit back in the pocket.

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tical523 1 year, 5 months ago

Heeney, Tharp, Love, Miles. . . . . going to be a tough LB core next few years.

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bjejayhawk69 1 year, 5 months ago

Neworleans must be drinking the water off Bourbon street. Defense played great all day.

Like most games a few bad plays. Bad snap early in the game when KU was going to score. Greg Brown who has played well all year had an INT in his hands. Also overlooked is the Texas player who got hit kinda hard is injured but walks off and later returns a few plays later to give Texas essentially a TO prior to their 4th down play on the last drive.

I love that KU ran the ball a ton but an occasional pass mix would have helped loosen up the Texas defense more but who can complain. Only disappointment I have is not going to this earlier and going away from Crist.

All this game does is help keep Mack Brown's job and keep Texas in mediocrity for awhile longer.

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neworleans 1 year, 5 months ago

There was no KU Defense...................just that simple.

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parrothead8 1 year, 5 months ago

Not using the time-outs at the end cost KU. I know Weis said something about not wanting to take the momentum away from his defense, but that defense had just gotten torched by letting Texas move about 60 yards in 30 seconds. I imagine they could have used a breather and a few moments of mental prep for the next few plays.

Even if KU had come up with another goal-line stand, what would it have mattered? Texas was already close enough for a game-tying FG. Not using the time-outs meant, essentially, that KU was conceding they were willing to go to OT after the FG instead of trying to score again.

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MoralVictory 1 year, 5 months ago

Losing Toebben for the last drive probably cost us the game. On the 4th and 6, any kind of pressure and we stop the play.

Keegan is right about the D, but the O also stood tall today. So close!

Baylor....you are going down.

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Boouk 1 year, 5 months ago

Now this defense has to play well again next week away from home. We haven't seen them have 2 good games in a row yet this season, particularly on the road. To see this defense back up today's game with another good performance on the road against a good offense would be a great sign.

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mojayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Don't hang your heads guys! You are improving big time and making us proud.

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VaJay 1 year, 5 months ago

Major kudos to Coach Campo for coming in and turning around a much-maligned defense that had been shredded multiple times last season. The job he has done is nothing short of amazing.

I thought CW had coached a great game until 1:16 left on the clock. Then incredulously, he didn't use timeouts to give us at least a chance to score. There were 10 seconds instead of potentially 50+. His answer to a question about it was he didn't want to take away momentum from the defense(??). I realize I'm just a semi-knowledgeable fan, but I fail to understand his reasoning. I wanted 50 seconds and a few shots downfield to Pierson or Turzilli. I'm still dumbfounded.

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dallashawk05 1 year, 5 months ago

I agree that Texas does not play to it's recruiting class rankings. Much rather have games like this one and the one against OSU..... hopefully they can put some more good efforts the next few weeks, and no more blowouts.

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