Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jayhawks must find way to solve Longhorns’ defense

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) passes over the top of the Central Michigan defense during their game on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) passes over the top of the Central Michigan defense during their game on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.


KU Sports Extra — Season 1, Episode 4

Tom Keegan and Matt Tait give their good news/bad news for KU sports this week, as well as their predictions, prime time picks and more for Kansas football's Saturday homecoming game vs. Texas.

When Kansas University quarterback Montell Cozart is asked to recall the toughest defense he has faced during his limited time playing quarterback, his mind goes to the one place he can draw the most experience.

“In high school,” he says before explaining that the Blue Valley schools always were the most fundamentally sound defenses his Bishop Miege High teams played against.

Realizing that answer might not have been exactly what people were looking for, Cozart quickly adjusted and began to rattle off some information about the 2013 Oklahoma State defense that limited Kansas to six points and 202 yards in a 36-point victory in Stillwater, Oklahoma, last season.

“That was a great defense,” Cozart said. “One of the toughest I’ve seen in college football.”

Blue Valley and Oklahoma State notwithstanding, Cozart’s top two answers figure to be pretty meaningless in a few days. By then, Cozart will have faced a Texas team for which KU coach Charlie Weis and offensive coordinator John Reagan clearly have the utmost respect.

“I wouldn’t say it is a fun challenge necessarily,” Reagan said. “But it is a challenge. That is why we are in this. We don’t do this to sit back and see what can happen. I think our players are excited about it.”

Added Weis: “It all starts with their defense. They’re stout on defense. There isn’t really a glaring weakness.”

While such news might make some wilt and dread the match-up, the Kansas offense seems to be full of guys looking forward to the test. Cozart is definitely one of them, even though Saturday will mark just the sixth start of his college career.

“I just try to go into every game as confident as possible,” Cozart said. “Those guys are just like us. They put their pants on the same way we do, they bleed red the same way we do. So I just go into it like, what’s there to fear? We’re Kansas. Everyone has us at the bottom of the totem pole, but we’re here, we have a chip on our shoulder, and we want to change that.”

Senior receiver Justin McCay, who is riding high after making one of the biggest plays of his career during last week’s victory over Central Michigan, shared Cozart’s feelings about this week’s showdown with Texas.

“I’m a competitor, so I want to compete against these guys,” McCay said of the 1-2 Longhorns. “Like the old saying, to be the best, you gotta beat the best. They’ve got some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen.”

Earlier this week, Weis said UT’s athleticism advantage — particularly along the defensive line — gives the Longhorns the ability to play their base defense with a single safety and roll up coverage to the line to take away some of the short passes that Cozart had success with last week. Cozart knows that’s coming. And, because of the game plan the KU coaches have installed this week, he feels good about the Jayhawks’ chances to counter it with shots down the field and discipline and patience.

“I think it’s gonna take a little bit of both, being able to execute and also get some big plays on ’em,” Cozart said. “It’s definitely a challenge for us. We have a few plays where we’ll be able to get the ball out of my hands, quick throws and different things like that. It’s going to take all of us.”

Despite being led by first-year head coach Charlie Strong, the Longhorns still are viewed as a team that likes to bring pressure. Weis and Cozart said film showed that UT blitzes about 50 percent of the time on all three downs. How Kansas handles that will go a long way toward determining how well the Jayhawks compete.

While a lot of this week’s onus will be on the KU offense to hang in there, several Jayhawks believe the defense will play just as big of a role in setting the outcome.

“An old high school coach always told me, it’s not about what the offense does, our defense has to be better than their defense,” junior defensive lineman Ben Goodman said. “We have to be the better defense out there.”

Added senior linebacker Ben Heeney: “Our defense is the backbone of our team. As long as the offense can put points on the board, I feel really confident that our defense can hold people to 20 or under.”

Mundine honored

KU tight end Jimmay Mundine was named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week by Mackey Award representatives, who in August put Mundine on the 40-man Mackey Award watch list.

The senior from Denison, Texas, caught six passes for 67 yards during last week’s 24-10 victory over Central Michigan.


Craig Carr 7 years ago

Perfect, the anointed QB who by the way couldn't start until very late in high school thinks Blue Valley has great defenses. Nothing else needs to be said.

Dirk Medema 7 years ago

Congrats to Jimmay! 6-67 is a nice game. We need him to keep being available for Cozart.

Robert Brock 7 years ago

Cozart couldn't function against DUKE!

kellerman411 7 years ago

Duke would beat Texas by 20 points, at least.

John Fitzgerald 7 years ago

I agree that Duke would beat them but they'd have a tough time with their defense. I think Texas scores at least two maybe three touchdowns on us from their defense a lone.

Doug Cramer 7 years ago

"Forcing Confidence" is what I hear from these guys when performing media interviews.

When you force yourself to think you have confidence, or force confidence in the face of the media and public, that means you're losing. You also just told everyone that you know you're the underdog.

It's not Heeny or Cozart's fault, because Weis does the same thing, and that's how Ben and Montell were taught.

Thus I can tell you Ben, we are in no position to say that our defense can hold other teams to 20 or under points if our offense performs. We couldn't even hold SEMO to under 20 points...and I don't care if the offense performed or not.

Ben we are in no position to say that the defense is the backbone of this team. While you have personally accomplished a TON, your defense has not. How does that comment make the guys on offense feel ?

Montell, continually talking about how confident you are tells me that you're not the right QB for this program. You've partially closed your ability to absorb the items a D-1 QB needs to learn to have success.

These statements, attitude, lack of focus on the right things, and forced confidence, can all be traced back to Weis's leadership within a root cause analysis.

Humble, respect your opponent, don't talk about how great you are, and focus on accomplishing the small details that will improve the team week by week. Build from the bottom up. Sawin wood quietly, with patience, and a ton of focus. Thats the approach we must take given our talent and skill levels.

Lance Cheney 7 years ago

Yes. In other words: fear your opponent, have no confidence, don't believe in yourself, and no point in playing the games because we're going to lose anyway, so why waste the time?

Doug Cramer 7 years ago

Lance has decided to put words in my mouth. You're not even close.

John Randall 7 years ago

Lance – get some help on reading skills. Your "other words" don't even touch on the same subject.

The point I found in Doug's comment was that Montell is forcing things mentally as well as physically, and that it's not working out very well yet.

No doubt he is listening to too many voices which can be confusing as all hell, Reagan &or Powlus need to establish themselves as a conduit to filter what Montell hears/reads so that he gets more of the positive input and not so much of the negative.

Lance Cheney 7 years ago

Mabee miy redding do need wurk... Doug said, "respect your opponent." Nowhere in the interviews are players/coaches disrespecting Texas. Quite the contrary, actually. Doug said, "don't talk about how great you are." Cozart never said he was great, it just seems to me that he's not ready to back down just because of the name on the front of the opponent's jerseys. Doug said, "we are in no position to say that the defense is the backbone of this team." Then what is? Because it sure isn't the offense or special teams. And it sure as hell isn't the coaching. So yes, the defense is the strongest part of this team. I get what Doug's saying; the defense isn't a top-10 defense, but it is the strength of this team. I agree with Doug's realism for the most part, but these guys aren't saying anything that any other underdog team doesn't say. Read pregame comments from any lower-tier team that plays KU in basketball. They all say this type of stuff.

kellerman411 7 years ago

Dude, you're just not going to get that from Charlie. He knows what we want to hear and he lets us have it. Jake Waters would never talk like Cozart does. He would hurry through the interview and then go out and ball.

Weis certainly doesn't talk like other successful coaches that I have known of but let's give it through Saturday. I don't know what chance we have but this is why we play the games, to see who's better. We're 2-1. IF we win this game, that would be a huge step forward for this program. If we lose competitively, I think we have an outside shot at a couple wins in conference. If we lose badly, we won't win another game. Texas is that bad this year.

Let's just hold off a couple more days. If Texas whips us by 21, I will be 100% on the Doug Cramer train and will expect Charlie to be let go Monday morning.

John Fitzgerald 7 years ago

I understand your frustration, but let's see the game played out. There's no telling what is the right way or the wrong way because we aren't coaches. All we know is whether we win or not. I've lost a lot of confidence in this team but it doesn't mean I won't support them. If we keep Charlie the rest of the year so be it. If we keep him next year, so be it. All I care about is winning. Other than that I don't have any suggestions for the team. Just win.

Doug Roberts 7 years ago

Texas has a terrible offense right now. This is where a solid Special Teams unit could really come in handy and be a possible game changer. Block punt, kick return, fumble recovery, etc. Too bad our special teams aren't.

Defense has gotta play out of their minds and we've got a chance.

Micky Baker 7 years ago

"We have a few plays where we’ll be able to get the ball out of my hands, quick throws and different things like that. It’s going to take all of us.”

There are probably a lot more than just a few plays. If they stack the box, there should be quick pass opportunities all day long. It's probably not as easy as it sounds, but there are ways to beat a defense that is trying to stop you from running the ball. The first thing you have to do is block, not just in the running game but in the passing game. KU needs to be smart and at times we might need to use a running back for protection, someone like Dineen or line up a tight end in the backfield for that extra half a second it takes for a receiver to run the slant.

I have a word of advice for Cozart as well. Don't lock onto one receiver. If you see a defender vacate a spot on the edge, say the guy that's covering Pierson or Harwell, then just throw it over there immediately. Don't even drop back. That's just one way to do it. Another way is if you see the guy coming from that direction, and your running back runs right by that guy and doesn't block him, then get onto them and be a leader. It's okay to do that. Like you said, it's going to take everyone, even if/when KU starts seeing success, you'll still have to execute.

Looking forward to seeing the game on Saturday to see what kind of improvements have been made by both the game planners and the executors.

Doug Cramer 7 years ago

By the way, the debt and equity collapse has began. You may want to diversify some allocations away from equities, and into gold and silver shares. The miners are at generational lows.

Brandon Mahon 7 years ago

why cant the guys play like this? I watch these highlights and wonder why things don't look as fluid or smooth. The runs, routes, throws.... The team played with swagger especially the defense. What Mangino did was wrong and he probably wont be back... but I want it to look like the good days whether that is under Weis or a new coach..

2007 KU highlights

Lucas Town 7 years ago

Coaching, recruiting and player development. Joe Bob Clements who played at K-State for Snyder, coached for Snyder two different times, also coach for Mangino was rumored to have said that in practice with Mangino you practiced something until it was perfect, just like Snyder.

The 2007 KU team was amazing, with amazing players.

John Randall 7 years ago

Only a few players on that team were amazing. Enough others were competent enough and played together well enough to get the extraordinary results. Also, there were fewer bad calls and bad breaks that season than any other year under MM. I doubt any of us will see another 12-win season.

The point about getting solid execution with a limited playbook is well worth harping about. CW wants to show his brilliance by slipping in 5 or 10 plays for special occasions against each particular opponent, and thus wastes practice time needed to refine execution of the basic 3-5 run plays and 2-3 pass plays we need to have ready all the time.

JD Roth 7 years ago

KU just go play with enthusiasm and energy. Use your instincts and get the win. I gave away my tickets the first two home games, but I am coming for this game. We have some good football players. Let's go show it against a staggered and stunned Longhorn team.

Lucas Town 7 years ago

Something that seems concerning in my opinion is the fact that there were fewer fans at the CMU game than the SEMO State game. We were at 69.5% capacity vs CMU and we were at 73% capacity vs SEMO State. I was at the SEMO game and sold my tickets to some friends for the CMU game. Watching the CMU game on TV I just couldn't believe all the empty seats from the cameras. I hope that the first Big 12 game of the season brings out the fans as KU takes on a Texas team that seems to be going through some pains of their own. RCJH!

John Randall 7 years ago

Fans are what fans are. KU has enough good ones to fill AFH, but has to attract dilettantes before worrying about more seating at Memorial Stadium.

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