Saturday, September 15, 2012

Notebook: Tony Pierson impresses in passing game; reserve WRs get chance with injuries

Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is sent out of bounds by TCU linebacker Joel Hasley after a catch during the second quarter, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas receiver Tony Pierson is sent out of bounds by TCU linebacker Joel Hasley after a catch during the second quarter, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.


It's hard to call a team's leading rusher its secret weapon, but in a way, that's exactly what KU sophomore Tony Pierson was during Saturday's 20-6 loss to TCU.

Instead of pounding away on the ground like he had during KU's first two games of the season, Pierson became a factor through the air, catching six passes for 99 yards to lead KU's aerial attack.

"Going into this game, we thought that one of the match-ups we could get was Tony versus linebackers," KU coach Charlie Weis said after the game. "We thought it could be a very good match-up for us, and he ended up making some plays in the pass game."

Most of Pierson's catches were on screen passes out of the backfield. But on a couple of occasions the 5-foot-10, 170-pound speed back became more of a down-the-field threat, picking up receptions of 26 and 25 yards. Pierson also added 35 yards on nine carries but said he was most pleased with his receptions.

"I'm more comfortable with receiving because I played it a whole lot in high school," he said. "It gets me out in space more and it puts me and (junior tailback) Taylor (Cox) on the field at the same time, and that's something we need."

Both Weis and KU quarterback Dayne Crist said they were impressed with Pierson's production as a receiver. Neither was surprised.

"Whether he's the first or fourth guy in your progression, you know if you get him the ball, he has a chance to do something special," Crist said.

Added sophomore receiver Andrew Turzilli: "Wow. He did a great job receiving and that adds another dimension to the offense, so we're excited about that."

Filling in

Speaking of KU's receivers, reserves Turzilli and Chris Omigie both received extended playing time Saturday because of the absence of senior Kale Pick, who missed the game because of a knee injury.

The two combined for 151 yards on six receptions, including a 42-yard grab late in the game by Turzilli, who drew most of KU's deep balls.

"I think he gained a lot of valuable experience today, because he's got a lot of ability," Weis said of Turzilli, who made the first start of his career.

Turzilli finished with three catches for 100 yards, marking the first time KU had a receiver reach the century mark since JaCorey Shepherd in last year's season-opener against McNeese State.

In other injury news, senior safety Lubbock Smith also missed Saturday's game with a leg injury. Junior Dexter Linton started in Smith's place and finished with six tackles.

McDonald makes debut

Senior linebacker Anthony McDonald, a transfer from Notre Dame, played his first game of the season and finished with six tackles and a fumble recovery. The second-string outside linebacker played extended snaps because of a minor injury to KU starter Huldon Tharp.

"We intended to play him some anyway, and he ended up playing a whole bunch," Weis said. "He definitely showed up for his first game out there."

Added McDonald: "When I got out there, it was a little slow start, because I haven't been in in awhile. But I feel like I got in the zone towards the middle of that second half. I felt great out there playing. I was just playing ball like I know how to do. It was fun. It felt really good."

Crist clobbered

In addition to sacking KU quarterback Dayne Crist three times on Saturday, the TCU defense recorded four QB hurries, which gave it plenty of opportunity to put a beating on KU's leader.

"I know he's a sore puppy right now," Weis said. "But what'd he do? He just stood in there and stood in there."

Crist, who took longer than normal to get to the interview room, said he felt no ill effects from the extra pressure.

"I'm fine," he said. "I'm a football player."

Early last week, Crist, who threw for 303 yards on 19-of-39 passing, said he planned to start having more fun and vowed to loosen up a little in an attempt to get the offense going. So, did he accomplish that?

"I absolutely did," he said. "I tried to let it loose and just go play. I felt a difference in my game today."

This and that ...

The Jayhawks won Saturday's opening coin toss and elected to defer their choice to the second half. TCU chose to receive the opening kickoff. ... Junior offensive lineman Randall Dent made the first start of his career at right guard in place of Aslam Sterling. ... Junior wide receiver Josh Ford served as the team's fourth captain after being voted by KU's coaches as the top special teams performer against Rice. ... Temperature at kickoff was 67 degrees under cloudy skies with winds of 8 mph out of the east.


rockchalknation 7 years, 8 months ago

Today was a big improvement from the game last week making the loss last week that much tougher. The game plan/play calling last week snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Simpler is better with this team so far. If we came into the contest today 2-0, the atmosphere would have been juiced and we would be playing with more confidence.

Dayne Crist can be a very good quarterback. We have a receiver problem, not a QB problem but everyone wants to ‘blame the quarterback’. Our small receivers can only get open on the short crossing routes and our taller receivers do not play big. The dropped passes must stop. Crist does not know what he is going to get from his receivers each time he goes back to pass therefore causing indecision or holding the ball too long. There simply are not open receivers to throw to very often. The quick sprint-out passing game worked well early. Running out of double tight ends worked also. We need to find a way to score in the red zone.

The defense played hard for 60 minutes. Toben and Williams are studs. Our second level is inconsistent which really hurts. We take incorrect pursuit angles too often, need to wrap-up when we make contact with the ball carrier/receiver, and get them down on the ground. Campo cannot bring more heat because we are too inconsistent in the secondary. As a result we play bend but not break defense. Turnovers have been a huge improvement and will only get better as guys feed off of them.

Special teams need to improve. Our kickoff coverage has to get better. We lose the field position battle when we allow the long returns. Our kickoff return put us in a hole today. Take a touchback or return the ball straight up the field. Our kicking game is what it is. The long snap on the one field goal attempt was bad and threw off the timing. I am encouraged. We played hard and coached hard for 60 minutes. With 2 minutes left in the game we go for it on 4th and ten, get the pass interference call and drive all the way down to the goal line. If we score and recover the onside kick who knows how the game turns out today.

This team deserves better fan support. The amount of people leaving early is disgusting; it’s not like you have to be somewhere else at 2:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon in Lawrence, KS. C’mon, we can do better!

KnightsWhoSayNi 7 years, 8 months ago

Nice summary.

I agree with your QB/receivers assessment, although be prepared to be blitzed by all of the posters who believe that whomever the QB backup is on the bench has to be better. If the receivers can get themselves open, or hold onto the ball when it is thrown to them, Crist will continue to improve. Your assessment that "Dayne Crist CAN be a very good quarterback" is honest. He was just overhyped about how great he would be just walking onto the field for the first time in two years and many fans aren't patient, which is understandable because of the hype. Remember, even Reesing looked off for the last half of his senior season and he had been the starter for years.

(By the way, I saw Jake Heaps play high school and college ball, and if people think that he has a better arm, or is the second coming of whomever they fancy, they'll be disappointed. That being said, with time, game experience, and better talent around him, I still like where our QB situation is headed.)

jhox 7 years, 8 months ago

I saw Heaps in the spring. Absolute rocket of an arm. Everyone sitting around me that day had the same impression...very strong and accurate arm. Must have had a bad day when you saw him. I believe at BYU his problems were more related to decision making. Weis can fix that.

esque 7 years, 8 months ago

Todd Reesing had no problem connecting with the short receivers. Crist is inaccurate, immobile and indecisive which doesn't bode well for the offense this season. Until Weis accepts that the running game gives them the best chance to win week in and week out, they won't win another game this year.

Sam Brockert 7 years, 8 months ago

You mean the 6-3 Kerry Meier and the 6-2 Dezmon Briscoe? Yeah they were REALLY short...

BringBackMark 7 years, 8 months ago

Fun game! Nice to see a competitive product on the field again. Seems like Crist needs to spend some time with his shoes nailed down. He's got the happiest feet I've seen in a quarterback in a long tme. Reesing used his feet to manuever around the defenders while he was looking for a receiver. Crist just simply stands there and bounces from one foot to another. Got to be hard to throw an accurate pass with that foot movement. We're one mobile (and accurate) quarterback from 3-0 and having a lot of promise of getting to 4-0.

Jeremy Hays 7 years, 8 months ago

??????? OUR QB held us back from 3-0 and possibly 4-0???? MY GOD!! I'm done reading these comments!!! Ridiculous!!!

BringBackMark 7 years, 8 months ago

Have you seen any of the games or are you just reading the articles and looking at stats. 3-0 was well within our grasp with just a few key plays made and a few less mistakes.

Sam Brockert 7 years, 8 months ago

Go watch film on Peyton manning and watch his foot work. Crist's footwork is EXACTLY what you expect from a pro-style QB. The reason reesing had to move around was because the guy was like 5-9, he had to be able to see down field

TheSportsDon 7 years, 8 months ago

The backup QB is always the most popular guy on the team when losing. Get over it. It's Crist unless he get's hurt. Our small wide outs do hurt us, the ball has to be put right on them. After Beshears took a kick off out of the endzone I think he got benched. I seen the two taller WR from that point forward, with 15 getting time as well. For those of us who stay for the entire game it is sad to watch people leave early. They are perhaps the one's wanting the backup QB in, know how to coach better than CW and all. For them, all I can say before you even make a comment, check the rulebook on being the best fan you can be, for you fail as a fan much worse than Crist as a QB or CW as a head coach. And last year, I starting noticing it at basketball games too! Sad.

Billy Smith 7 years, 8 months ago

Here's an idea lets give our best player only 9 carries. Then once we get down 2 scores run several possessions with a heavy emphasis on our 51% passing game. That's a sure recipe for a win.

I went to the game. The 2nd half play calling was terrible and I didn't mince words letting the hawks know my feelings. I had some kids looking at me but get real. It's a football game not a circus. And unless fans know the difference it won't be much more than a circus.

Nice qb draw on 3rd and 6 btw. However the "trick" play and the bootleg to way overthrow the tight end on FOURTH AND 1 were a good 2nd and 3rd worst play calls of the day...

NebraskaJayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Those calls you were talking about I thought were good calls and have defined Weis as an offensive mind. If you watched the Chiefs at all during his short time with them, you saw those draw plays all the time 3rd & 6...3rd & 4....3rd & 8. He catches teams off guard by unpredictable play calling. That said, we have to execute with precision on those kinds of calls and we did not. This was a good game to watch...frustrating, but I was actually proud with the way a few individuals played. If this kind of urgency catches on with everyone, I could actually see us stealing a game or two in the big 12.

Billy Smith 7 years, 8 months ago

Also I say have open tryouts for anyone who can kick it past the 15 yard line off a tee. That's ridiculous. This is D1 football for Pete's sake.

NebraskaJayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes, the kicking game is the one area that I am totally frustrated with. Because with a good kicker on the team, this game might have even been won. That's not knocking Ron....he's a punter and a pretty decent one. Looks like he's fighting through a groin injury at the moment though. Anyway, I agree that it's ridiculous.

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

It's different when we talk about problems on offense or defense, but it gets kind of personal when we're talking about the kicking game. I don't want to knock any one person - BUT........

I like the open tryout idea bmsmith54, and I actually have a relative that I think would be able to take over the kickers job.

She's 12.

NebraskaJayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Turzilli is our man. I don't care that he had a couple of drops. This guy has good size, he's long, and has decent speed. He showed that yesterday. There is no way this guy doesn't continue to get more playing time. In fact, I'll bet Weis has him as one of the starting WR even after Pick is back. I don't think he can afford to have someone with his skillset standing on the sideline. This guy is a player and he just lacks some experience. Turzilli is our WR of the future. Next season and the season after, McCay and Turzilli are going to be fun to watch together.

texashawk10 7 years, 8 months ago

I sure as hell hope Turzilli is starting in place of Beshears next week. Beshears has been terrible on kickoff returns his entire career, he dropped a TD yesterday, his route running has been terrible this year, and worst of all is he doesn't seem to care right now. His attitude this year has been a joke and I really do hope to see Weis bench him until he starts trying again.

John Mueller 7 years, 8 months ago

Agree. Turzilli did some nice things!!

Gotta catch em when it hits you in the hands though....

He quit on a route v Rice that coulda been a big play, but yesterday's performance was something to be optimistic about.

jhox 7 years, 8 months ago

I like Pierson more in this kind of role (catching passes and getting him out in space.) Cox is more of a true running back. I'd like to see Cox get the bulk of the carries. I believe Sims is back next week. It will be interesting to see what role he has.

Crist threw some really nice balls yesterday. Even the intercepted ball (bad decision but it was maybe 2 inches from being a perfect strike.). He had a few bad misses but most of those appeared to be communication issues with receivers. He made big strides yesterday. Had 4 or 5 clear interference penalties been called his numbers would have looked better. There were at least two other dropped balls. He was definitely more accurate. Hopefully he's getting back in the flow of things.

Robert Brock 7 years, 8 months ago

I'd like to see Bourbon catch some screens or short passes and see what he could do. He ain't no scat-back.

Randy Bombardier 7 years, 8 months ago

I still think we will win a few games in conference this year. The Jayhawk Bandits on D will make a huge difference in some close games once our O starts clicking a little better. It is clear to see the work in progress now. Would be easy to be down but because of our D I am seeing the progress now. If we have a stellar game, fix a few things like the kickoff team we can pull some upsets.

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