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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Keegan

Column: Taking a hit helped Cozart settle in

The Jackrabbits celebrate after recovering a fumble by Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

The Jackrabbits celebrate after recovering a fumble by Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

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Make quick reads and if nothing presents itself, tuck it and run. A simpler offense, the thinking on the part of the new Kansas University football staff went, would result in Montell Cozart using his speed more often.

One game into the season, a 41-38 loss to South Dakota State, that’s pretty much how it played out.

The second question I had of a coach during the offseason: But does he have the courage to run anywhere but out of bounds?

“Sometimes,” the answer came, “all it takes is taking a real good hit early to get that out of your system.”

I must confess I didn’t fully understand that one, at least until watching Cozart take multiple shots as and after he fumbled the ball away and returned to the game a different player.

“Took a deep breather after that and said, ‘Here we go, it’s time to play ball,’ ” Cozart said.

Sidelined for a couple of plays, Cozart scrambled for a first down on third-and-10 on his first play back. When it made sense, he stepped out of bounds to avoid big hits. Unlike in past years, he didn’t exhibit a hunger for the sidelines that at times seemingly matched a desire to reach the end zone.

In the first two of three unanswered touchdown drives, Cozart completed 13 of 15 passes for 109 yards and rushed for 31 yards on six attempts.

Offensive coordinator Rob Likens’ calls for short passes near the sideline kept South Dakota State in disarray. At one point, Cozart completed eight consecutive passes, none for double-digit yardage. His final four completions during the 13-for-15 stretch went for an average of 15 yards.

“I feel like I grew a lot today, matured a lot,” said Cozart, who mishandled the snap on the game’s final play, preventing him from executing a simple spiking of the football.

Cozart will face faster defenses now armed with film on KU’s offense, which will make it tougher to move the offense. Still, despite a rough start, a sloppy final play and a tendency to lock in on the intended target, Cozart showed enough in the opener to inspire confidence that he is a significantly better quarterback than in his freshman and sophomore seasons.

— Tom Keegan can be seen Sunday nights on WIBW-TV on The Drive.

Comments

Michael Leiker 5 years, 2 months ago

Those 8 consecutive completions and the whole pitch and catch philosophy overall was fun to watch, not to overstate it but it almost reminded you of years past. Positive yards on every play is what it's about, keep the chains moving. I was really impressed with how far Cozart has come. He hit guys right in the chest on those short passes all day long.

David Leathers 5 years, 2 months ago

Its funny you wrote this article, because I have been thinking about this since attending the game last Saturday.

My cousin, daughter, and I purchased tickets in the 4th row right at the 45 yard line on the north side. When Cozart fumbled from the first hit, he was immediately ROCKED by the linebacker or defensive back (I don't remember which) just an instant after letting the ball loose. When he came to the sideline, you could tell he was hurting, mentally and physically. You could hear him trying to catch his breath, you could see him whincing while talking on the headset, and you could see that he absolutely hated letting his team down with that fumble.

I'll be the first to admit, I thought he was done. I thought he was going to revert back to the last two seasons and stop aggressively running the ball for first downs. I didn't think he would be able to remain in the pocket and efficiently examine the field to make the proper read.

Then...

He ran the ball..first down. Then he dropped back to pass... First down. Then he dropped back again, saw the defensive end get passed the right tackle, stiff armed him, and ran right into contact in order to maximize the yardage on the play... 7 yard gain.

Why do I mention all this? No, I don't think Montell Cozart is the second coming of Todd Reesing. No, I don't think that he's going to break any records this year or even next. Heck, I don't even think he will get us more than one win (yes, I am predicting at least one upset) this year, although I hope I'm wrong.

All I'm saying is that Montell is the man for the job and he can be coached. He may not have the best arm, or the most accurate one, but he's the best all-around guy at that position we have on our team at this particular moment. I really hope for big things out of him because it will mean the team is staying competitive. He's tough as nails and he's ready to prove all the naysayers wrong.

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm curoius about how the Fan base and the media would grade out the performance of Montell Cozart. not at first and second half grade but a composite score overall.

David Leathers 5 years, 2 months ago

Considering his ability to make accurate throws, and make the right decisions to run, I would give him a C+... But if were grading on a curve from the last two seasons it would be am A-

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

You bring up a very good point, David. A lot depends on the perspective you take of Montell. If you're grading him against himself, you'd have to say his performance was better than his average, so you would almost be obliged to go north of a "C" grade. (I still could not reward an "A" of any kind given his performance in the first half, but I could be talked into a B when taking this view of Cozart.) On the other hand, if you compare him vs. other starting QBs in the Big 12 or even nationally, I think you're in C/C- territory. Good news? Either way he passed.

Allin Herring 5 years, 2 months ago

He get a D- in my book. As long as the 1st intended receiver is open he was good but he can not read a defense, does not know how to check down (not sure he knows the plays) and runs with the ball like he is carrying a loaf of bread. All we are going to get is another repeat of last year but hopefully we pull him sooner this year! Must admit the play calling by the coaching staff when they called a fade in the end zone in the 1st quarter did not do him or the team any favors. Hard to hit that pass with the talent he has.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 2 months ago

I think he took running quicker than he should have quite a bit instead of going through progressions before taking off. Too many times he when his first read wasn't there, he tucked and ran. It's going to be really easy to defend that in the future with someone spying Cozart. He's got to get better at going through his progressions to keep defenders on their toes.

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

Yeah I agree. If he flushes out of the pocket easily all you have to do is bring the blitz and expect that he will run. If the defense knows that's his tendency then they can actually take away his greatest strength (mobility). Allowing a bit of time for the play to develop means that the defense will have to respect the pass and that will keep them honest. In fact, because its Montell under center Id teach him to throw quick outs when the sideline is reading blitz.

Micky Baker 5 years, 2 months ago

I wasn't able to watch the whole game and I'll keep an eye on it, but I do like that he's taking it when he sees it instead of scrambling around and getting nothing. He's a legit running threat and he should exploit those opportunities. This is a different offense than last year and he might have more freedom than he had under Weis. Nonetheless, a leader makes plays and sometimes the head coach just has to tip his hat and Weis wouldn't swallow his pride to do that.

I'll be watching very closely this Saturday though.

Micky Baker 5 years, 2 months ago

Given the two turnovers, I would give him a C- at best. KU would have won the game had he not turned the ball over those two times. Both turnovers gave SDSU starting field position inside our 30 yard line. Those are huge mistakes. They are correctable and taking care of the ball is important for this team. You put the defense in that position against some of the opponents on the remaining schedule, we're going to give up more than 50 or 60 points a couple of times at least. I can live with losing 49-27 to a team like Baylor or TCU this year, but not 63-13 or 70-13.

This was certainly better than most, if not all of his performances from a year ago if you take away those turnovers. I mean he through for almost 300 yards and ran for almost 100 yards. I'll take that every game from him. Even if he was sacked instead of throwing the INT, KU would have won the game given how it played out.

We'll see if he can learn from the mistakes. I'm not that confident in him right now. I respect the young man. If I didn't I would give him a pass, but I think he can play better than he did Saturday and he's going to have to play better in order to beat Memphis, even if he doesn't rack up as many total yards. If he doesn't turn the ball over he should outdo last week as long as the other guys don't falter.

Last Saturday is a game KU should have won, and one that KU should have won comfortably. They would have won comfortably without the two turnovers.

David Leathers 5 years, 2 months ago

I'll have to agree that he passed either way you look at. I know that I'm excited to see what improvement he can make from week 1 to week 2. I'm also curious to see how those 570 yards of offense translate to a much better, and much faster Memphis defense.

My question is this... What would the offense and defense have to do this coming week for you to see improvement?

For example, here is what I would like to see:

Offense:

24 points or more

375 yards or more

2 60+ scoring drives

1 turnover or less

Defense

28 points or less

Under 400 yards

Under 150 rushing yards

1 or more take always

3 total 3 and outs

Special teams:

Did really well last game so I'll go with:

No kickoffs out of bounds

1 40+ yard field goal ( if opportunity arises)

40+ yard net punt avg.

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