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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Rice key test for KU

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Thursday marks the four-year anniversary of the Kansas University football program’s most recent victory away from Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. Saturday represents a chance to end the futility streak of 22 games in 11 states under three coaches.

The Jayhawks travel to Houston to face Rice at its on-campus stadium, site of Super Bowl VIII. Rice is a slight favorite to extend KU’s losing streak away from home to 23 games and will have had two weeks to prepare for the Jayhawks after losing its season opener to Texas A&M.

The extra preparation time doesn’t mean as much this early in the season, with so little to look at in the way of trends. Additionally, KU coach Charlie Weis’ unpredictable play-calling makes trends difficult to identify.

That unpredictability backfired on Weis in last season’s game vs. Rice in Memorial Stadium, a 25-24 comeback victory for the Owls. Early in the third quarter, the Kansas running game began to dominate, with seven rushes for 66 yards on a nine-play stretch with Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox splitting carries. On the third play of that stretch, Cox ran for an eight-yard touchdown to put Kansas up, 24-13.

On the fourth, fifth and sixth plays of the next possession, Cox rushed for gains of 11, four and seven yards, giving KU a first-and-10 from the Rice 28. Sticking with the running game might have led to the Jayhawks taking a 31-13 lead. We’ll never know. The next three plays: Dayne Crist incompletion, 10-yard holding penalty on Trevor Marrongelli, Crist sacked for a five-yard loss. Suddenly, it was a buzz-killing third-and-25 from the 43. KU never scored again.

Counting the sack as a passing play and not as college football tracks it (as a run), Kansas averaged five yards on 29 passing plays, two of which resulted in turnovers, 5.7 yards on the 35 rushing plays, none of which were turnovers.

Now, with a better quarterback but still unproven receivers and an even better running game with everybody back and Darrian Miller and James Sims (suspended in 2012 for Rice game) added to the mix, what can the Rice defensive game-planners expect from Weis? Will he try to make the imbalanced KU personnel fit his preference for balance, or will he move away from his favored approach to make his strategy fit the strengths of his team?

This is a tough game for Kansas, the outcome of which will define expectations for the remainder of the schedule. It’s not an easy one for Rice, either, as long as Kansas doesn’t stop itself as it did a year ago by veering away from its strength.

If Kansas can’t stage the mini-upset, add Houston to Lubbock (twice), Austin (twice), Waco (twice) and College Station as Texas stops it has lost in since winning in the west Texas town of El Paso with Todd Reesing at quarterback.

Comments

Brad Farha 7 months, 1 week ago

If we score more points than the other team, our chances of winning are pretty good.

1

John Fitzgerald 7 months, 1 week ago

There's a few things I think we need to do to win this game:

  1. Be more disciplined, meaning fewer penalties.
  2. If running is working, keep doing it. We have 5 guys that can run it all day.
  3. Screen passes to Pierson, Bourbon, Miller, and Coleman. They are quick and can make big plays when given the chance.
  4. Be more aggressive on defense. I would like to see us pressure the QB more often so we can cause more turnovers. We have play maker's on defense that are more than capable of making a big play.
  5. Have confidence. We're undefeated as of right now, and that's the stat they need to focus on. Doesn't matter who it was against, all that matters is that we don't have a loss yet, and we don't plan on getting one this weekend.

If we can make all of that happen, we won't have a problem with Rice.

27 - 14 my score prediction

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Randy Bombardier 7 months, 1 week ago

We should win this game. I think if we utilize our strength and throw some feints at them to think pass would be better that trying to surprise them with the passing game.

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pizzashuttle 7 months, 1 week ago

Tom, nice article! I like how Matt is grading the different aspects of the team. Maybe you could grade the head coach on play calling since that seems to go along the lines of your article. Then if the play calling is subpar you won't have to get Matt all stressed out about providing an accurate grade for the HC. And I agree with your memory of how the Rice game played out. Weis got ahead of himself on that drive trying to develop our passing offense and it cost us the game. That being said I appreciate what Coach Weis and his staff are doing and I enjoyed seeing the improvement on the field.

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KURiggins 7 months, 1 week ago

We have great talent at RB, QB. WR/TE are questions. But it was the first game and receiving got better as game went on. I also have faith in Dave Campo. Are we a bowl team? Time will tell. However there were just as many positives in this game as negatives. How about this one..WE Won! Win more games than you lose and its a good season

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KURiggins 7 months, 1 week ago

Maybe we should realize this was the first game. Hello!! Anyone watch any NFL games ? Did they all look sharp? I rest my case

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machinegun 7 months, 1 week ago

I look at the non-conference schedule as our last opportunity to get ready for the big boys. Maybe we can get a lead on Rice and work on the passing game under less pressure.

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hammerhawk 7 months, 1 week ago

I've been going to Hawk games year after year for more than 40 years. This year's team looks a lot like other losing teams we have had. I especially hated to see all the mental mistakes - penalties. I think penalties are generally a coaching problem in not getting the players to focus their attention on each and every play.

Medicore play aside, I was pleased to see a very nice 45 yard field goal! The kicking game can win some games and it's nice to have what seems to be a good kicker on the team.

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Michael Leiker 7 months, 1 week ago

This has been the big game on my radar since the schedule came out. High hopes for this team to go into the Thanksgiving Weekend with something to play for. Without a win at Rice that will be hard to accomplish.

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741hawk 7 months, 1 week ago

One thing we fail to consider when evaluating the "JuCo Experiment" is that most programs that recruit junior college players red shirt them, giving them time to 1) adjust to Div 1, 2) develop physically, and 3) learn the playbook.

In this instance, we are asking them to come in and produce right now! PS What IS the story with Combs?

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JayhawkRock78 7 months, 1 week ago

I'm taking the family to the game and know two other Houston families doing the same. Give us a good game Jayhawks. I have a feeling you will have a lot of fans in the stands. RCJH.

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KURiggins 7 months, 1 week ago

We are most likely going to struggle at times this year. And I am sure the defense will upset me at times too. It will be sloppy and ugly at times. However, considering we have less talent on defense then pretty much every other Big 12 team its to be expected. I just hope Campo stays. When we start winning= better/better recruits=defense

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KURiggins 7 months, 1 week ago

No offense babyphog but I will trust Coach Campo over you since he has been a great def cood at every level and is the actual coach. He did not show all his playbook either. We may not be great but as long as we score 31 and our opponent scores 14 who cares? We win. Stats dont matter if you lose. At the end of the day SD lost. If you asked their coach I bet he would rather win then talk about how well the option read worked. Also did you forget the Keon Stowers pick? That happened because Coach Campo called a risky but brilliant play..dropping his NT in coverage on 3rd down. Go Hawks..just keep winning and who cares

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Keith Hummel 7 months, 1 week ago

Weis has taken a lot of criticism for that Rice game, but it was only the second game of the season and he was trying to develop the passing game. Coach knew we had no chance in the Big-12 if we couldn't throw the ball, and after running the ball that successfully, that many times in a row, the coverage should have softened up and made it easier for Crist. He had every reason to believe, at that point, that Crist and his receivers could develop some chemistry. I think he made the right decision at the time, but hind-sight is always 20/20 .

I'm actually not too worried about our offense at this point. I think we'll see a much cleaner, sharper offense Saturday. I saw a lot of first-game jitters and mistakes that seemed easily correctable. Remember, with our running game we only need the passing game to be average. I personally think we've seen more than enough already to believe it will be better than average.

It also bears repeating that Weis hardly used the playbook against SD. He effectively ran the same 3 or four sets all game, and maybe 15-20 different plays. It seemed clear to me that he was trying to achieve proficiency with some basic plays and sets, and then build on those in the coming weeks. I think it's no coincidence, for example, that he ran that Jayhawk formation with Mathews several times in a row. He was trying to get some experience with it so they can execute it later in the season if need be. Charlie always has a long-term plan, and everything is done for a reason.

As for Rice, the biggest concern I think, and it isn't mentioned in this article, is our defense. Rice returns 19 fifth-year seniors and 23 total seniors on a team that went 7-6 and beat Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. They displayed no rust or first-game jitters against A&M, scoring on their first two drives (impressive even considering the suspensions A&M had). Their offense is led by senior QB Taylor McHargue and senior RB Charles Ross. They looked very impressive against A&M. You can bet they will find and exploit every weakness in our defense. Based on the first game it would seem we have some weaknesses both on our DL and our ability to defend the read option. If Kansas had trouble stopping the running game of South Dakota, they are really in for a struggle against Rice. If we're going to beat this Rice team then all that big talk from the juco infusion needs to become reality, and fast.

1

Jason Keller 7 months, 1 week ago

I can't stress enough now important it is for Kevin Short to play in this football game. If we don't get him involved now, the season may be lost for him. We can't just put him out there when Texas Tech comes to town, he'll need minutes before then.

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KURiggins 7 months, 1 week ago

Also I have faith in Def C. Dave Campo. Lets face we had some talent in spots on our defense last year. However, I can guarantee you that talent scared no one in the Big 12. Despite being overmatched in talent our defense kept us in a lot of games i.e. the Texas game. that game came down to the last play. Campo had limited talent last and still kept us in games. I have faith in him. It was the first game! He has a lot of new pieces this year and is also trying to make sure we can go two deep in the fast paced Big 12. We have a lot of new jucos. It will take time to gel for sure, and lets face it..more wins before we get better talent but I for one have faith in Coach Campo to make the most out of new players and limited talent in spots. He has been a great Def Cood. at every level college and pro. Go Hawks!!

1

KURiggins 7 months, 1 week ago

I think we will focus on our running game too. However, expect some playaction we have a much better QB this year. Also, I have heard a lot of talk about how bad our defense was against South Dakota. It was the first game folks. There are always mistakes and bad plays on both sides (offense and defense) in the first game at any level. If you have watched football for any length of time you should know this. Might I also remind you I defense might have bent but SD only got 14 points. Redzone defense is what matters. How many points did your opponent score? As Coach Weis put it. Who cares about stats...did we win?! James Sims rushed for 1,000 yards in nine games, last year. How many games did we win? Its not stats folks..who won is the only stat that anyone cares about

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Brett McCabe 7 months, 1 week ago

Thanks, Tom, for bringing back that horrible memory in such fine detail.

As stated above, run, then run again and then play action pass. We've got the weapons, let's use 'em.

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hotrodm 7 months, 1 week ago

Run, Run, Run until they stop you. Don't just pass to show off our quarterback's arm. KU needs this win.

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Jason Keller 7 months, 1 week ago

If KU plays well, the game won't be particularly close. For once, we have a little horsepower.

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mahkmood 7 months, 1 week ago

I like this article by Keegan because it puts some media pressure on Weis not to be foolish this go-round with Rice. KU's defense isn't that great, so despite Weis's appetite for mysterious play calling, he should just pound the ball on the ground to control the clock and keep the KU defense fresh. If he does this I have confidence KU will win this game.

1

Charles Logan 7 months, 1 week ago

Everything that was on my mind, and that was going into my next post Keegan just said in this article. Kansas has more than a shot at winning this game. Rice did play well against A&M (I did watch the game) They looked speedy. Faster than last year. I was impressed.... but.....Kansas still has a shot at winning this game. Rice is returning basically the same team from last year. Rice is returning the same team that we should have beaten. KU should have run the ball down their throats last year. KU could have dominated that game if they didn't abandon the run. And Crist was totally pi$$in me off that day with his play, and inability to run.We were able to run on them last year, we should be able to do it again this year. Our O-line is unproven, but I think we can run on this team. KU needs to run, run, and RUN SOME MORE!!!! I posted after game #1 that Miller looked like our best back. I read the comments. I was by far not the only one to think that. Sims looked 3rd best behind Miller, and Cox. Don't think we see Cox for a few games though. If you guys saw what I saw Saturday night...... That didn't look like a cramp that Cox got. you could see it on his face. That was a pulled hamstring. Maybe not severe (I hope not) but a pulled hammy none the less.

Our defense is a BIG concern though. Hopefully Short, and Combs play in this game, and hopefully our defense steps up and shuts down that QB read option! KU should totally start out heavily running the ball with all of our backs, and then start using play action passes. WE ALL KNOW THIS!

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Ralster Jayhawk 7 months, 1 week ago

Ya, about all Rice can gameplan for is stopping KU's run game (the only "given"), but they can also try to scheme for 4 or 5 different RBs. They dont know much about Heaps, unless they want to watch his frosh BYU gamefilms, and get scared out of their minds by his record-breaking frosh year...My point is with a retooled team, KU is hard to scout at this moment. The easy path would be to load the box to try to stop the run...but I also got a feeling the short passing game was purposely left out of the SD gameplan by Weis, who may have been scheming already about Rice. Hope we can get a W vs. Rice.

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