Breakdown: Kale Pick's pick simply a poor decision


Welcome back to "Breakdown," where we'll look at a KU play each week and try to go a little more in-depth into why it did or didn't work.

After North Dakota State's stunning 6-3 victory over the Jayhawks, we're going to look back at the play that killed KU's best scoring chance Saturday. For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Here is the replay of KU quarterback Kale Pick's interception in the third quarter. You can click back to this video as you read later in the blog if you need to.

Right before the snap, KU shifts its receivers to a bunched formation on the near side.

Sometimes, these shifts can help the offensive coordinator and/or quarterback diagnose what coverage the opposition is playing. Coach says, in this case, it's hard to get a pre-snap read of NDSU's plans for coverage.

Here, I've diagrammed the approximate routes of KU's receivers.

"It’s actually a pretty good formation down there if a team is going to play you man-to-man," Coach says, "because if you cross your receivers at all, sometimes it causes a natural pick play for you, which helps open up receivers down there. Sometimes also it is helpful in confusing the defense as to which man they’re supposed to be covering."

Coach sees a problem just a few seconds into the play, though.

"The receiver spacing is not good at all," Coach says. "Those receivers need to run their routes a lot harder than they did and therefore, create more space and more space between defenders as well.

"When you get inside the red zone, everything’s compacted down, and so you have to have good spacing with your routes."

As we can see from this slide, KU's Tim Biere (top highlighted) and Daymond Patterson (bottom) are still very close to each other a few seconds into the play. This makes it much easier for NDSU to cover KU's receivers.

"No. 86, he’s not running his route very hard right there, either," Coach says. "The outside receiver (Patterson) doesn’t seem to be running his route very hard.

"Those guys, they just have to push off the ball harder and, like I said, try to create more space between themselves, and therefore, stretch the defense."

Let's go back to the coverage. After a few seconds, Coach identifies this as a basic version of a Cover 4 defense.

What is a Cover 4?

"The two corners have the outside quarters of the field, and the two safeties have the inside quarters of the field," Coach says. "Four guys to cover the four quarters of the field. Obviously, your linebackers or nickel will cover the underneath zones."

With the Cover 4, NDSU will rely on its four defensive linemen to try to get pressure on the quarterback. Also, Coach says, in certain situations, the middle linebacker drops back to help in the zone.

On third and long, the middle linebacker doesn't have to worry as much about a potential running play, so he immediately drops back to help the secondary. Coach says that the Bison do a nice job of defending on this play.

So what are Pick's options?

Coach sees two.

Though it's hard to see, Patterson appears to break free with only a single defender on him.

"(Pick)’s not getting pressured at all. His offensive line is doing a good job. He’s got plenty of time to make a good throw here," Coach says. "You see No. 15 coming open over here to the left of the hash. He was breaking out. If Pick would have been a little bit more patient, maybe that’s going to be the throw, with him breaking to the sideline and all this room to run down here to the sideline."

The other option is the most obvious one when going back to the film.

Take a look at KU back Deshaun Sands out in the flat.

At one point, Sands sticks his hand up, trying to get Pick's attention. He might have even been close enough to even yell to Pick.

Though Coach says that Sands wouldn't be one of Pick's first reads, it would have been his best (and safest) option.

"If (Sands) makes a guy miss — if he makes that corner miss, or if your X receiver (Johnathan Wilson) up there on the top of the screen blocks that corner, you walk into the end zone for a touchdown," Coach says.

"At the very least, he catches the ball, maybe advances it to the 5-yard line, you have a choice of going for it on fourth down or kicking a chip-shot field goal."

Instead, Pick tries to squeeze the ball into heavy traffic in the middle. In fact, it appears Bradley McDougald also was covered well by NDSU's safety — and he didn't even make the interception.

"As a Big 12 quarterback, he’s probably expected to not force this ball into coverage," Coach says. " ... There’s probably two or three guys that can intercept this ball."

NDSU's middle linebacker ends up making the pick, cheating back early when he didn't have to worry about a running play.

Pick explained the interception to Matt Tait after the game.

"I didn’t see that (linebacker)," Pick said. "He was in line with my guard."

Though it's hard to see exactly what Pick was seeing — and whether his guard actually was blocking his vision — Coach says part of the responsibility of having good vision falls on the quarterback.

"If you’re having trouble seeing over your offensive line, then you need to do a better job with your feet in the pocket and do a better job of scanning the field," Coach says.

Though this was a bad mistake by Pick, I'm still in agreement with Tait in thinking that Pick received the hook way too quickly.

Kansas quarterback Kale Pick pulls back to pass as he is hit by North Dakota State defensive tackle Matthew Gratzek during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas quarterback Kale Pick pulls back to pass as he is hit by North Dakota State defensive tackle Matthew Gratzek during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 at Kivisto Field. by Nick Krug

After months of competition, Pick was named the starter. That decision have stood for at least a few games instead of a few quarters.

It'll be a shame if this one blemish ends up costing Pick his chance at being starting quarterback at KU.

After earning the job in practice, the sophomore deserves better than that.


Ben Kane 11 years, 1 month ago

clearly the pick in the endzone was a big mistake but it's a very good mistake for him to make as far as his future growth. Overall, i thought he played pretty well and he didn't play bad enough to lose his starting job. However, after seeing Webb for the first time it is clear that he puts more zip on the ball. A quandry to be sure. I just hope he gives someone a clear chance. nothing will make me hate Gill faster than revolving quaterbacks.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

I also hope they don't start a revolving QB system (see: The Barmann/Luke/Swanson/Herford Era). But watch the video--especially the slow-mo replay at the end--and you'll see what we could see in the stands all game, and what I imagine the coaches saw from the sidelines and the booth: about three-and-a-half seconds elapse from snap to throw. How many times do you see Pick's head move? Even a little? I agree that they should have let him finish the game, and Jordan Webb didn't really show any more poise in the pocket than Pick. But Jordan Webb did not stare down his receivers before getting rid of the ball.

Andy Hess 11 years, 1 month ago

further proof that Webb should be the starter. Webb ran through his progression better and was much more decisive with his throws than Pick.

bearhawk 11 years, 1 month ago

Webbs progression wasn't any better thats fact.Pick was put in bad situations all day with 3rd and longs.Pick was 13 for 17 at one time with bad field position,the bad play was the interception.Coaching staff was not playing to Picks assets like rolling him out on pass plays or zone read runs.If your line is having troubles blocking you better not call pocket protection plays.Offense couldn't run the ball,the problems was up front.In a loss like this it will be interesting if Gil throws Pick under the bus or mans up and says his team wasn't ready.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

The defense was prepared--so there's half the team. The o-line did just fine when the defense sent only four (as evidenced by the video above). The special teams played fine as a unit, despite one missed kick that should have been made (and another tougher one). The receivers may not have hustled, as "Coach" points out above, but receivers have been not hustling for as long as there have been receivers. Tim Biere had a bad game, but A.J. Steward played OK.

The running backs didn't play great and the quarterbacks played poorly. You cannot telegraph every pass. From the video above, I can't see for sure that Patterson is already open when Pick threw. I'll even give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he missed the middle linebacker who made the pick. But see the safety jumping MacDougald's route? Did Pick miss him, too? A decently thrown ball could have made it to Biere, and a pretty good pass would have given only Wilson a chance to make a catch in the corner. And I could have gotten the ball to Sands from my seat. Pick got into trouble when the defense sent pressure--and that usually means someone is open. Whether or not the QB checks to find the open man is another story. Trust me: it was not JUST this play. This play just happened to be the only one that our FCS opponent capitalized on.

d_prowess 11 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure if I saw Webb go through his progressions, but instead he seemed to trust his arm and the receiver and let it rip (Pick was much more hesitant). He can get away with that at times because he can really zing the ball, but that is also not the best way to be a great QB. I am not sure who I like at this point...

psychoanalyst 11 years, 1 month ago

As always, Jesse (& Coach), I love these segments. They make me miss film reviews after games.

jaydee909 11 years, 1 month ago

Jesse, I always enjoy your in depth analysis of individual plays. You do great work. I have to disagree with you and Matt on how the quarterback situation was handled. Gill was trying to find a spark as he called it. Shouldn't a coach being trying to do this, to win the game? For three plus quarters we had only three points on the board. That certainly is not all Pick's responsibility. But you cannot totally excldue him from accountability for the poor offensive showing either. The decision he made in the interception is an example. Gill said that he wanted to evaluate players under game conditions. Pick won the job in practice but we know that Webb was running a close second based on coaches comments. I don't think this is settled yet, until one shows he is clearly more effective.

Andrew Moore 11 years, 1 month ago

He should've called an option run with Pick. The guy can really run and if you can get a guy like angus or sands into a one on one situation in the open field they could do some damage. Having them run into a brick wall is a great way to get stuffed...

Pick or Webb, i don't care. I guess its just a matter of what offense they want to run. If they think that a pocket passer is what they want then Webb is the guy. If they want a dual threat kind of guy then they have to go with Pick

KU_FanSince75 11 years, 1 month ago

Along with Chuck Berry's statement about revolving quarterbacks, nothing will make me hate Gill faster than poor management of the game, i.e., having 0 timeouts at the end of the game. Totally unacceptable on the D1 level.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

OK, but what does any of that have to do with the play this article talks about? Watch the film: there are 10 guys not making a mistake. Who is the odd man out? (And that third quarter time-out--who called it?)

Dirk Medema 11 years, 1 month ago

KC - Before u call someone out, take a dose of your own medicine; read the article. It very clearly talks about the WR's running lazy routes. That is a mistake.

As for the TO's, there have ben many comments about the QB's being visibly anxious waiting (on coaches) for plays to be called. And delay of games/TO's should never ever happen after TO's/dead balls. Ever. That's a coaches call not the QB's.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

I'm not really trying to call the kid out, but he looked like an inexperienced quarterback--to be expected. The lazy routes are there, and there are still at least three (and maybe four) receivers open when Pick throws the ball. And just because there have been lots of comments about time-outs doesn't mean they were much of a factor in the game. I get the impression the wise men calling the game on FCS must have harped on that for a while. Yes, there were certainly problems getting the plays to the offense. Maybe that's coaching, maybe that's the quarterback not being familiar with the playbook. Let's say it's coaching. I'm more concerned with what Pick did after the ball was snapped. I've read the article, I've watched the video, I watched the game. It's clear we're going to need to pass more than we did Saturday, and if that's the case, whoever the quarterback is needs to do a better job of keeping the secondary guessing. I am not a coach--if it's obvious to me that Pick is looking where he's throwing for two or three seconds before he gets rid of the ball, I am sure it's very obvious to the guys that get paid to make that assessment.

KU_FanSince75 11 years, 1 month ago

There were several breakdowns during the game but those timeouts are very precious. Yes, I understand it was the player that called the timeout but the coach has to be upset if those timeouts are used carelessly. Even the so-called TV broadcasters on FCS said not having timeouts would hurt the Jayhawks. In defense of Pick, he should be the starter against GA. Tech. Gill wanted to see if Webb could bring the Jayhawks back to victory. I understand that. In regard to the timeouts, I guess it will be a mute point if the score is 66 - 0. Rock Chalk! I will continue to stay positive!

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

I'm with you on staying positive, but the fact is that time-outs didn't really have anything to do with this loss. To suggest otherwise, to me, sounds like people looking for ways to blame the coach that they didn't want KU to hire. KU's second-to-last drive started with just under four minutes to play. Especially in college, that is plenty of time with no time outs. The defense played superbly when NDSU got the ball back, forcing a three-and-out. A time-out might have been nice, but KU got the ball back with 51 seconds left--plenty of time if you're actually getting the first downs you'd need to move down the field.

If you fault the coaching staff for anything, do it for not putting the right players on the field. Webb, Opurum--those are legitimate criticisms. Clock management against an FCS opponent? Give me a break.

kureader 11 years, 1 month ago

It's interesting to watch a replay where you can stop the action and do a "Wednesday afternoon" analysis. The players will certainly learn something from films like this. However, it's not a great way to decide that a QB isn't qualified to start. Pick's stats weren't that bad. He threw one interception. Replay any interception ... the QB will always look bad. Pick also completed 60% of his passes in spite of several drops, poor pass protection, and an inept running game.
Gill had many months to evaluate his QB's. He chose Pick. Yanking Pick in the 4th quarter didn't help Pick or Webb. It was Pick's first start. Webb hasn't played either. The odds that Webb could pull things out were slim to none. Now, this week, KU has TWO QB's whose confidence has been shaken. Thank you, Gill. Gill, if you want replace somebody in the middle of the game, how about your tight end? I'm not ready to give up on Pick or Webb at this point. The offensive coaching staff? ... not sure. We'll see how things go this week.

kansas22 11 years, 1 month ago

I think this is plainly obvious, but we're really going to miss Reesing this year. We just don't have a quarterback on the roster anywhere near his ability. Hopefully even after this most likely awful season Gill can recruit a good QB for the future because I don't see Pick or Webb ever being anywhere near as successful as Super Todd was early in his career.

vc727 11 years, 1 month ago

It looked to me like Pick was totally overwhelmed when he was in the game. He looked confused, even scared to me. I know Webb didn't have much more success but he looked in control when he was in. But those observations are based on the camera shots between plays not during play. I don't pretend to be an x and o guy just cheer when we win and cuss when we lose.

KU_FanSince75 11 years, 1 month ago

KCHawk81---Ok, I will give you a break---I think I have a KitKat bar in my pocket. Later.

Dave Harris 11 years, 1 month ago

I didn't mind Gill changing quarterbacks to try something to spark the offense. And I don't think that is going to crush anyone's confidence. It's D1 college football. Deliver, or someone else gets a chance.

I think Pick is still the best option. So I would have liked to hear Gill say immediately after the game, "Kale is still our starter. He'll be out there against Ga. Tech."

To me, that makes his move about looking for a spark rather than questioning Pick's ability.

Regardless, if they're wearing Jayhawks on their uniforms, I'll be cheering for them!

Dave Harris 11 years, 1 month ago

BTW...I enjoyed the play breakdown. Thanks!

kureader 11 years, 1 month ago

I'm negative on some things related to KU's athletic department, but it's too early to throw either of our QB's under the bus. Neither has played much. They didn't have good protection, and our running game was bad. They'll improve. I'm more concerned about our offensive line. They were manhandled by a I-AA college. Hopefully, this week will be better.

Mark Lindrud 11 years, 1 month ago

I love the video analysis and hope it continues all season. I think Pick should have stayed in because the game was close and we needed to see what kind of moxie the kid has when the chips are down. Either way I don't like that Webb is the starter this week because it starts the revolving quarterback syndrome.

If Webb does well then we need to stay with him for the season, but one way or another we need to know who the QB is for the team. I also hope that if the running game falters that we can put the freshmen in to see what Bourbon and Sims have. We need to explore all of our guys and find the right fit. If all else fails bring back TO because he is a stud and the fact he wasn't on the field at all irritates me a lot.

I am not giving up, but I have concerns like the rest of us and will keep faith that the coaching staff will right the ship. After all it has been only one game and we need to grade the team with more games this season. ROCK CHALK!

Scott Smetana 11 years, 1 month ago

Great article Jesse.

But please, if we get pounded by Georgia Tech, will you break down a few basketball plays instead?

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