Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
The updated depth chart (lots of changes on the offensive line) and full press conference audio have been posted.
• Weis says the last thing he wants to do is throw players or coaches under bus. As the head coach, he has to sit down and look at what the team can do to make things better. You have two options: Schematically, you can do less things more, or you can move people around to try to see if you can fix problems with personnel. KU went through the whole spring with Pat Lewandowski at left tackle and Aslam Sterling at right tackle, and they’ve been moved back there. Moving Lewandowski to center didn’t turn out well, despite that’s what KU’s goal was. Now that Lewandowski has moved out to left tackle — Weis feels he is the team’s best left tackle — that shifts Sterling back to right tackle. The guys playing the best on KU’s offensive line this year have been the guards Mike Smithburg and Ngalu Fusimalohi. They’ve been far from perfect, but they’ve been the two most constant guys KU has had. As the coaches were moving guys around, they felt Gavin Howard gave KU the best opportunity at center to do something new.
• Weis says it’s not going to be too much of a change for Lewandowski and Sterling at their new positions, as they played at their respective positions in spring ball. The real question will be if Howard can hold up at center. Weis says the center position has held KU hostage so far this season. The center position is an area where KU has to get better.
• Receiver Andrew Turzilli was a little bit of a disappointment in the spring, because he’s one of KU’s two fastest receivers with some size and athleticism. He just wasn’t playing well and wasn’t showing up. Coaches didn’t notice he was out there in practice. When guys move down the depth chart, they either pack it in or try to fight back. Turzilli is one of the guys who is taking steps to make his way back into the mix.
• So far, Weis says KU’s play in the run game has been a big disappointment. Weis doesn’t want to single out the offensive line, because a lot of elements go into it. The run game should be the foundation of what KU is.
• KU running back James Sims wasn’t only picked a captain because he’s one of the team’s best players. He’s bought in that KU has to do what it needs to do to be successful, like when KU went five wide to start the Texas Tech game. Weis said KU is still 2-2. It hasn’t been a pretty 2-2, but the team still is 2-2. KU has eight more games. Sims still has plenty of opportunities to be more involved in the offense this season.
• Weis says he’s never had to make this many depth-chart changes in his career. There are only so many alternatives. KU is running out of alternatives. KU has to start settling down into what it’s going to be offensively. KU is going up against a really good defense this week in TCU. The team on deck (Oklahoma) is more of the same. It’s going to get worse on offense if KU doesn’t improve.
• When the quarterback is a run threat, it forces the defense to do things differently. The problem is that in those formations with Michael Cummings in, you become one-dimensional. The bind you get in is teams load up the front to stop the run.
• The hardest part about center is snapping the ball and then getting hit in the mouth after you snap it. KU has intelligent guys at center. Intelligence is not the issue. The issue is getting hit immediately after the snap. Some of KU’s snaps looked like Weis was snapping, and he joked he was never any good at doing that in his playing days. Weis thinks the centers sometimes worry too much about the blocking assignment instead of the most important part, which is snapping.
• Weis’ biggest problem with the defense against Texas Tech was third-down conversions. When a team runs 100 plays, though, part of the responsibility is on the offense, because that many plays makes a defense tired.
• After a loss, you always start with a positive with your players in the next week’s film session. The players already have gotten beaten down. They’re already disappointed. Weis said he hasn’t read any media articles since Saturday. In film study, he stopped the tape after the first quarter and asked his team who should win the game based on that tape. Then he showed the rest of the game and asked if that was the same team. Weis said he’ll stand up in front of media and take the blame for his team’s play, but he holds his players accountable behind closed doors too. For example, having 12 penalties is a lack of discipline and comes back on the coach. He’ll take blame for that. But he also went to his offensive linemen and asked how five line-of-scrimmage penalties can happen at home with no crowd noise when they know the snap count. The message to his players and the media are not the same.
• Not having Tony Pierson hurts KU, because he’s gotten better each week and is starting to play well. Brandon Bourbon is playing well too. He’ll have an added role now. More of the burden will fall on Bourbon than has happened before. Pierson will be back at some point. The MRI came back negative. Pierson has a headache and a sore neck, so he’s walking around like an old man, but other than that, there’s nothing wrong with him, which is a good thing.
• One of the most important things with concussions is how you deal with them once you have them. The team has cognitive tests for concussions, then the team looks at the player. The team will err on the side of caution. Weis says better safe than sorry.
• TCU plays its safety so close to the line of scrimmage that you have opportunities to go over the top. Everyone tries to go over the top. It comes down to execution. When you call for the home runs, you have to hit them. TCU gives you some opportunities, but you have to be patient.
• KU had a bunch of mental errors on the offensive line in the last game. There should be fewer of those this game. The problem for KU this game is that TCU’s defensive line is really good.
• Weis thinks KU’s defense has been playing pretty physical and at a pretty high level. In this game against TCU, if you’re not physical on both sides of the ball, though, you’re going to have a tough time.
• Linebacker Samson Faifili looks like he’s a ways from playing. Every time he gets going, he re-aggravates his injury. He’s much like running back Taylor Cox and might be treated that way. He has a possibility for a medical redshirt even though he’s played three games, so KU might pursue that. If he can’t go the rest of this year, that’s a possibility.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
Let's take a look at the Kansas football team's much-talked-about fake punt attempt in Saturday's 54-16 loss to Texas Tech. A reminder of the game situation: The score was tied 10-10 with 6:08 left in the second quarter, with KU facing fourth-and-13 from its own 16.
Right away, Coach can tell this is a punt return for Texas Tech by the positioning of its players.
How does he know? Look at each of Tech's players pre-snap and you can do the same.
If a Tech player is going to rush the punter, he gets in a runner's stance, putting one foot in front of the other like a sprinter would.
If a Red Raider is blocking, he squares his feet up to the line to get ready to run backwards.
Ready to test your skills? Just for fun, here's a punt from later in the game. Can you tell me how many Texas Tech is rushing on the play?
If you said three, you are correct. Each of the players that had one foot in front of the other made it upfield, while the other players blocked.
Let's get back to the fake punt.
Coach says the two players going upfield for Tech (red circles below) are called "check kick" guys. Their job isn't to block the punt ... it's to make sure that KU punter Trevor Pardula actually kicks it and no fakes are on.
Coach notices that Tech isn't necessarily sound in its formation, though. He says when his team sends two "check kick" guys, it sends one guy from each side to make sure that they funnel the punter back to the inside.
In this play, Tech has one player coming from the right side of the line and one coming from the middle — potentially leaving the left side open for a big play.
Whether they know a fake is on or not, most of KU's line does a good job of clearing out space. They sprint downfield to cover the punt, dragging nearly every Tech player along with them.
That leaves KU three players in the shield (blue circle below) to block the two "check kick" guys.
From here, Coach says it's hard to tell why the play went wrong.
On his team, when a fake punt is called, every one of his players on the field knows it, as it is signaled to the team based on the call and cadence of the snap count.
From the video, Coach says one of two things happened to KU: 1. The three shield players didn't know a fake was on, or 2. They all failed miserably in trying to execute blocks.
One reason Coach doesn't believe the shield players knew about the punt is the action of No. 99 Tedarian Johnson, who is on the far left of the shield. When the Texas Tech player rushes toward him, he protects his inside shoulder. That makes sense on a normal punt, as he wouldn't want the Tech player to get to Pardula.
If Johnson knew it was a fake, Coach says this should be an easy block. Johnson could take a couple steps to the outside shoulder of the rushing Tech player, then pin him to the inside. The other personal protector (No. 91 Shane Smith) could then flow upfield to serve as a lead blocker on the play.
Notice at the top of the screen, No. 73 Damon Martin also doesn't try too hard at a block on Tech's other "check kick" guy, who eventually makes the tackle on the opposite side.
It's still hard for Coach to tell if it's bad execution or bad communication, as KU's shield players do run hard after the play is a few seconds in, making it difficult to know if they knew the fake was coming.
Either way, the Jayhawks had three players to block two, and they ended up blocking neither guy.
From Jayhawk Slant's Hawk Talk Recap from Monday night, here's what KU coach Charlie Weis said about the fake punt: "I think even when you are backed up in that situation and the look wasn't identical (to what team wanted to run the fake), if the two things that weren't done were done, it would have been an easy productive play."
Now, you know which two things he was talking about.
As for the situation is was called — on a fourth-and-13 at KU's own 16 — Coach said this might be a better play for fourth-and-seven or fourth-and-eight, which wouldn't put as much pressure on KU to make a big play.
Also, the field position definitely is a factor.
"It’s also an area where a team is not expecting a fake either, so it might work out even better," Coach says. "When we watch special teams film every week, we look for certain fakes or different things we can use against a team.
"Now, I’m not sure the head man would let us call it on our own 16-yard line, but it is something that we look at every week and try to have different wrinkles in."
The bottom line for this fake from KU?
"Big-time risk-reward," Coach says, "but it definitely had a chance."
Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 54-16 loss to No. 20 Texas Tech.
Here are a few takeaways:
KU's defense played horribly ... wait, no it didn't
This game is a perfect example that shows why it's best to give football box score numbers more context.
A quick glance at the numbers, and someone would see that KU gave up 54 points and 518 yards to Texas Tech and assume the Jayhawks played lousy defense.
That wasn't the case, as Texas Tech's yards per play (5.2) and yards per possession (30.5) were actually below the NCAA average.
So what gives?
Much like basketball, raw numbers can be skewed based on possessions. If North Carolina's basketball team leads the nation in scoring each year, that doesn't necessarily mean the Tar Heels have the best offense; it simply means they've scored the most points, which is affected by a team's scoring and pace.
The same applies to football. On Saturday, Texas Tech — mostly because KU's offense couldn't stay on the field for any length of time — ran a whopping 100 plays, which is 26 plays above the NCAA average.
And while KU's defense didn't necessarily have a good game, it certainly played well enough against a talented offense to not allow 54 points.
It's not easy to see at first glance (or with a standard box score), but Tech's high scoring on Saturday said was much more a result of KU's failures on offense rather than its defense.
Nothing is working for KU offensively
Let's not sugarcoat it: This was a truly putrid performance by KU's O.
The Jayhawks mustered just 16.1 yards per possession, which is barely half of the NCAA average (31 yards per possession).
But the bad news doesn't end there. Even after taking sacks out of the rushing equation, KU averaged just 2.1 yards per carry on 34 carries. What's scarier for KU: Just six of those 34 rushes (18 percent) went for five yards or more. Six. It can't be easy to commit to the run when an inexperienced offensive line is only clearing a hole on every fifth play.
Meanwhile, the passing game — after showing better efficiency against LA Tech — also regressed, as the Jayhawks completed just 18 passes on 38 dropbacks (attempts plus sacks). It's the third time this year in four games that KU hasn't been able to complete passes on half its dropbacks.
KU can be proud that it did produce some explosive plays (seven total), but that also is a bit of a downer. Tony Pierson, who had three of KU's 20-plus-yard catches, will most likely miss a few weeks after suffering a head injury in the third quarter.
In short, a KU offense that can't move the ball will now have to go without one of its only explosive playmakers.
Weis has quite a task ahead of him in preparing an offensive gameplan for TCU.
KU's defense not giving up big plays
Out of 100 plays, Texas Tech had just six that I would label "explosive" — runs of 12 or more or passes of 20 or more. Again, this is significant progress, as KU's defense is making opponents earn the points they get with long drives.
Remember just a couple years ago when Georgia Tech had four, 50-plus-yard plays against KU in a 66-24 win? Those days of the Jayhawks getting gashed for huge yardage appear to be gone, thanks to better players and also improved organization with defensive coordinator Dave Campo and linebackers coach Clint Bowen in charge.
Still ... KU's pass defense wasn't as good as past weeks
The Jayhawks allowed a season-high 6.8 yards per pass attempt and 10.9 yards per completion to the Red Raiders. While those numbers aren't awful, they are the highest KU has allowed this year (The previous highs against KU: LA Tech averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt, while Rice was at 9.8 yards per completion.).
Though most of the plays were small chunks — KU allowed just three, 20-plus-yard passing plays — the Jayhawks did finally show some vulnerability in their pass defense after an excellent first quarter.
KU had some bad luck with turnovers
No, it wouldn't have made a difference in the final outcome, but the score would have been closer had KU gotten a few more bounces.
While forcing fumbles is a skill, studies have shown recovering fumbles is basically luck (and a 50-50 proposition for each team). Out of seven fumbles Saturday, KU fell on only one of them (14 percent). That might not seem like it would make much difference, but turnovers, on average, are worth about five points each when you take into account the field position lost by the offense and gained by the defense. Normal fumble luck (and three recoveries instead of one) could have resulted in a 10-point swing for KU.
The Jayhawks also continued to display active hands in the secondary. KU had 10 pass breakups, and studies have shown that over time, 21 percent of pass breakups result in interceptions. KU probably was "due" one extra interception based on the number of times it was able to knock away throws.
This is a big reason why I believe KU will win at least one Big 12 game this year: Turnovers make a huge difference in games, and the Jayhawks' secondary has shown a tendency to always be around the ball.
The Jayhawks should be intercepting quite a few more passes before the year is out.
KU killed by field position
Another reason Texas Tech racked up 54 points that wasn't KU defense's fault? Terrific field position for the Red Raiders.
TTU's average start was its own 44, while KU's was its own 26 ... an 18-yard difference.
In games between FBS teams last year, teams with a 16-yard-or-greater advantage in field position went 62-2 (96.9 percent win percentage).
Field position is a combination of many factors, but obviously the Jayhawks' six three-and-outs, four turnovers and failed fake punt all contributed to Tech's domination in the stat Saturday.
Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 13-10 victory over LA Tech.
A note for first-time readers: this box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.
Here are a few takeaways from the box score:
Turnovers saved the Jayhawks
One glance at our "new" box score shows that LA Tech was the better team Saturday. The Bulldogs were better in yards per play, yards per possession, average field position, explosive plays ... pretty much any category you want to look at.
That sometimes isn't enough, though, when you can't hold onto the football.
Though Tech had only one more turnover than KU (3-2), the Bulldogs' miscues were much more costly. If we look at equivalent points — the number of points a team is likely to score on a drive from a certain yard line, plus the average number of points the opponent is likely to score on the ensuing possession — we see that quarterback Ryan Higgins' fumble cost his team an estimated 6.79 points (the ball at the opponent's 2 is worth 7.11 points; KU getting the ball at its own 20 is worth -0.32 points to KU) and Kenneth Dixon's fumble cost his team an estimated 5.54 points.
Add it up, and those 12 points given to KU — along with some timely offense from the Jayhawks — made up for KU's other deficiencies.
It's time to be concerned about the run game
Remember, for this box score, any negative yards on sacks go in to "Passing Yards" category, which makes the Jayhawks' 3.8-yard-per-carry rushing average look even worse.
KU coach Charlie Weis said after the game that his offensive line was getting beaten routinely inside by Tech's front four, so he altered his game plan to try to attack the Bulldogs with the passing game on the edges.
Playing musical chairs with the offensive line probably didn't help, either. At times, the right side of KU's line (Dylan Admire, Damon Martin, Riley Spencer) featured three players that didn't even start in the team's previous game against Rice.
After watching this year's struggles, it seems likely we probably didn't give enough credit to offensive linemen Tanner Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Duane Zlatnik for clearing the holes they did for the running game a season ago.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with our Div. II assistant coach from the breakdown blog last week.
After I showed him the video of KU's offensive line getting blown up by Rice's front four, "Coach" made the comment that there was a possibility that this year's Jayhawks might not be suited to be a run-first team.
"You have to tailor your offense around the type of players that you have," Coach said. "Last year was the 2012 KU Jayhawks. The 2012 KU Jayhawks are only going to happen once ever. The 2013 Jayhawks are a new team, so maybe they’re not going to be as great at running the ball, so maybe they need to do other things."
It's looking more and more like that with each passing week.
KU's passing game much more efficient
For the first time this year, KU completed more than 50 percent of its passes in a game, as Jake Heaps was 28-for-46, good for a 61-percent completion rate.
One encouraging sign for KU was that many of its pass plays were simpler. Heaps said after the game that the Jayhawks took quite a few "free" yards on rollout plays, simply taking advantage of what the defense was giving to pick up some short yardage.
The Jayhawks still aren't much of a threat to break a deep pass play, but some passing game is better than none. With KU's run getting stuffed all game, Heaps at least showed the ability to get moderate gains through the air, while the receivers limited their drops to help the pass game's efficiency.
KU's run defense starting to show some holes
KU's pass defense once again was a bright spot, coming up with nine pass breakups while holding Tech to an excellent 4.5 yards per pass attempt.
On the other hand, the Jayhawks continue to get gashed by a variety of running plays.
Against Rice, it was the read- and speed-option that burned KU. Against LA Tech, KU struggled against more traditional running plays, allowing an "explosive run" (12 or more yards) on nearly a-fourth of the Bulldogs' rushes (seven of 29 run plays).
Almost every team in the Big 12 is pass-happy, so KU is better off having a team that is built to defend the pass rather than the run.
Still, KU is about to face better running backs, so some improvement is needed to get opposing offenses into passing downs so KU can take advantage of the impressive secondary it has assembled.
Take a bow, Trevor Pardula
I believe I'm safe in saying this is a game KU definitely would have lost a year ago without punter Trevor Pardula.
The juco transfer saved the Jayhawks on Saturday when it came to field position. Though KU didn't get good field position often (average start of own 19), Pardula made sure that Tech didn't have better field position, as his booming punts ensured that Tech's average drive start was its own 28.
Field position matters, too. Tech had a nine-yard advantage on average field position, and in 2012, FBS teams won 71.6 percent of the games when their field position was eight-to-12 yards better than their opponents.
As mentioned in the first week's blog, when two FBS teams played in 2012 and one team had an advantage of 12 yards or more per drive in field position, that team's record was 151-10 (.938). And without Pardula netting 55.8 yards on his five punts, KU most likely loses the field-position battle by at least 12 yards.
Through three games, Pardula has probably made the biggest impact of any juco player Weis brought in for this season.
KU had more possessions and more plays than an average contest, yet the Jayhawks mustered just six "explosive" plays.
What's also troubling is that KU had quite a bit of issues on first down — a down where a team should have most of the playbook open. KU averaged just 3.1 yards on first down, with the same number of first-down plays going for negative yards (three) as 10-plus-yard gains (three).
The Jayhawks performed some second-down miracles while doing a good job of avoiding sacks to keep their third-down distances manageable (6.1 average yards to go), but the fact is, KU's offense is going to continue to struggle if someone doesn't emerge to break off 30-plus-yard plays every once in a while (KU had none against LA Tech).
Weis did a better job of getting speedy Tony Pierson the ball on Saturday, but there's still work to be done to get him more opportunities in the open field.
Through three games — and a 2-1 record — I'd argue that Pierson and receiver Rodriguez Coleman are the most significant players for this team moving forward.
Those guys provide KU with the best hope at breaking off big plays, which will be vital if the Jayhawks can't get their offensive line — and running game — back to last year's form.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
Kansas coach Charlie Weis has made a few mentions this week about how he was disappointed in his offensive line play.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at a failed running play from the Jayhawks' 23-14 loss to Rice on Saturday. At this point, KU was leading, 14-13, with possession in the fourth quarter.
This is a basic "Power" run play. Those offensive linemen on the "play" side — the direction where the ball is going to be run — are down blocking, meaning they are blocking the defenders to the inside of them (with the left tackle going upfield to take out a backside linebacker). Meanwhile, the right guard pulls around to kick out a linebacker in the hole.
I've made a GIF showing each KU player's blocking assignment.
This play falls apart on multiple levels, the most glaring of which coming in the battle between Rice's defensive tackle Christian Covington and KU's left guard Randall Dent (No. 64).
Right after the snap, Dent is driven backwards by Klare, in essence getting "his (stuff) pushed in," Coach says.
This disrupts the entire play. KU right guard Mike Smithburg tries to pull around to block, but he bangs directly into Dent instead.
Smithburg's blocking assignment on this play is Rice linebacker James Radcliffe (No. 10), and with a free path, Radcliffe is able to get to the backfield to trip up KU running back James Sims.
"That’s a good indication of a defensive tackle not getting in on the stats and making a tackle or tackle-for-loss, but the defensive tackle is the one who makes this play," Coach says. "He’s getting a pat on the butt in the film room after this one."
Sometimes a team can help out its left guard on this play, as the left tackle can combine with him to form a double-team on the defensive tackle. After that block is secure, then the left tackle can move forward to take out the backside linebacker.
"I guess KU just thought that the left guard could handle this block one on one with the defensive tackle," Coach says, "and really, it didn’t end up working."
Dent isn't the only one who struggles, though.
Notice the left tackle Aslam Sterling (No. 77) almost completely whiffs on his block of Michael Kutzler (No. 42), who is listed at 110 pounds lighter than Sterling. Because of that, Kutzler is able to get to Sims and help finish off the tackle on the one-yard gain. Look closely at the end, and you can even see Sterling slap his hands together in frustration.
Coach also says KU tight end Trent Smiley (No. 85) isn't perfect here against Rice defensive end Tanner Leland (No. 13) either, as he allows quite a bit of penetration and at least needs to work for a stalemate to keep Leland out of the backfield.
Bottom line: Coach says this a good example of KU getting "out-physicaled" up front.
And while many fans have questioned why Weis didn't run the ball more against Rice, Coach says no play call is going to work if it isn't run correctly.
"You can call the hook-and-ladder, you can call the double-reverse pass, you can call this simple power play, you can call a simple inside zone running play," Coach says. "No matter what you call, you have to execute it."
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• The KU coaching staff’s goal was to hold back and red-shirt one-third of the incoming transfers and play two-thirds of them. The coaches weren’t sure how the numbers would play out. Out of defensive linemen Ty McKinney, Tedarian Johnson, Marquel Combs and Andrew Bolton, the coaches were hoping to play two guys and save two. People were enamored with the names of the guys, while the staff was more enamored with the program. McKinney and Johnson being at KU a semester earlier has them way ahead. The staff thinks Combs and Bolton have huge upsides.
• KU was hoping to sit one guy out of the secondary, and because of the NCAA circumstances, now that will be Kevin Short. Before Short was ruled out for the year by the NCAA, the staff thought Brandon Hollomon might sit out this year. Now, he’s playing and playing significant time. Thirteen of the juco guys are a significant part of KU’s plans this year. Receiver Mark Thomas and linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore (injured knee) and receiver Nick Harwell (NCAA eligibility) are the other guys that will play a big part in the future.
• Running back Taylor Cox had a death in the family last week and flew back to Seattle on Thursday for a funeral. He got back in just before the game Saturday. He has a nagging hamstring and groin. It’s been recurring for some time. If it doesn’t get better, KU will look to medical red-shirt him. If it gets better to the point that KU can play him, Weis says the team will do it. But right now, he would qualify for a medical red shirt, and that’s the direction the team is heading now.
• The coaches weren’t pleased with the offensive line play in the last game. Right tackle Riley Spencer was a projected starter who has been slowed by knee ailments. He’s gotten better and better. Spencer is a strong man. Weis says he will bring more physicality. Zach Fondal is more athletic, but Weis wasn’t happy with the controlling of the line of scrimmage against Rice across the board.
• Weis says tight end Jimmay Mundine has been moved to second team on the depth chart based on all aspects of his game. You have to go by what you see. Weis sees the same things as the reporters see, only he sees them a lot worse. Right now, Weis says the team has to give Trent Smiley the opportunity to see if it can get any better there. Smiley is more physical than Mundine. Weis wasn’t pleased with the physicality of his team last week.
• The changes on the depth chart at receiver has some to do with drops and some to do with receivers not getting separation. The two guys at the top of the depth chart at receiver (Rodriguez Coleman, Tre’ Parmalee) are the two that get open the best in practice. They catch it pretty well, too. Coleman is probably getting force-fed being the No. 1 receiver before he’s ready, but KU needs to get better. KU can’t win games scoring 14 points.
• Parmalee runs great routes and catches the football. He’ll never be a burner, but KU needs a guy that can run routes and get open.
• Brandon Bourbon and Tony Pierson will have expanded roles this week. Weis said he hasn’t been sleeping well since Saturday night because of the offense. Rice rolled defense to Pierson the entire night. Even on his touchdown catch, Pierson had two guys on him. It’s hard to force feed him the ball to him in those scenarios, because the opponent isn’t respecting that other players can get open.
• Weis was pleased with his defense Saturday. The only thing that made him a little upset was some players were a little late getting to the alleys to stop the run. The Rice running back had too many yards. But if you hold a team to 16 points, you should count on winning.
• Weis says JaCorey Shepherd is becoming more comfortable with additional time at cornerback. Weis says the team should have high expectations for Dexter McDonald. He’s a big-time player.
• Combs is on board with red-shirting. The team doesn’t do these things without involving the player. On the offensive and defensive lines, the guys that are on campus a semester earlier play better. You have to stagger the juco players so they don’t graduate at the same time. KU is taking a-third of them this year and pushing them another year with a red shirt. Combs will play on scout team this year.
• Last year, Weis couldn’t identify dropped passes as a problem, because a lot of the passes weren’t close enough to be caught. Now, the ball is getting to the right spot most of the time. KU needs to be able to throw to score and win games. KU needs to do a better job of executing. That’s everyone, including the coaches.
• The Rice game was different than any other loss, because KU’s guys went there expecting to win. They weren’t hoping for something to happen; they were expecting to win.
• Linebacker Ben Heeney is playing faster than everyone else. He might not run faster, but he’s playing faster. That’s what Weis is used to seeing in the NFL. That’s how guys play in the NFL. When they come, they’re coming with a vengeance. He’s a pleasure to watch.
• Christian Matthews is in the top five of the receivers. He’s involved in some other packages. He’s much more comfortable in the slot than he is outside, but most of the time, Pierson is the guy in the slot. Matthews is still in the mix, though.
• KU’s secondary played great against Rice. Linebacker Samson Faifili has been a huge plus. Defensive lineman Ty McKinney has a chance to be a disruptive front-line guy.
• Weis is a big fan of KU’s fans. He’s never been in a venue that feels like Allen Fieldhouse, and he’s been to a lot of arenas. Once you start winning more football games, that’s when you can more judge KU's football fans. Already, Weis likes the support, and that's with the team losing. Weis has an “incomplete” on his resume, because he wants to see what the fanbase is like once KU starts winning more. The fans, though, have been nothing but supportive from his perspective.
• Weis says Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is in a no-win situation. When a former star at the school like Tommie Frazier hammers you in comments, you’ve got two choices: say nothing or say something. Usually, it’s better saying nothing.
• Smiley is a short-to-intermediate pass-catching threat. Mundine is more athletic and can get downfield better. But you still have to go by production.
Let's take a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 23-14 loss to Rice.
For those who didn't check out last week's blog, this box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.
Here are a few takeaways from the box score:
KU's pass defense, once again, was stellar
If you're looking for positives, this has to be the biggest one. After a dominating pass defense performance in Game 1 against South Dakota (2.8 pass yards allowed/attempt), the Jayhawks backed it up with an effort that was nearly as impressive against respected Rice QB Taylor McHargue (4.1 pass yards allowed/attempt).
Not only that, KU's secondary is making plays on the ball. KU's 11 passes defensed (pass breakups plus interceptions) is a huge number that hints the Jayhawks should me more competitive defensively this year in the pass-happy Big 12. Through two games, KU's 7.5 passes broken up per game leads the conference, while Dexter McDonald is tied for fourth nationally with five pass breakups of his own.
KU's pass offense, once again, was pretty bad
Remember, in our "new" box score, sacks are counted against the passing totals, as technically, they are passing plays. Through this prism, KU's passing numbers go from bad to cover-your-eyes awful.
The Jayhawks mustered just 4.2 net passing yards per attempt after posting an identical 4.2 net yards per attempt against South Dakota the week before. Notice that if you look at yards per completion, KU's passing numbers jump up to 9.8 yards per catch. So what does that tell us? In short, KU isn't completing enough passes. For the second straight week, quarterback Jake Heaps failed to complete more than 50 percent of his throws, and once again, costly drops kept KU from having a more efficient passing game.
Trevor Pardula had another great game
Again, if optimism is your thing, KU punter/kickoff guy Trevor Pardula is another reason to believe KU can be competitive in Big 12 games. After seven punts, the junior still maintained a healthy 40.4-yard net punt average, and that was a big reason KU stayed close in the field-position game (KU's average start was its own 27; Rice's was its own 30). Pardula also blasted three more touchbacks, and through nine kickoffs this season, his six touchbacks are already more than KU had in all of 2012 (five in 47 kickoffs).
KU's offensive numbers were even worse considering the opportunities
In 2012, during games between two FBS teams, the average squad had 13 possessions per game. The Jayhawks had it 15 times against the Owls and still never managed to find a rhythm. To be fair, one of those possessions was a kneeldown at the end of the first half, but the numbers are ugly regardless. KU managed just 18 yards per possession, which is barely half of what an NCAA team averaged a year ago (31.1 yards per possession). Remember, that was against a Rice defense that allowed 52 points in 14 possessions to Texas A&M two weeks before.
It was a weird game for KU's running game
The last few years, KU has had success in the running game by getting modest gains to keep the chains moving. Against Rice, the Jayhawks were the total opposite of that, featuring a boom-or-bust tendency while playing without backup RB Taylor Cox.
KU had three rushes of 12 yards are more, and all were by James Sims, who has been more of a grinding back during his career. On the opposite side of the spectrum, though, KU had seven rushes that went for no gain or a loss, indicating the Jayhawks' offensive linemen were getting overpowered too often.
That made for some weird stats. KU's 4.2-yard-per-carry average might be more acceptable if the Jayhawks were better able to avoid losing plays. Instead, KU averaged just 2.6 yards on first down because of all the run stuffs, and that put the team in tough situations on third downs, where the Jayhawks' average gain to go was 7.9 yards — much too high for a team that is still trying to find itself in the passing game.
The pick-six was a killer
The box score above shows this game wasn't dominated by Rice. The Owls had slightly better numbers across the board, but statistically this game was close enough for KU to win if it had a positive turnover margin.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, Heaps' pick-six in the first quarter put the team in a huge hole. Bill Connelly has done the math to compile an NCAA football chart for equivalent points — the number of points a team is likely to score on a drive from a certain yard line.
When Heaps threw the pass, KU was on the Rice 46 — a yard line worth 1.62 equivalent points to KU. The interception return for TD then gave the Owls seven points, and the ensuing kickoff was a touchback, putting KU on the 25 — worth 0.01 equivalent point.
Do the math, and that was a 8.61-point swing because of a single play — definitely enough to swing the balance of a game that the Owls won by ... nine points.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
The updated depth chart (only second-team changes) and full press conference audio have been posted.
• Most weeks, KU’s opponents are running schemes where the quarterback is involved as a runner. Weis says KU is going to have to do a better job of tackling the quarterback than it did a week ago against South Dakota, or Rice’s QB Taylor McHargue will gash the Jayhawks. You have to be ready to defend him. You can’t just treat him as a passer.
• Weis feels a lot better about his team after it got a game under its belt. He says going on the road can be good for a team, because there are fewer distractions. It’s a lot more of a business trip on the road than people would think.
• Connor Embree has had good punt returns the entire spring. This is the first chance he’s had to do it in a game. Weis says he stepped up to the plate and delivered. Embree catches the ball really well on punt returns and makes good decisions. Weis says one of Embree’s best plays was the return when he only gained a couple yards. The ball was bouncing, and he decided to catch it to keep it from rolling. That probably saved KU 20 yards.
• From what Weis understands, Rice typically doesn’t have good home crowds. Weis says that’s probably a good thing for his team’s first road game. To go on the road and not have it be 80,000 people going bonkers is probably a good way to ease into a road schedule.
• KU’s offensive line had good run-blocking against South Dakota. The pass protection is yet to be determined, because KU didn’t throw it as much. Any time you rush for close to 300 yards, though, obviously the offensive line had something to do with it. Weis believes what KU lost in experience on the offensive line this year, it gained in physicality. He especially believes that’s the case with KU’s two guards Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg.
• Weis says he’ll use last year’s Rice game as a teaching tool. He says Rice deserved to win the game last year, and KU deserved to lose it. KU didn’t close out the game. Give credit to Rice. KU played not to lose instead of playing to win.
• Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan has a lot of familiarity with KU defensive backs coach Clint Bowen from their time together on KU’s staff a few years ago, so there shouldn’t be many surprises with Rice’s offense for Bowen on Saturday.
• Weis says the situation this week for the coaches has been utopia after a win, because it’s allowed them to be harder on the players to make them better. It’s been a bad week for some of KU’s players, because you can really get on them hard because they’re feeling good about themselves after a win. Weis says it’s great as a coach when you can give constructive criticism after a victory, because players are more open-minded and listen to you better.
• The entire night against South Dakota, the only real throw that quarterback Jake Heaps would have liked to have back was the deep throw to Rodriguez Coleman that he overthrew by a few yards. Weis liked that Coleman laid out for the ball. Weis says Coleman’s on the cusp of taking a meteoric rise up the depth chart. When he gets it, it’ll be tough for others to get him off the field. He’s playing from behind a little bit, because he got in late and was banged up a bit in fall camp. He’s healthy now. He has plenty of time to catch up.
• Weis has no update on cornerback Kevin Short’s status (he missed Saturday’s game because of personal reasons). Short has some personal things he’s working through that were a bit of a surprise to KU’s coaching staff. When Weis knows something, he says he’ll be sure to tell everyone.
• Running back Taylor Cox is going in practice today after suffering a leg injury at the end of the South Dakota game. Weis will have to see visual evidence to see what he looks like out there. No one else on the roster would be in the “questionable” range if an injury report was released.
• Weis says it is too early to determine for sure if some guys are red-shirting. You have to see how things go at each position. Especially with freshmen, Weis tries to not make a decision with them until it gets closer to halfway through the season. If Weis is going to use a true freshman, he’s going to use him. He doesn’t want to burn a red-shirt year to get a guy a couple scrub snaps at the end of a game.
• Weis says KU’s passing game against South Dakota was nothing like any game last year. No games last year looked anything like that. KU had four or five dropped balls and three throwaways out of 20, and KU completed 10. KU had two or three balls that were clear incompletions out of 20 throws. If KU gets that percentage this week, Weis will take it. Throwaways are part of what you do. They’re a good thing. Weis writes them down as a smart play.
• For the program, winning last week got the losing streak out of the way. Winning this week could get the road losing streak out of the way. Winning against Texas Tech could get the conference losing streak out of the way. Saturday is a chance for another KU to get another stepping stone.
• Weis says receiver Justin McCay was excited for his first game. It’s been a while since he played. The same could be said for Heaps. Weis expects both to be better this week.
• KU’s pass defense didn’t really get threatened against South Dakota. KU did give up the one long gain on third and 19. There will be more time for evaluation of the unit in future weeks.
• Weis liked having all his defensive coaches on the field. They were able to work through some kinks against South Dakota, too. People want to make a big deal about how KU is coordinating the defense. The only position that ties all the units together is the linebacking corps, and that’s why Bowen puts the defense together.
• KU has a whole package for the Wildcat (or Jayhawk) formation. You have to put it in there so other teams have to work on it. There were a lot of things that KU did in that game on purpose. As the season plays out, it won’t be the last time you see Christian Matthews out there in that formation.
• Defensive lineman Ty McKinney is playing really well, and defensive lineman Marquel Combs isn’t getting many reps. So KU bounced McKinney out to end so Combs could potentially get more time at nose tackle behind Keon Stowers, who is playing at a high level. McKinney also will have a chance to get first-team minutes at end, because he’s not beating out Stowers. So KU could get two positive residuals out of that.
• KU has been practicing getting the ball snapped in 15 seconds or less. Weis doesn’t stand there with a stopwatch, but that’s probably close to what it was. Weis figured if he was going to have his defense practice against a high-tempo pace, he might as well do it on offense as well.
• Victor Simmons has finally found a home at nickel back. He’s bounced between safety and linebacker at KU. Now, he’s settled into a position that he seems to be comfortable at. If you’re a good athlete and know what you’re doing out there, usually you start to make plays. That’s what’s happening with him.
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
Following Kansas' 31-14 victory over South Dakota, I heard many Jayhawk fans suggest that coach Charlie Weis should ditch the Wildcat (or Jayhawk) formation altogether.
I wanted to ask our expert "Coach" to see what he thought. Below are three of KU's unsuccessful Wildcat plays from Saturday's game.
After watching the clips, Coach says KU has different issues on each of the three plays.
On the first play, KU actually has a numbers advantage if you look before the snap. KU has five blockers on the left side of the line to take care of five South Dakota defenders: two linemen, two linebackers and a safety.
Coach says KU is trying to execute a "pin-and-pull" technique here. The two tight ends (Trent Smiley and Jimmay Mundine) have the objective of "pinning" the South Dakota players in front of them back to the inside. KU's left tackle (Aslam Sterling) and left guard (Ngalu Fusimalohi) then "pull" around the outside to block, along with Tony Pierson out of the backfield.
So where is the breakdown? As the red arrows show above, USD's linebacker and defensive tackle stunt on the play, in essence looping around each other to confuse the offense.
With this extra movement, Mundine — the inside tight end (yellow line) — misses his pin block completely.
Instead of three on three, it's now USD with a four-to-three numbers advantage toward the bottom of the screen.
Though the linebacker that got by Mundine doesn't make the tackle, he does force the left guard Fusimalohi to block him (blue circle above). That leaves a second USD linebacker unblocked and unimpeded, and he's able to pull down Matthews.
Coach says the Mundine missed block is the key to the play. If he's able to seal his man — or if he and Smiley communicate better on the fly and switch their assignments to block the two stunting USD players — then Matthews likely scores a touchdown. Instead, he's dragged down at the 5.
The second play actually is a different play from the Wildcat formation, with Coach diagnosing it as a double-option. Here, Matthews can either run it himself or pitch to Tony Pierson behind him.
Once again, KU appears to have a numbers advantage. With good KU blocking, South Dakota is left with one linebacker to defend both Matthews and Pierson.
Coach says Matthews job here is to attack the linebacker's outside shoulder to make him commit. If the defender shades toward the outside, Matthews should cut inside and run past him. If the defender commits to Matthews, he should pitch it to Pierson, who then would have lots of running room.
There's one problem, though: As you can see from the picture above, Pierson is in no position to accept a pitch. Coach labels this as "bad pitch relationship," saying Pierson should be further back and toward the sideline to make himself an option for Matthews.
He never makes it there. With no other options, Matthews is forced to turn upfield right into the linebacker, who makes the open-field tackle.
Coach says Pierson's positioning isn't necessarily his fault. Remember where he was to start the play?
Pierson is aligned on Matthews' right when the play is going left, meaning he will really have to hustle to get in proper position on the other side of Matthews.
Coach says KU can do a few things to help him. Many times, teams will motion that back presnap to the left side, which gives him a bit of a head start. KU also could run this play out of the Pistol formation, which would put Pierson directly behind Matthews instead of to his right.
Coach also says a lot of times on these types of plays, the quarterback will catch the snap then take a step back, which allows the back to get an extra step to the outside.
Though these might be tweaks for a future game, they don't happen here, and the result is no gain.
Coach says there's little KU can do to prevent the third play from being a failure.
The Coyotes have seen enough of Matthews to realize he's not much of a threat to pass, so they send a corner blitz. Though receiver Josh Ford at the bottom is supposed to block the corner, he can only watch as his man runs right by.
This is a read-option play, so Matthews is reading the outside defensive end, whom KU leaves unblocked on purpose. That end immediately crashes towards running back James Sims, and Matthews makes the correct read to keep the ball.
It doesn't make a difference, though, as the cornerback has a running head start and immediately is there to wrap up Matthews for no gain.
Notice at the bottom of the screen that because of its blitz, South Dakota has rolled a safety to cover KU's No. 1 receiver Josh Ford with minimal help deep. If Ford were to run a vertical or out route, he'd basically be going one-on-one against a safety — a huge mismatch in football terms.
Basically, South Dakota is daring Matthews to throw it, and Weis' next step could be calling for Matthews to heave a pass. Doing that not only would take advantage of the mismatch, but it also might prevent run blitzes like this in the future.
Though KU didn't have much success with its Wildcat plays Saturday, Coach says it's not time to ditch the formation. Having this package on tape — if nothing else — makes KU more unpredictable and a tougher scout for opposing defensive coordinators.
"It’s easy to give up on things real quick," Coach said, "but I would say the problems they had are very minimal problems, and they’re easily fixed."
The football box score hasn't changed much over the past decade.
Some of the basic stats listed from box scores in the 1930s — like total yardage and passing yardage — still appear today.
But which stats are useful, and which are junk?
Advanced stats expert Bill Connelly examined that exact topic in his recently released book, and in one of the chapters, he proposes a "new" box score.
Basically, his goal is to leave in the important stats that are most telling while leaving out some of the garbage. For example, yards per play and possession are important, as they give some additional context in an age where some offenses are going faster than ever.
Some other stats, like penalties (studies have shown penalty yardage does not correlate strongly to wins and losses) and time of possession (total plays is a better stat) are left out.
With that in mind, I compiled the "new" box score for KU's 31-14 victory over South Dakota on Saturday. Let's take a look:
A few quick definitions:
• "Passes defensed" is the number of interceptions plus the number of pass breakups a team has in a game. About 21 percent of passes defensed are intercepted in college football, so this number can let us know if a team might have gotten a bit of luck in the turnover department.
• In this box score, sacks are counted against passing totals. If you think about it, that makes sense, as negative yardage from a team trying to pass shouldn't penalize its rushing numbers.
Here are a few takeaways from the box score:
KU's pass defense was stellar
Yeah, it's only an FCS opponent, but KU's pass defense still deserves praise for completely shutting down South Dakota. The Coyotes averaged just 2.8 net yards per attempt while managing only 55 net passing yards. Those criticizing KU coach Charlie Weis for taking a 15-yard penalty to make it third and 19 in the fourth quarter only need to look to these numbers to see why he did it. USD had no chance throwing it against KU until that one particular play, where the Coyotes completed a 37-yard pass for a first down. The odds were in Weis' favor when he accepted the walkoff.
KU's pass offense was pretty bad
The Jayhawks' 4.2 net passing yards per attempt has to be a huge concern considering KU's opponents only will get tougher in the coming weeks. This wasn't all on quarterback Jake Heaps, as he was victimized by a handful of drops on some well-thrown passes. KU's yard-per-completion number wasn't horrible (9.2), but the Jayhawks' efficiency was hurt because of the high number of incompletions.
Special teams played a huge role for KU
Here's a stat for you from Connelly's book: In 2012, when two FBS teams played and one team had an advantage of 12 yards or more per drive in field position, that team's record was 151-10 (.938). That stat held true Saturday for KU against an FCS foe, as the Jayhawks held a 12-yard advantage in the statistic, meaning special teams helped turn what could have been a close game into a three-possession win. KU's biggest edge was on punts, as contributions from Connor Embree (four returns, 92 yards), Josh Ford (blocked punt) and Trevor Pardula (42.2 net yards per punt) gave KU a nearly 20-yard per punt edge over USD.
The Jayhawks put themselves in some tough third-down situations
KU's average third-down distance needed was 7.7 yards, which was higher than I'd have expected against USD. Though the Jayhawks averaged 6.6 yards on first downs, most of that success came in the second half. On 16 first downs in the first half, KU gained 71 yards (4.4 yards/play); on 17 first downs in the second half, KU gained 147 yards (8.6 yards/play). You could take this a few different ways. Maybe KU improved in the second half because Weis committed himself more to the run. Perhaps KU was the better conditioned team, and that played a factor late. Either way, KU's 6.2-yard-per-carry average is a strong number, and with it, the Jayhawks should be able to avoid third-and-longs better than they did Saturday.
KU's running-back depth appears to be legit
The Jayhawks ripped off 10 12-plus-yard runs against USD, and five different backs had a 12-yard run of their own (James Sims, Brandon Bourbon, Darrian Miller, Taylor Cox, Tony Pierson). I've mentioned this before, but with so many options, there's no reason for KU's coaches to turn Sims into a workhorse back this year. The Jayhawks have enough talent to keep fresh legs on the field.
As good as the run game was, KU's pass offense was bad enough to make it a below-average offensive performance
You can see on the top that KU's yards (404), yards per play (5.5) and yards per possession (31.1) all were almost exactly on the NCAA average from a year ago. That average, though, only reflects games between two FBS opponents. KU's offense should have been expected to do better against USD, but as mentioned before, the Jayhawks' lack of passing efficiency dragged all the numbers down. The 31 points scored Saturday had a lot to do with KU's defense and special teams providing great field position and not necessarily the overall success of the Jayhawks' offense.
KU's receivers and tight ends appear to have the most to prove heading into Week 2 against Rice.