Friday, October 31, 2008


Keegan: KU coaches should commit to Sharp


The Kansas University football coaching staff had reason not to trust the running game early in the season. The new offensive line, featuring a redshirt freshman at each tackle spot, was having trouble meshing. The search for a first-string tailback still was in the audition stage and every one of the three candidates appeared to be singing slightly off key.

Now, the issue isn't so much either the run-blocking or the running back as much as it is the lack of commitment to a running game.

Junior Jake Sharp has won the job for which Jocques Crawford and Angus Quigley battled and has done so more by performance than default. But Sharp can only run for first downs if he is handed the football.

Think about it: In each of the Jayhawks' last two losses, the games started getting away from them when they went away from giving the ball to Sharp. It happened in the third quarter against Oklahoma, when KU was down by a touchdown and in the second quarter when the deficit again was a touchdown.

That pattern isn't likely to be repeated Saturday at Memorial Stadium against Kansas State. Now, more than ever, it makes sense to trust the running game and stick with it, even if it doesn't hit right off the bat, rather than ditch it when it's purring.

In the past four games, Sharp has rushed for five touchdowns, averaged 95 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry.

All those games came against better rushing defenses than Kansas State's, which statistically is the worst in the Big 12 in conference games and averages 200.9 rushing yards allowed for the season.

Tony Sands holds the KU record for most rushing yards in a game against Kansas State. He gained 217 yards in 1989. Given the ball enough, it's conceivable Sharp could threaten that figure Saturday. Not likely, but not completely out of the question.

Consider the list of Heisman Trophy candidates to have big weeks against the Wildcats' shoddy tacklers. Demetrius Crawford of Division I-AA (or whatever they call that division now) Montana State rushed for 90 yards, which is above his season average against a I-AA schedule.

Two Louisville running backs had their best games of the season to date against K-State. Victor Anderson rushed for 176 yards, Brock Bolen for 104 yards. Louisiana-Lafayette's Tyrell Fenroy rushed for 183 yards, Colorado's Rodney Stewart for 141 yards, Oklahoma's Chris Brown for a season-high 142 yards to go with 104 yards from teammate DeMarco Murray.

In back-to-back weeks, Louisville and Louisiana-Lafayette, which leads the nation in rushing, combined to rush for 638 yards.

Relying more on the run would also have the benefit of keeping KU's defense off the field for longer stretches, never a bad thing. KU coach Mark Mangino praised Texas Tech for doing a great job of that a week ago.

"I think one of the things that people are finding out that are in the spread, they're mixing it up more and running more to use up more clock so they don't give up the ball for the other team to get a quick score or a sustained drive," KU coach Mark Mangino said after last week's 63-21 loss to Texas Tech. "I think our offense has been building to do that."

Building toward Saturday.


100 14 years, 1 month ago

Tom, you nailed this article. Exactly right. Now let's win this thing tomorrow.

Jesse Newell 14 years, 1 month ago

d_prowess - It should be fixed now.Jesse online editor

lance1jhawk 14 years, 1 month ago

Tom, A very nice article and your points are valid! I hope we game plan like your article discussed.If your going to the game tommorrow don't forget your sunscreen. I have been burned more times than Harper.

d_prowess 14 years, 1 month ago

Have Keegan's recent articles not been showing up under the Football section for a reason? This one currently isn't there and I think the last one he wrote wasn't either. I like reading his stuff, but will probably miss a few if they aren't put under the sport section they discuss.

Ryan Gerstner 14 years, 1 month ago

I agree. Early in the season, even when Sharp got in space, he wasn't running well. He wasn't making good cuts. The last 3 games or so Sharp has been making cuts better than I've ever seen him at KU. It's disappointing the coaches have abandoned him the past couple of weeks at key junctures in the game. I would like to see a little more Crawford worked in if he can hold on the ball, but we need to run the ball a lot more than we have been especially if we're running it so effectively.

Hawkish4bigM 14 years, 1 month ago

I remember when KU was down against OU by one touchdown and KU had a third and two situation and did not run. That was a killer. Glad to see the commitment today. The article is dead on.

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