Saturday, September 15, 2012


Thieving defense bright spot for KU



KU coach Charlie Weis postgame: TCU

video thumbnail

Video of Kansas coach Charlie Weis' postgame press conference following the Jayhawks' 20-6 loss to TCU on Sept. 15, 2012.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Charlie Weis

Kansas coach Charlie Weis talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 20-6 loss to TCU on Sept. 15, 2012.

Download podcast

Hidden in the gargantuan shadows of the Kansas University football team’s inability to score touchdowns and kick field goals, Dave Campo’s defense week after week has practiced what he has been preaching in his hoarse voice since he left the NFL’s most famous franchise to work at the Big 12’s most famous basketball school.

The feisty Campo forever challenges his players to force turnovers by finishing plays, and Saturday against the 16th-ranked school in the country, his defense again showed his stamp has taken root already.

Kansas didn’t win, losing 20-6 to TCU in the Forth Worth school’s Big 12 baptism, but future opponents of KU, picked last in the conference for a reason, no doubt gained respect for the disruptive nature of the Jayhawks’ defense.

Three weeks into a 1-2 season, Kansas has a whopping 12 turnovers, including four fumble recoveries against the Horned Frogs (2-0). Unlike in the first two weeks, when the defense set up the offense with good field position that too often didn’t translate to points, this week the turnovers repeatedly rescued the KU defense when TCU was well into threatening drives.

TCU amassed 487 yards and averaged 11.2 yards per pass attempt, numbers that suggest it’s a strange time to praise a defense. But in contrast to the KU offense, the closer the ball moved to the end zone, the better the defense performed. Led by senior defensive end Toben Opurum, Campo’s band of thieves played with an edge seldom seen around here in the past couple of years.

The Horned Frogs drew inside the 20-yard line seven times and had just one touchdown and two field goals to show for those penetrations. (The other touchdown came on a 25-yard pass play).

Turnovers kept the score down. Heading into the week, Kansas ranked second in the nation to SMU (10) with eight turnovers gained.

“Coach Campo made a big emphasis on that when we started camp,” senior defensive end Josh Williams said. “Our defense took heed to that and that’s been a big thing for us every day in practice, to try to get turnovers.”

Campo worked in the NFL from 1989 through 2011, mostly with the Dallas Cowboys, ascending to defensive coordinator (1995-99) and then head coach (2000-2002). He hadn’t been in the college game since working on Jimmie Johnson’s staff at Miami (1987-88). He always had a reputation as a coach gifted at teaching young players, so in that sense the college game seemed like a good fit. But legitimate questions existed as to whether the wide variety of offensive styles in the college game would send him for a loop.

The defense didn’t look great against Rice and the line didn’t get much done, but against TCU, it performed much better. The blitzes that had a telegraphed feel to them in Week 1 against South Dakota State seemed perfectly timed and well-disguised against the Horned Frogs.

It’s not a particularly fast defense — nobody could run down South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner on his 99-yard touchdown run — and not particularly big, but it’s an opportunistic one and that can feed on itself.

“We can’t have guys waiting in the back seeing if things are going to happen,” senior defensive end Toben Opurum said. “If you’re around the ball, good things can happen.”

Campo constantly preaches finishing plays by forcing turnovers.

“He’ll tell you himself that’s the biggest factor in most games that are played,” Opurum said. “So far, we’re doing a good job of that, but there are still plays we’re making where we’re leaving more turnovers on the field.”

Head coach/offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, whose personality and coaching style more closely resembles that of smart-aleck psychologist Bill Parcells than cold-blooded tactician Bill Belichick, clearly played the Rodney Dangerfield angle with his players and it stoked them into putting forth a competitive effort against TCU.

The Horned Frogs expected to roll to an easy victory, right?

“I’m sure they thought that,” Opurum said. “They saw what we put on film in the past and the scores of the games in the past and we lost at home at Rice. Any team can figure they’re going to come roll through us, but we’re a lot tougher than that and we’re going to make sure we continue to improve and get some wins.”

Credit Weis with making the players believe in themselves after a potentially crippling loss at home to Rice. Here’s guessing Weis pulled that off with a little more creativity and depth than simply telling his players to “believe” and backing that up with an acronym that spells the word.


kooky 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm loving the turnovers, but if they don't turn into points, they're not making a huge impact in the win column.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 7 months ago

If you look at NFL history, all-time famous teams are Bears, Packers, Cowboys...Teams that could make a strong case for big-time popularity are: Steelers, Raiders, 49ers, Dolphins. Everyone else is regional, with few scattered fans all over. The NFL itself is highly popular to begin with, so this is almost a non-discussion.
My AFC faves: KC, NewEngland. NFC faves: Bears, Saints (Brees) Dont really dislike any particular team, just dislike(d) some owners that jerked around players (Al Davis...), or are cheapsters and noncompetetive because of it. The NFL players put it all on the line, and many of these warriors suffer physically post-football. Not everyone is Howie Long or Terry Bradshaw lucky.


JakeBarnes 1 year, 7 months ago

Keegan always provides a lot of comments with which to disagree, but he is 100% right on Weiss. Again, we got a winner to coach football. I was always worried about Mangino being so fat, but that's what we need.... beefy coaches.

The Chicago Bears are the best known team in pro football despite Dallas' showboat.


DocPossum 1 year, 7 months ago

This team is improving each week. Kansas in beginning to have football relevance. Yah gotta love it. They must be improving or the K-Snake miscreants would not be chiming in. You win games with defense. With more experience, more physical training, a few more athletes, a couple of taller receivers, and some more more speed KU will be really dangerous. What you have is a team with lots of heart and effort, things they can control. You didn't land in a hole over night. It will take some time to get out. Enjoy watching your team progress, the wins will come. (Sham)rock chalk Jayhawk!


Robert Brock 1 year, 7 months ago

This is one nutty thread. Good to see that L-JW readers start with the bloody marys early.


april28 1 year, 7 months ago

Play of the year to Opurum. Coaches everywhere should take that clip and show it to their players....the absolute epitome of Never Say Die. The QB was was basically in the end zone....what hustle and what heart by the team captain.

In reading articles from earlier in the year, the real emphasis of Campo was that everyone had to get to the ball....this play really shows it. They'll run it 10 times at film sessions today. It's literally the type of play that can turn around a season.


jayhawkintx1973 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah, and TCUs defense is probably the 2nd or 3rd best in the league. Kansas could steal a few games this year.

And lets face it, if this team gets better at tackling, and the plays TCU again next year and limits the big plays, Kansas wins.

It's going to get better. They are just going to have to close in on the ball carriers before the dive for the knees. Keep their heads up. It's moving in the right direction.

Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State <<< Those are winnable games. Remember, last week TCU put up 42 points in the first half. If KU can just make 5 or 6 open field tackles more against TCU today, TCU only scores 7. That first TD, damn near batted down too. Their receive made a play.

The only other TD TCU scored, that was a prayer pass. He got hit on the arm. They were lucky it didn't flutter up in the air and get picked off.

I haven't seen Texas play yet, but I haven't heard anything about a stellar offense there. They have to go to Lawrence.

Oklahoma State and OU are going to beat us, but K-State, as well coached as they are, they aren't particularly fast. If our guys can fight off the blocks and don't get lured in on those seal off blocks, they can stop K-State or at least limit them even in Manhattan.

Weis needs to mix it up better than he did today, but there were probably 8 or 10 plays where it just came down to Kansas not executing, not catching passes, or passes just to hot too close. 8 or 10 plays that could have kept the ball away from TCU and cut their scoring in half and added 7 to ours.

I see a lot of progress being made, what we should have seen under Gill, but didn't.


Steve Jacob 1 year, 7 months ago

Let's not get too excited, KU did give up 487 yards, at home.


Eric Dawson 1 year, 7 months ago

Sorry, but Jerry Johnson's PR machine to the contrary, the NFL's most famous franchise is the Green Bay Packers. Even though primarily a Baltimore Colt fan growing up, I always liked Tom Landry's Cowboys (loved Roger Staubach, Tom Lilly and "Bullet" Bob Hayes). I was still a fan after JJ bought them, fired Landry and erroneously labeled the Pokes "America's Team". But everyone I knew growing up acknowledged that Green Bay was the standard, and aspired to "Run to Daylight" like the Packers did. They had more pre-Super Bowl NFL titles (11) than any other team, were winners of the first two Super Bowls and won two more since the AFL-NFL merger, the most recent two years ago.

A flamboyant franchise that has been all hat and no cattle since 1995, Dallas (5) doesn't even have the record for most Super Bowl wins, the Pittsburgh Steelers do (6) -- and Green Bay is right behind them with 4 Super Bowls.

That's 15 Green Bay championships total. The next closest is the Bears with 9, 8 before 1970 and 1 Super Bowl. The Packers have won a championship in every decade but two -- never missing a decade until the dry spell from 1970-1989 -- since the NFL was formed in 1920. And THAT is why the hometown owned Packers have kept their high profile over the decades, and are uncontestably the NFL's "most famous" franchise.

The Cowboys the NFL's most famous franchise? Nope.


jayhawkintexas 1 year, 7 months ago

Naw, keep on being catty about the "believe" thing. The only part of "believe" was I believed we needed a new coach.


pepper_bar 1 year, 7 months ago

Mr. Keegan, Kansas fired Turner Gill a long time ago. No need to keep being catty.


Jayhawk1116 1 year, 7 months ago

Any chance Campo could maybe stress tackling sometime soon? It's also an important part of the game...


jumpinjayhawk 1 year, 7 months ago

I credit TCU, the ball just popped out for the most part except on the sack.


Commenting has been disabled for this item.