The Texas Tech-Kansas 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday at Memorial Stadium will be ignored by most of the college football world. Five years ago, KU head coach David Beaty and Tech's Kliff Kingsbury were on the same sideline in the most memorable college football game of this decade.
ESPN.com, in a story under the headline "When Johnny Football Mania took over the world," spoke to both Beaty and Kingsbury for their memories of the Nov. 10, 2012 game in which Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M to a victory against mighty Alabama. Kingsbury was offensive coordinator for A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and Beaty was receivers coach.
"Johnny was the kind that if he felt he could just go into the game and do his deal, there wasn't a lot of extra put into it, if you can imagine that," Kingsbury told ESPN.com. "But that was [a week] where he was spending some more time watching film. I think he understood the magnitude."
Said Beaty: "One of the biggest memories for me was just how electric that place was. It was unreal. That's why you want to play college football, right there."
Kingsbury addressed what the game did for Johnny Mania: "(Manziel) was already going pretty good down in College Station, prior to that. ... (The Alabama win) took it to a whole other level. We show up and there's I don't know how many thousands of people waiting -- and here comes the rock star. They had to have police security literally walk him through these masses of people to get him to his car."
The world won't be watching Saturday's game, but that doesn't mean it won't be extremely entertaining, which it has a chance to be for football fans who like high-scoring games.
Since he took on the monumental challenge of trying to turn around the Kansas football program, David Beaty stated the goal of his team being the smartest in America. By that, he means not turning it over and not piling up undisciplined penalties. So far, not so good.
In the 56-34 loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 opener, both KU starting guards, junior Andru Tovi and sophomore Chris Hughes, both of whom received plaudits for their run-blocking, were flagged for a pair of false-start penalties.
How did that happen?
“There is a rule in our rulebook that you're not able to simulate the snap on the other side of the field,” Beaty said. “You're not able to simulate a snap count.”
But if you walk up to the border of what’s considered simulating a snap count by shifting bodies and yelling instructions to each other in such a way as to sound a little like a snap count, you can get away with it without drawing a flag. If you’re really skilled at it, it might even result in a flag on a fooled offensive lineman.
“There's a lot of philosophy across the country defensively of shifting and moving and there can be some times where you're shifting and moving and you're seeing things and it could be something that's very close to being illegal,” Beaty said. “It's been happening quite a bit, right? I wouldn't say that I'm upset with the way that it's been called, but it's a challenge, and the thing is, we work on that. There is no excuse. We know that the philosophy across the country is people want to do that to try to draw you off and we're not going to make excuses because we work that. We work shift calls, we work move calls all the time, because we know that's absolutely something that happens.”
In short, defenses have been smarter than KU’s offensive linemen in working around the borders of the rulebook.
“It all comes down to that. When those guys come off and we talk to them about what caused it, it's communication on the other side of the ball,” Beaty said. “It's sudden movement, communications that are happening and we know it, and we work it. It shouldn't happen.”
The Kansas O-linemen are marked men now, so opponents no doubt will look to turn up the deceptive practice of simulating a snap count subtly.
"Every team we play does it," Beaty said. "You'll see them shifting and moving all the time. I would imagine after they see something like that, I would do it. But (Texas Tech defensive coordinator David) Gibbs, he's going to do it. Three-down front, four-down front. It's a common way to do it. But people across the country are all dealing with the same thing, and they're not jumping off sides. No excuse. We've got to be more disciplined, right?"
Kansas has a good shot to score at least 30 points in a game for a third consecutive week for the first time since doing so in each of the first six games of the 2009 season.
The question then becomes whether Kansas travels primarily by ground or air vs. a Texas Tech defense that ranks 111th in the nation with 454.8 total yards allowed per game. (Kansas is 118th with 482).
The teams' hurry-up offenses are partially responsible for the defenses giving up so many yards. Viewing the average yards allowed per play paints a more accurate picture of a defense’s efficiency.
The Red Raiders defend the run (3.74 yards, 52nd in the nation) better than the pass (7.4, 83rd). So KU should try to pass its way to the end zone, right? Not so fast.
The Jayhawks rank 43rd in the nation with 4.93 yards per rush and 86th with 6.8 yards per pass play.
KU sophomore Khalil Herbert, coming off a 291-yard rushing effort in a loss to West Virginia, ranks 29th in the nation with an average of 7.55 yards per carry.
If Tech can bottle up the running game and prevent Herbert from springing free up the middle for big gains the way he did against West Virginia, look for passes to fill the air all day Saturday for the 11 a.m. kickoff.
Of the nation’s 130 FBS schools, only five have allowed more passing yards per game than Kansas (309.5) and Texas Tech (309.8).
KU has allowed 12 touchdown passes in four games and has just two interceptions. The Red Raiders have given up nine passing touchdowns and have five interceptions.
Tech ranks third in the nation, behind UCLA and Washington State, with an average of 410.8 passing yards, Kansas 18th with 306.8.
Red Raiders senior quarterback Nic Shimonek averages 394.5 passing yards (second to UCLA’s Josh Rosen) and has thrown 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.
KU junior Peyton Bender ranks 14th with 306.8 and has seven touchdowns and seven picks. Shimonek is no stranger to Kansas.
A 6-foot-3, 225-pound native of Corsicana, Texas, relieved injured Patrick Mahomes last season in Lubbock in the third quarter of a 55-19 victory in which the Red Raiders outscored KU, 27-0, with Shimonek standing in the shotgun. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 271 yards and four touchdowns and did not throw an interception.
So there is no mystery as to how Tech will attack, especially given the inexperience of KU’s secondary. The Red Raiders average just 3.93 yards per carry and 125.75 rushing yards a game. Best guess as to Tech's defensive strategy: Load up to try to stop Herbert and force Kansas to try to win it in the air.
Larry Keating, special assistant to the athletics director, handles scheduling for Kansas men’s and women’s basketball and football.
Having been in college athletics for so long, Keating, 73, has the advantage of knowing coaches and administrators in just about every league in the country. He uses those connections to project which schools will win a lot of games in lesser-known conferences, a trick that helps Kansas improve its strength of schedule.
Keating first became involved in scheduling college basketball games when, fresh out of the Army, he was hired as an assistant basketball coach at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.
Keating predicts that this year’s nonconference schedule will have a number of teams that will be better this season than last, a good thing considering just three schools made the NCAA tournament field a year ago: No. 1 seed Kentucky and No. 16 seeds South Dakota State and Texas Southern.
Keating said he schedules most of the games, “a year or two ahead of time.”
Washington is one school on the nonconference slate that does not figure to be on the rise. Former long-time Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins has replaced fired Lorenzo Romar as head coach of the Huskies.
How Washington ended up on KU’s schedule has an interesting twist to it.
Keating said Washington contacted KU attempting to play a home-and-home. Kansas wasn’t interested in playing in Seattle, but Keating offered a Dec. 6 game in Sprint Center without a return game. Then coached by Romar, Washington accepted. Why?
It was scheduled as a favor to the Huskies’ top recruit, Michael Porter Jr., a native of Columbia, Missouri, whose father had been hired on Romar’s staff.
Once Romar was fired, Porter Sr. was without a job, although not for long. First-year Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin hired Porter Sr. and Missouri ended up with not only Michael Jr., but his brother Jontay, who reclassified to join his year-older brother as a part of a loaded recruiting class for the Tigers.
So Kansas was going to face Michael Porter Jr., the nation’s top recruit, but now won’t, unless that is, the schools meet in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas projects as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and Missouri projects as anywhere from a No. 7 to No. 10 seed, so it could happen.
Kansas sophomore running back Khalil Herbert didn't land Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors, even though he rushed for 131 more yards than did TCU's Darius Anderson (three touchdowns, plus four receptions for 41 yards), presumably getting the nod because the Horned Frogs scored the most impressive victory of the week, 44-31, in Stillwater vs. favored Oklahoma State.
Tough break for Herbert, whose effort came in a 56-34 loss to West Virginia, but the talent Herbert showed suggests he'll win the award, perhaps multiple times, before his career is over.
Herbert's was the third-best rushing yardage total in KU history and the 20th 200-yard-plus rushing performance in Kansas football history. The top 20:
|1 - Tony Sands, Sr.
|2 - Nolan Cromwell, Jr.
|3 - Khalil Herbert, So.
|4 - Gale Sayers, So.
|5 - David Winbush, So.
|6 - Wade Stinson, Jr.
|7 - June Henley, Fr.
|8 - Laverne Smith, Jr.
|9 - Reggie Duncan, So.
|10 - June Henley, Sr.
|11 - L.T. Levine, Jr.
|12 - Tony Sands, So.
|13 - June Henley, Sr./
Kerwin Bell, Fr.
|15 - Tony Sands, So.
|16 - James Sims, Sr.
|17 - June Henley, Sr.
|18 - Tony Pierson, So.
|19 - Jon Cornish, Sr./June Henley, Sr.
|Source: Kansas football media guide
I sometimes wonder if the KU Athletic Department celebrates itself a little too often. That thought occurs most loudly every year when the Rock Chalk Choice Awards — doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it? — take place.
Those are basically the Oscars of the athletic department and they took place this year two days after the football team’s one-sided loss to Central Michigan. Love was in the air.
KU football coach David Beaty leads with love, too.
Nebraska graduate transfer Zach Hannon talked about what makes KU a different place.
“I would just say it’s a family atmosphere,” he said, echoing the sentiments expressed by so many recruits in various sports when they explain why they chose KU. “You can tell all the coaches treat us like their own sons. They’re hard on us, but at the same time they have passion for us and for the game. That’s just one thing that’s invaluable for us here. You have coaches and an environment that’s just really full of love. You can’t get that everywhere, so it’s a great thing to have.”
It’s quite different from the approach of many successful football coaches, such as Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers’ dynasty. Times change and it will be interesting to see whether Beaty is ahead of the times or if too much love just can’t work in a sport as brutal as football.
Beaty enjoyed having Hannon as part of the program even before he moved into the starting right tackle spot with a credible performance in the loss at Ohio.
“Having him in that locker room and really being able to speak truth into guys about how good they really have it here, what a phenomenal place this place is,” Beaty said. “…Zach has been great for us to help our guys understand how good they have it. It's a good place here. Really good place.”
Then a junior at Rockhurst High, Kansas offensive lineman Zach Hannon sat in the stands and watched Tyshawn Taylor score nine of his 24 points in overtime to lead the Jayhawks to an 87-86 victory against Missouri in the final game between the bitter rivals.
Hannon watched with Montell Cozart, Ben Johnson and other recruits. He watched Kansas whittle away at Missouri’s 19-point lead. He watched and he stewed.
“It was so tough for me not to cheer for Missouri,” Hannon said. “I was trying to keep my mouth shut."
It’s a shame late Kansas football player and coach Don Fambrough was not around to see what the coach would have considered Hannon’s transformation from foolish teenager to wise, young husband and father.
“I never thought I’d be a Jayhawk because both of my parents and my grandma were Tigers,” Hannon said. “I actually grew up hating KU, but my parents love it for me and I love it.” For one thing, he’s getting to play. He watched others play during his four years at Nebraska before coming to Kansas as a graduate transfer.
Hannon earned his roster spot in Saturday’s loss at Ohio. It became increasingly evident that sophomore right tackle Antione Frazier needs more seasoning, so offensive line coach Zach Yenser turned to Hannon early in the game and the former Cornhusker gave a credible performance, especially for someone who had not played tackle since high school.
His reps throughout fall camp all came at guard and he just moved to tackle during last week’s practices.
At not quite 6-foot-4, 315 pounds and not blessed with particularly long arms, Hannon is built more like a guard.
“Definitely a little bit different,” Hannon said of playing without his hand on the ground. “It’s fun when you’re out on an island like they call it. It’s just you one-on-one against the D-end and you get an opportunity to show what you’ve got.”
Hannon’s not fast but has better footwork than his body type might suggest. He attributes that to playing lacrosse from a young age. His father, Tim Hannon, is on the lacrosse coaching staff at Rockhurst High.
“So even though I’m a shorter, heavier dude, I still can keep up because I have the feet,” Hannon said.
He’s atop the depth chart, expected to make his first college O-line start Saturday vs. West Virginia at Memorial Stadium, 11 a.m. kickoff.
So far, transfer Charles Baldwin has done a much better job of working himself into the coach’s doghouse than out of it — he was not in uniform the past two games — but remains KU’s most talented option at right tackle. Even if Baldwin eventually earns the job, Hannon will supply valuable depth at multiple positions.
Hannon said no to Charlie Weis out of high school and yes to Beaty when Texas Tech and Nevada recruited him as a graduate transfer.
“One of the reasons I wanted to play close to home was my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” Hannon said.
So even when he didn’t play in the first two games, he said he was “extremely grateful. I wouldn’t exchange this experience for anything, and as of Monday we found out my dad is cancer-free, so God is good. Everything is going great.”
He said his father underwent 49 sessions of radiation and described him as “a fighter, man. He’s always been a very positive role model, a great example of the type of man that I want to be, the type of father that I want to be, the type of husband that I want to be. I’m just very blessed to have him as a father."
Hannon and receiver Ryan Schadler are the only married players on the KU roster. Hannon and wife Jennifer, who “started talking,” as freshmen in high school, per Zach, have a 2-year-old daughter, Harper.
“My daughter’s a blessing,” Hannon said. “She came at a perfect time. She helped me and my wife through so many different things. When the coaching change happened, I was starting to get upset with my playing time, then I would come home and see her. “Then when I found out about my father being sick, whenever she was in the room with my parents or Jennifer’s parents, she just lights up the room. She definitely has her grandparents wrapped around her finger.”
Hannon has taken over at right tackle for the moment, junior-college transfer Andru Tovi at left guard, two friends ascending on the depth chart at the same time. Tovi calls Hannon, “Old Man.”
“After practices, I’m not as young as I used to be, so you can catch me limping off the field,” Hannon said. “They tell me I need a cane.”
He doesn’t need one of those yet, but he did need a chance. He came to a place where one was available and he made the most of his first shot at the age of 23.
Kansas head coach David Beaty, in his third season of trying to build something out of the rubble left him, went out of his way to praise the school's football fan base at his weekly press conference.
"I would just say that we've got unbelievable fans," Beaty said. "They've been patient. We certainly appreciate it. There's no doubt about that. But the plan is a great plan. We believe in it. We know it will work. There's no doubt in our mind."
During the offseason, Beaty underrated the importance of experience and physical maturity and talked in a way that made many believe he tought a bowl game was possible this season. Reality has set in.
"We've got some young guys," Beaty said. "We're not going to use that as an excuse. You know what, we've got some young dudes. Probably 53 percent or more of our roster that we traveled with the other day were sophomores or juniors. Only three of them, three of those guys were redshirt juniors in Joe (Dineen), and Keith (Loneker), guys like that. You're talking about there's a lot of youth there."
Young doesn't necessarily mean eventually good. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't. You can guess which side Beaty stands on with that one.
"I would say that the future looks bright," Beaty said. "The good thing is we're 1-2. That's where we're at. There's a bunch of teams out there that are 1-2. I would just say, Hey, listen, don't make it more than it is."
Beaty didn't mean that 1-2 is a good record when the only victory came against Southeast Missouri State, an FCS program, followed by a pair of losses to MAC schools Central Michigan and Ohio. He meant that 75 percent of the season remains and it's too early to tune out.
"We've got a great opportunity this Saturday against West Virginia," Beaty said. "Show up. Be there. Bring five friends. Let's get after 'em."
At this point, KU probably needs to show something on the field for that fan-recruiting talk to resonate. As is the only appropriate focus for a football coach, Beaty's attention remains trained on the next game, against a team blessed with a quarterback, Florida transfer Will Grier, well-armed to shred the Jayhawks' secondary.
I like the "bring five friends," pitch though. And if every KU student who goes to KU football games talks five friends into coming to one game, the more time she or he has to make that pitch, the better. So it's not difficult to know which game on the brutal Big 12 schedule is the best one for KU fans to circle if they can make it to just one game this season: Baylor.
The beleaguered Bears visit Memorial Stadium on Nov. 4, which we'll call, "Bring Five Friends Day." Baylor has lost to Turner Gill-coached Liberty, 48-45, UT-San Antonio, 17-10, and at Duke, 34-20.
Circle it, bring five friends, and in the event that Kansas should win, know that you had a part in what very well could be a victory that keeps the Jayhawks out of last place, a sign of progress.
Any time a team loses football games by significant margins human nature dictates that most of the time analyzing the outcome focuses on what factors contributed to the loss.
In the case of Peyton Bender, it’s easy to pinpoint the negatives. First, he throws too many interceptions, five in three games to be exact. Second, he does a poor job of recognizing blitzes, a weakness that contributes to him being sacked too many times, eight to be exact.
But head coach David Beaty isn’t just being nice when he follows up talking about those deficiencies by saying that Bender is “doing some really good things.” He’s right about that.
Bender has shown toughness in making throws while taking hits. He’s also zipped a number of passes into small windows and as offensive coordinator Doug Meacham pointed out, when Bender doesn’t miss by a mile, he’s an accurate thrower.
The fact Bender hits so many receivers every game suggests that he does a nice job of going through his progressions and finding the right target.
He seems to be developing nice chemistry with Evan Fairs, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound sophomore who knows how to attack the ball. Keep an eye on Fairs. He's a keeper and so is Chase Harrell.
Let's look at Bender's numbers, before doing so, I’ll issue a qualifier by saying that I agree with Vin Scully, the friendly retired Dodgers broadcaster, who once said: “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”
Here goes: Kansas ranks 12th in the nation in passing yardage with 343.3 yards per game. The rest of the numbers are less impressive and more illuminating. Bender completes 58.2 percent of his passes and he has one more touchdown pass (six) than his interception total.
Bender's not the problem, but can develop into part of the solution.
So far, not great, but not so bad either.
As is the case with much of the Kansas roster, junior slot receiver Ryan Schadler didn’t have any Div. I football scholarship offers when he played his final high school game.
Schadler had more options than most, but no Div. I football offers.
Selected 4A state player of the year after rushing for 2,541 yards and 42 touchdowns, Schadler had a slew of Div. II offers from which to choose. One of four players to average more than 12 points a game on Hesston High’s 26-0 4A state-champion basketball squad, he was recruited to play guard by many junior colleges and NAIA schools, including Baker University.
State champion in the 400 meters and long jump and state runner-up in the 100 and 200 meters as a senior, Schadler ultimately chose to accept a partial scholarship to run for nearby Wichita State.
“I decided to give up football and focus on track,” Schadler said. “I thought it would be better for my body. But when I got there I just missed football way too much. Right when football season began I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ It was killing me.”
So he asked for and eventually was granted his release from Wichita State, which does not have a football program. He and his high school coaches became pro-active in trying to drum up interest in him as a football player by sending video of his high school highlights.
He said he was on the verge of committing to Missouri State, but it was then that coach Terry Allen was fired.
“Then I was about to commit to Pitt State to be a dual-sport athlete in track and football,” Schadler said. “Then the next day Clint Bowen called me on my head coach’s phone and said “We want you to be part of our team. He’s big on Kansas kids and that’s something I really value in him. You see the guys 90 miles down the road doing it well for years now and it’s really cool how he’s helped Kansas with that.”
Since scientists haven’t yet figured out how to clone human beings, Schadler won’t be playing for Bowen. Otherwise, he might be a safety. Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham is happy to have Schadler in his stable of receivers, even though he’s new to it and needs reps before mastering the nuances of the position.
It was Meacham who suggested to head coach David Beaty that Schadler convert from running back to receiver.
Schadler already made a positive impact in KU’s second game of the season. He not only ran 33 yards for a touchdown on a double reverse and returned a kickoff 46 yards against Central Michigan, he also caught six passes for 60 yards.
“I do have a lot to work on and I feel like I’m getting a lot more comfortable,” said Schadler, who missed last season after undergoing offseason abdominal surgery to address a birth defect that led to excruciating pain. “The first game, especially after my injury, I was a little anxious and I probably wasn’t thinking as much as I should during plays. The last game I felt more comfortable.”
Beaty has coached receivers for much of his career and likes Schadler’s ceiling at the position. “There are still some things that as you go through the tape, you’re like, ‘OK, he hasn’t played that position yet.’ . . . He’s getting better every week," Beaty said. "He improved greatly (from first game to second).”
Meacham said he shrunk the number of plays he used Schadler on and put tight end Ben Johnson in the slot more often, so as not to give Schadler too much too soon.
“We made the volume of things he needed to know a little smaller,” Meacham said. “There are some little things he’s still trying to figure out. It’s really just coverage read things. It’s not the actually running in a particular route, it’s how you run it into this or that (coverage), where you go. So we try to put him in there when we know he’s going to know.”
That Schadler’s first touchdown run happened to cover 33 yards gave it an eerie quality. He has worn No. 33 his entire life and when he had his surgery, his mother, Donna Schadler, said that when she saw his patient number was 33 that made her feel as if everything would turn out fine.
Schadler was born with a malrotation of his small and large intestines and his appendix. “It’s still twisted up, but it doesn’t affect me because they cut the strands that were really long and twisting around,” Schadler said. “My intestines are still in the wrong spot.”
Yet, he’s still on the football field, which he is convinced is the absolute right spot for him to showcase his athleticism. His two autumns away from the sport, one to focus on track, one to recover from surgery, hammered home what he already knew, that football is his favorite sport.