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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: KU’s offense not quite right in opener

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis watches as a touchdown by Josh Ford is called back during the first quarter against South Dakota on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis watches as a touchdown by Josh Ford is called back during the first quarter against South Dakota on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Charlie Weis

Kansas coach Charlie Weis talks to reporter following the Jayhawks' 31-14 victory over South Dakota on Sept. 7, 2013.

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Box score

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The new quarterback throws the ball and avoids sacks so much better than his predecessor. The talented stable of running backs looks better than ever. And the squad finally has a wide receiver with a touchdown reception to his name.

Yet, based on first glance, something isn’t quite right with the Kansas University football team’s offense, which seemingly had the manpower to put far more points on the board than it did in Saturday night’s 31-14, season-opening victory against South Dakota.

But what? What exactly is the problem?

For one, even for an opener, the team in general lacked discipline, as evidenced by 71 penalty yards on nine whistles.

Beyond that, though, the offense as a whole didn’t equate to the sum of its parts and it wasn’t until head coach/offensive coordinator Charlie Weis abandoned his preference for balance that KU opened a comfortable distance.

Watching Kansas struggle through a scoreless first quarter on the way to a 14-7 lead at the half, I kept asking myself why Weis didn’t just have quarterback Jake Heaps hand the ball to a running back on every play and make most of them simple runs between the tackles. The only answer I could come up with was that Weis was coaching for future games, knowing the Jayhawks would need a balanced attack to win games against stiffer competition than a Football Championship Subdivision team that went 1-10 a year ago.

Wrong.

“That’s the way I like to call the game,” Weis said of the balanced first-half approach.

With far more skill, experience and depth at running back than at receiver, it might be difficult to stay as balanced as he likes, though not as difficult as a year ago, now that Heaps is zipping accurate passes into tight spots the way he did in his KU debut. A few dropped passes and a couple of hurries on which he avoided sacks by throwing balls out of bounds cheated Heaps (10 of 20 for 110 yards and one touchdown) of having statistics that more accurately reflected his performance.

From the very first play from scrimmage through much of the first half — Tony Pierson lined up at wideout, then went in motion, took a handoff and was stopped for no gain — the KU offense looked like a power pitcher with a 98 mph fastball throwing changeups to guys at the bottom of the order. Why try to trick them when you can just blow them away with power?

Everybody involved promised better things from the offense.

“There are some guys who are not even playing who are going to end up being major factors,” Weis said. “I’ll use a guy like Rodriguez Coleman. He may end up being one of our best receivers, but right now he’s playing behind Christian (Matthews) and Tre’ (Parmalee). At the end of the year he might be one of those guys everyone’s talking about.”

Look for that to change soon. Maybe immediately.

But beyond personnel issues, the offense just didn’t seem quite in sync. Could it be the playbook is too expansive for college football and as a result the athletes are doing too much thinking and not enough reacting?

“No, no, no,” said tight end Jimmay Mundine, who caught two passes and dropped two. “There is not too much thinking on Saturday. You usually know what you’re doing by then. We know we can run the ball and we know we can pass it. It’s just going to be a matter of actually doing it. ... We can do such a better job than we did tonight. There’s no excuse for us not doing it tonight because we did such a better job of it throughout camp.”

Mundine explained how playing in a game can sharpen practices.

“It didn’t all come together tonight,” he said. “That’s something we’re going to definitely work on and take practice more serious. We might have gone through the motions in practice. When you get into a game, you can feel the emotion and the intensity and that’s what we’re going to try to incorporate into practice.”

Jake Heaps called the development of the passing game “a process,” and it is because young receivers can be expected to get better. But how much better?

“I don’t think it was our best game, obviously,” Heaps said. “But when you look at it, our offense shot ourselves in the foot half the time and we were able to put 31 points on the board. When you look at it that way, it speaks a lot of volume to our offense and our capability. We just need to correct those little mistakes and little mental errors that we had during the game and we’re going to be just fine.”

The corrections must come quickly because Rice, Saturday’s road opponent, is no joke.

Comments

Brett McCabe 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Here's a concept....run it down their friggin' throats for a long, long time and then....throw it over their heads. There have been teams in football history who used superior running games to set-up their passing games. Or have I just been dreaming all of these years of watching football?

You, and Vegas, are right. 3.5 is the O/U for a reason. I'm still hoping for 4 but with TTU looking a lot like Baylor, I'm not sure where the other 3 wins are coming from.

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CrystalJones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Well, I'll tell you where one of the wins is coming from: K-State. They absolutely stink this year. They actually lost to ND State worse than we did! They have no defense at all, and can't even decide who their QB is going to be. That team is in chaos right now. A real mess. Hawks win by 14.

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hawk316 11 months, 3 weeks ago

CrystalJones, I would love to beat K-State, but you may be overly optimistic. That North Dakota State team is no pushover. They have won the last two NCAA Division I FCS championships and would be a handful for many FBS schools.

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jhox 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Heaps hadn't played a real game in 2 years. Better to get some of the kinks in the passing game worked out against SD at home, than Rice on the road. I'd have been fine with throwing it on every down in the first half, for that reason alone. Besides, we need for our opponents to know we have the threat of a passing game, which will make running it easier down the road. We did the run, run, run, punt thing last year (Herm Edwards would have been proud), and that didn't work out too well for us, winning only one game. This is not 1975. You actually need to be able to throw a pass in today's college FB world.

The important thing is that they did what they had to do to win in the second half (running the ball.) in the mean time, hopefully our QB and receivers got some of their opening game jitters out of the way.

I am curious of one thing. How does the number one rated juco player in the country, from last season, not play a down on a not especially talented defense? Was he being punished or something?

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BayPark 11 months, 3 weeks ago

It also appeared that Linton played quite a bit more than Sendish.

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Jim Jackson 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't believe we used play action once all night. Very odd.

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Mark Lindrud 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I noticed that too. I don't think we used running back screens either. The offense was very vanilla and hoping Weis did that on purpose.

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Michael Sillman 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Let's hope the pundits are right when they say the most improvement is between the first and the second game.

I give Heaps very high marks on his game. The running backs and O line were good. Receivers were average.

Play calling by the coach was below average. Not even sure why he used the wildcat. I would have liked to have seen more short passes mixed in with the runs. It seemed like Weis was determined to hit a home run with the long pass.

Defense was a concern particularly against the rush. No one seemed to have the quarterback as an assignment. Secondary dodged a bullet at least three times when wide open receivers just dropped the ball or the quarterback missed them.

Well, here's hoping that our dropped passes and stupid penalties are now out of the way in time for Rice.

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BringBackMark 11 months, 3 weeks ago

My observation is that this team needs discipline and needs it quick. From the dancing in the huddle while the Rock Chalk Dancers were performing to the retaliatory penalty after a personal foul was called on SD, the mental discipline is missing. I'm tired of hearing that we don't have talent. We were way more talented than SD but that doesn't necessarily translate to victories.

Weis needs to gain control and get this team thinking about football. It could be a really fun season if he can do that. Otherwise, this may have been it for the win column this year.

Finally, I hope we lose the marshmallow head helmets. For whatever reason these helmets appear oversized and it looks like a bunch of little bodies with these big heads. The uniforms would've been great with our traditional blue helmets.

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CrystalJones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

You may be tired of hearing that we don't have talent, but I'm sick of hearing people complain about changing up the uniforms. In case you haven't noticed, all of the big-time programs (like Oregon and Oklahoma State) have a variety of uniforms. That's becoming the primary thing when recruits choose a school.

Look, we have a "name" head coach and other NFL alums all over our coaching staff. We have one of the best-known brands in college athletics (who doesn't know who the Jayhawks are?), and top-notch facilities. Cool uni's, modern facilities and pro-level coaches who can pave the way to the NFL. That's what kids want, and we've got it all.

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dinglesmith 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Oklahoma State and Oregon are not even in the conversation with Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, UCLA, Alabama, USC, LSU, Penn State, OU, Nebraska, etc, etc, etc, who rarely if ever jack with their uniforms. Show some pride.

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texashawk10 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Michigan has multiple uniform options now, Ohio St. always seems to break something out for the Michigan game, Notre Dame has more than just the standard blue or green uniforms, UCLA shouldn't be mentioned with these other teams in football, LSU will wear a special uniform once a season now, and did you not see what Nebraska wore against Wisconsin last year? Even most of the traditional powers now have more than just a standard home and away uniform. It doesn't matter if we the fans like it because HS recruits like the variety and that is who KU is trying to impress now because HS recruits are who will make or break KU football, not us fans.

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Armen Kurdian 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Maybe it was all deliberate...maybe HCCW kept some of his playbook in reserve and only pulled out what he believed he needed to win. Just a guess....I wasn't able to watch or listen.

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Adam Miller 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I was kind of thinking it might have had to do with the almost CONSTANT delays during the game. Oooop, we have a commercial timeout; whoop, we have penalty; hold it, we have to review this or that again and again; WAIT, we need to have a commercial time out again. It's really hard to get into a rhythm when you're stopping every single play for someone to sell soap.

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Casey Gee 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I remember feeling sort of similar after last year's opener. I expected more from the offense. But at least after this year's opener we can see that Jake Heaps is an accurate and intelligent quarterback. That is definitely something that gives me hope we can improve in the passing game.

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Clarence Haynes 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Either there was a lot of experimentation or there was a lot of bad play calling going on.

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Marc Frey 11 months, 3 weeks ago

We could have played better, no doubt, but dropped balls, a couple of blown assignments, and penalties did affect the score. Had we been a bit cleaner in those areas, we win 38-7 and our conversation would be a bit more positive. Still, we have to step it up now.

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Matthew Krische 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This team is better. We have a field goal kicker, a kickoff kicker, a punter, punt returner, and a qb who pass the eye test. We didnt have any of those last year. The Oline can get nasty, dominated in run blocking. Mental mistakes, pass blocking and defensive assignment issues were apparent. We basically missed two touchdowns with Stowers int return negated and Sims fumble near the goalline. 45-14 everyone would be singng. And we laid up at the end of the game. I still think we can squeeze 4 wins, and thats me not counting next week which will be tough.....

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d_bradley27 11 months, 3 weeks ago

You would think Rice is Alabama by reading the comments on various message boards. Yes, Rice had a good half against Texas A&M but news flash folks, A&M gave up 28 points to Sam Houston State! Do we have things to work on before next week? Absolutely. Should we be "afraid" of Rice? Hell no. I expect a close game and a win next week. Rice is getting WAY too much credit for a performance against a team that gives up points.

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Andy Tweedy 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Not only are they beatable, but I've seen multiple posts acting like Rice should be the measuring stick for the rest of the season. If Rice is the measuring stick, we better beat them by 5 TDs because Rice doesn't finish well in the Big XII.

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texashawk10 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Newsflash, Rice beat KU in Lawrence last year and returned almost that entire team this year. In case you didn't know this (I'm assuming not by the way you wrote it), Sam Houston played in the last two FCS national title games so they aren't a pushover. Here's another tidbit about Rice, they can run the ball and KU did just give up over 200 yards rushing to a bad FCS team.

The reason Rice is an important game for KU is because Rice beat KU last year so there is the revenge factor. Because of how close the game was last year, the result of the game this year will be a pretty good indicator of the progress (or lack of) that KU has made from last year. If KU can't beat Rice, then another 1 win season is a very realistic possibility and there will be a lot of heat on Weis.

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d_bradley27 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Newsflash texashawk10, I was at the Rice game last year. Guess what? KU can run the ball too. It was our first game and most of the yards given up was due to containment. By the way, who said the game isn't important? They ALL are! Rice entire returning team isn't playing the same Jayhawk team. "I case you didn't know this" :)

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troutsee 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The offense was just okay. The defense stunk. Allowing 248 yards on the ground to a school in the lower levels of the FCS is frightening. Don't you get it fellas. The read option is the play almost all the schools in our conference run. Their QB killed us at critical times last night. Unless we shore up defensing this basic play, we are going to have a tough time winning any more games. I was very optimistic coming into the game but after watching a low talent team like SDS actually control the clock and run with relative ease against us, I have become pessimistic for the remaining games. Hopefully huge improvements in defense will occur between game one and game two or it is going to be a long season.

From what I saw of Heaps, he will be just fine. Pass blocking is questionable.

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mikehawk 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Now that we are starting to sober up and detox off of the Blue Kool Aid, we can now begin to finally get realistic about this football team. This is a major work in progress, both for the players and coaches. Speaking of sober, The Old Ball Coach sounded pretty sober after the game last night. This is going to be another long season. It is so interesting how some of the new players didn't even get in the game, ie., Combs and Coleman. Is it that some of these juco boys don't have the work habits for D-1, but they have the talent? Is coach trying to motivate them through their butts as long as he can without being forced to put them in the games? I played with "gamers" who didn't work hard but could turn it on in the lights and their talent would rise to the top. The problem with that is it won't cut it at this level. Or, it may be some of these players just aren't going to translate from juco to D-1. Or some of both. Next week's game will really tell us about where this team is. Last night was a first game. Let's see what next week's practice and a road trip bring. I still am hanging onto 4 wins and a parade down Mass. Now...its off to my 12-Step Kansas Football recovery program where I'm firmly entrenched in Step #1.

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Sparko 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Weis held a lot back. A lot. Good coaching. Even had the Jayhawk formation out there to get into Rice's heads. The problem with running a one-off game plan was on full display though. Honestly, we don't even know who several starters are for next week.

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