Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Limited production

Opurum’s touches dwindle with Sharp’s return to lineup

Kansas running back Toben Opurum (35) finds some open space in the first half of the Kansas-Kansas State game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 in Manhattan.

Kansas running back Toben Opurum (35) finds some open space in the first half of the Kansas-Kansas State game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009 in Manhattan.


Reesing troubled as Jayhawks continue slide

The Jayhawks lost their fourth straight game Saturday to the Kansas State Wildcats. Quarterback Todd Reesing had a problem turning the ball over in the team's most recent contest.

When Kansas University running back Jake Sharp missed nearly three games with an undisclosed leg injury earlier this season, backup Toben Opurum was handed the keys to the team’s ground attack.

And by most accounts, the true freshman from Plano, Texas, handled the responsibility quite well.

In early-season victories over Duke, Southern Mississippi and Iowa State, Opurum averaged 92 rushing yards per game, scoring five touchdowns in that period and helping to maintain a ground game some figured would suffer when Sharp went down.

Since Sharp has returned, however, Opurum’s carries have steadily declined. He has averaged just 5.8 rushing attempts per game in the team’s past four games — carrying the ball twice for seven yards in last Saturday’s loss to Kansas State — as KU coach Mark Mangino has opted to use Sharp as the team’s primary ground option.

“Jake Sharp’s health is getting better and better, and he’s a key guy for us, a veteran guy that knows the offense in and out,” Mangino said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference. “And as we progress and the competition level has changed, it becomes more sophisticated and more difficult. And Toben is a guy that’s going to be a heck of a player for us, but right now, he has a lot of learning to do.”

While he does it, Sharp appears poised to garner the majority of the team’s carries, even if he hasn’t fully recovered from an injury that limited his speed and explosiveness.

Since returning against Colorado, the Salina native has rushed 41 times but managed just 128 yards while failing to record more than 50 yards on the ground in a game. In that same period, Kansas has averaged just 51 rushing yards per game during what has become a four-game losing streak.

But the dip in production extends past Sharp.

Playing from behind in recent weeks, the Jayhawks often have been forced to abandon the run late in games, and Mangino has made clear his dissatisfaction with an offensive line that, after a promising start to the season in which Kansas ranked first in the Big 12 in rush offense, has failed to facilitate an adequate ground game in recent weeks.

“It’s hard to get anything going if you’re not going to be able to get a little bit of a run game moving,” Mangino said. “Last week, we were able to run the ball a little bit here or there, but still not consistently.”

Mangino spoke highly of both running backs on Monday.


Kansas running back Jake Sharp is hit by Colorado linebacker Jeff Smart on a late fourth-quarter run Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009 at Folsom Field.

While he didn’t indicate whether or not Opurum’s workload might increase this season, he said the freshman likely would figure prominently into the team’s future plans.

“He’s feeling his way, but we’re high on him,” Mangino said. “We think he’s going to be a really good player for us.”

Mangino doesn’t regret decision to pull Reesing

A week and a half after opting to pull quarterback Todd Reesing from the Jayhawks’ 42-21 loss to Texas Tech, Mangino is still fielding questions about the move.

Asked Monday whether he thought the benching, which occurred with more than seven minutes remaining in a two-possession game, might have shaken Reesing’s confidence, Mangino said he didn’t feel it was a factor in the quarterback’s recent struggles.

“Number one, using the term ‘benching’ is quite strong,” said the coach. “I have my reasons why I took him out of the game, and a lot of it had to do with protecting his own health. He threw the ball very well at times against Kansas State and did some really positive things. So it’s not a matter of his confidence. He’s a confident guy. He can handle all that.”

Davis performs ably in return to lineup

After a lengthy layoff, Kansas sophomore cornerback Anthony Davis returned to the field Saturday against Kansas State.

In his first significant action since being pulled from the team’s season-opener after being flagged for three pass-interference calls, Davis finished with a tackle and a pass breakup while coming off the bench to spell starter D.J. Beshears.

“Grading the tape, I don’t think he had any missed assignments,” Mangino said of Davis. “We’re kind of easing him back into things, and that’s a positive, because he is a talented guy. He’s just got to get his confidence back and (start) feeling good about making plays, and I think he is.”

ABC to air KU’s remaining games

KU’s final three regular-season games will be televised on ABC, the Big 12 announced Monday.

The Jayhawks’ Nov. 21 game at Texas will start at either 2:30 or 7 p.m., and the regular-season finale against Missouri on Nov. 28 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., will be at 2:30 p.m.

Saturday’s 2:30 game against visiting Nebraska, meanwhile, also will be televised by the network.

The time for the KU-UT game is expected to be announced before the end of the week.


waywardJay 13 years ago

We are killing ourselves by not getting this kid on the field..... Be patient, Toben. Your time will come.

Ted Toulouse 13 years ago

I hate the fact that the offensive play-calling shifts almost exclusively to the pass when we're down, even if it's 3-7. Plus, what ever happened to Reesing being under center for running plays, allowing the holes to develop a little more? It's almost like we've become too cocky and stuck-up offensively to adjust to something more effective during the game.

I agree NJ, at least Opurum has the physical attributes to overcome his lack of "knowledge and experience." It doesn't take much thought to run over someone!

Clarence Haynes 13 years ago

In 2007, did Briscoe (then a freshman) sit on the bench while veteran upperclassman wide receivers who knew the offense in and out, played?

Aaron Carpenter 13 years ago

In any event that any of the players read this site, which they probably don't, that all of us "real" KU fans are behind you 100% and can't wait for you to take it to NU. Teams have hiccups, it happens. All the negative posters on here are people that believe they could be a better coach, a better player, or a better coordinator than the actual staff. This is THE most annoying type of fan, and unfortunately one sits right behind us at games. What they don't understand is that they are only wasting their time on here bitching and complaining accomplishing nothing. Put it to the Huskers again, please, for the Seniors and all of us that despise NU! ROCK CHALK!!!

Ryan Gerstner 13 years ago

Sharp's running like 3/4 speed and KU insists on trying to run him between the tackles wasting play after play after play. When's the last time that worked for more than a couple yards? If you're going to run the ball between the tackles, run Opurum. The running game has been a disaster and what's been worse has been the coaching and play calling for the running game.

Kenneth Hillman 13 years ago

This has been a horrible coaching decision by MM. I really must be missing something because from what I have seen on the field, TO deserves to be getting the ball more. And not just more, more than Sharp. We decided to play an injured Sharp over a healthy TO against Colorado and we couldn't get anything going on the ground. Gave TO two carries in that game and one was for a TD. But we continued to play Sharp and not TO??? And then the same thing against OU, TT, and KState...really frustrating.

ninjaneer 13 years ago

I agree with kenhil, and I made an account just to say this. Running Sharp has not worked time and again, so the coaching staff needs to wake up and realize this. Also, when they do run TO, they run him like the would run Sharp with sweeping runs to the outside. No. He should be pounding it up the middle. Maybe the coaches see something the rest of us do not, but I think the choice to run Sharp the last four games over TO has cost us at least two of those games.

tennesseest 13 years ago

The big difference between Sharp and Opurum is that when Sharp takes the initial hit, he falls backwards, where as Toben falls 2-4 yards forward everytime. It adds up to a lot of yards being missed out per game, and the plays for -1, -2 yards are drive killers. There's no question Toben should be our featured back.

KUFan90 13 years ago

"the Jayhawks often have been forced to abandon the run late in games"

In order to "abandon" the run you have to have used the run at some point in the game. There is absolutely no commitment to attempt to establish a running game.

“It’s hard to get anything going if you’re not going to be able to get a little bit of a run game moving,” Mangino said.

Hard to get a run game moving when you aren't calling running plays.

I have to agree, I just don't see how even giving TO every 3rd series or something is going to hurt us, even if he does "have a lot to learn".

Joe Baker 13 years ago

Beat NU.

I wanted them to beat the Sooners. This was the best possible year for that win.
I wanted them to beat the cats.

I want them to beat NU.

I definitely want them to beat the tiggers.

So...frankly these games have been theirs. Question isn't do they win, it's do they want to win? WIN! Or, we can settle for the same ol' mediocrity by losing the next 1-2 games, taking our place in B12 football as a b-ball school.

Please beat NU in Memorial! PLEASE!


Joe Baker 13 years ago

You "true" football fans don't get it. We "fairweather" fans do not want to be "just a b-ball school." We want to be a good football school too. You can't do it with many of the points made so far.

acsgreens (anonymous) says... All the negative posters on here are people that believe they could be a better coach, a better player, or a better coordinator than the actual staff. This is THE most annoying type of fan, and unfortunately one sits right behind us at games. What they don't understand is that they are only wasting their time on here bitching and complaining accomplishing nothing.

You're right greens! We support them, challenge them and yes maybe "bitch." Even you have to admit that sitting and watching them lose game after game in the current fashion is getting old. No, we're not the staff (thank you) and no, it really doesn't matter what we say. But they are our team too. It's called PRIDE!! Many "negative" posters have invested at least four years of their lives at this university. Many even pay to watch the games. We've earned the right to "bitch."

I've said it all year, one game at a time. Only 'win' one game at a time, not lose!!

Beat NU!

Steve Brown 13 years ago

since sharp can;'t run or block then how many sacks will NU Heisman candidate defensive lineman all star Suh have against Todd this week, I fear too many.

barackchalkjhawk 13 years ago

Wait, our running game gets worse with the return of Sharp, yet he continues to get the majority of the carries? I'm no Charlie Weis, but that doesn't make sense. Opurum usually falls forward for a yard or two extra because of his size. Sharp looks like he hits a brick wall every time he tries to run between the tackles. The coaching has been masterful this season, time to start looking in the mirror gentlemen. You have three games left to figure it out, and to win the right to play a fourth.

James Hubin 13 years ago

Just another non-"real" KU fan posting here. Being supportive of your team doesn't mean you have to be sheep. In 07' the senior leadership was getting the job done, in 09' that doesn't seem to be the case. Therefore we have to find the players that can get the job done, even if they don't happen to be seniors. I like lil'Sharpe, but he's not getting the job done. Operum has the build and potential to gain more yardage than Sharpe with our current O-line. However, if you feel like we should sit Sharp for not getting the job done, couldn't you say the same thing about Reesing?

acsgreens is bitching and moaning just as much as anyone else, except he's bitching about KU fans and everyone else is critiquing how we play. IMO bitching about the fans of your own school is worse. Unless religion is involved, people that are sheep are annoying. What, we should fill the board with postings on how great our team is playing?

gojbirds 13 years ago

I've said it before, we need both in the backfield. We tried a two back set against KSU, but with 2 QBs. Our declining offense is paralleled by Opurum's declining production. Coincidence?

Nathan Mattison 13 years ago

Facts are stubborn things. Sharp has a 4.5 ypc and Toben is 4.3, not significantly different but clearly Sharp is not inferior to Toben. Also, Sharp has breakaway speed which Toben doesnt. Sharp is a better reciever and able to do more after the catch than Toben, And Sharp is a better pass blocker. Sharp gives us more options and is flat out a better all-around football player... Toben has his purpsose and gets a decent number of touches to showcase his talents and will be well prepared for next year. I don't notice anything on here other than pure opinon as to why Toben should be out there, with the exception that he falls forward and Sharp falls backward. While I don't agree with that, it is also worth noting that Toben fumbles and Sharp really doesnt. Regardless, I just want us to get back to winning and I think Sharp puts us in the best position to do that.

jahawkdave 13 years ago

We need a big time back, that position is almost as crucial as QB. I think Toben will be one, and Jake would have had a great year, he never looked faster or stronger before his injury, unfortunately that injury has been a big set back.

I hope these seniors can rally and go out with a couple wins and a bowl, that extra practice time a bowl provides is crucial for developing the young guys we are going to need to step up next year.

2010 a decent core; Pick QB, Toben RB, McDougald WR an OL with a year of experience together, LB's and DB's that have a year under their belt. Who would of thought we would have had to chalk up this year to be a rebuilding one??? I hate to say this, but I'd give Reesing a two turnover leash, he hits that against NU and it's Pick the rest of the way.

Anyone know when we get our lost scholarships back?

gojbirds 13 years ago

natehawk- Speaking for myself only, I don't think Sharp should be benched, but I do think that Opurum should be a bigger part of our offense. While Opurum isn't up to the b-mac standard yet, the dual threat of power and speed MIGHT help get the ground game going and open up the passing game a little.

Hawkman_021 13 years ago

I think the 2 back set would be great for this weekend and next, for the reason pass blocking, maybe have one set a quick block the run him out for a pass to the outside. WE WILL WIN SATURDAY, AND AGAINST MISERY, What the heck and in Texas

minipman 13 years ago

PLAY TOBEN, SHARP SUCKS. everytime sharp touches the ball he gets to line..if he's lucky. most the time is a loss of yards.. play the big boy that can get atleast three yards everytime he touches the ball..

number1jayhawker 13 years ago

Natehawk, look at the stats. TO has had two fumbles all year. Hell our qb has been averaging that per game.

HCMM has been as stubborn as the Chiefs, when it comes to letting the running game get going.

NebraskaJayhawk 13 years ago

Two-back set. Reesing behind center. There is no reason both of these guys can't be on the field. Been saying it for weeks.

Kale pick as the second option in the backfield? You've got to be kidding me...sorry.

mandomax 13 years ago

Natehawk -

Facts ARE stubborn things. Toben has averaged 4.3 on 116 carries and has nearly 500 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season, compared to Sharp with 376 on 83 carries and 3 TDs. Also, Sharp's long for the season is 30, while TO's is 26, not a huge difference.

I think what people are upset about here is declining production. HCMM sat Reesing for a poor performance, lack of concentration, etc. when the numbers weren't there, but doesn't seem to want to look at the following trend for Jake Sharp.

vs UNC, 5.9 ypc vs UTEP 6.5 ypc vs Duke 2.6 ypc vs CU 2.8 ypc (long: 5 yds) vs OU 2.0 ypc (long: 4 yds) vs TTU 5.0 ypc vs KSU 3.2 ypc (long 9)

Sharp's injury clearly is limiting him more than he and the coaches are willing to admit, based on his poor performance over the past several games. So here is my "pure opinion" (backed up by painstakingly researched stats): Sharp has not looked himself since his undisclosed injury while TO has been more consistent as an every down back, and has produced more yards and points for this offense. Play Oporum.

grandpa 13 years ago

I cannot believe the people still supporting Sharp. I think part of it is he is a senior. He has performed well in the past but he is not doing well at all now. TO is much stronger and does much better when he hits the line. He outweighs Sharp by 40 lbs and it is not fat. Loyalty to Sharp's past performance is killing us and the head coach should recognize this

Joe Baker 13 years ago

Toben will be a beast next year. He is and will be one of the premier running backs in the B12 conference.

Look at him! He's a strong runner and hopefully this staff develops him into an All Conf player.

I've seen Sharp get banged and bounced back on the field. Toben runs defenses over for the most part. He's a freshman and is learning.

Pick needs some time and he'll get better too. It's all in the confidence. I guess we'll play Sharp and Reesing b/c they are seniors. Let's hope the senior leadership can end the season strong!

Let's Git R Done against NU!

David Robinett 13 years ago

YPC is not the end-all. Jake inflates his average with the OCCASIONAL big burst like the 60 yarder against OU. But 1-1-0-2-2-1-0-60 does not help our offense move the chains like a TO pattern of 3-3-4-4-2-6-5.

Steve Brown 13 years ago

daveinoku nice job: exactly what I was going to offer, one run out of ten that goes 40 yards and nine runs out of ten that go nowhere does not help our team.

If Opurum runs 4.6 yards every play and Sharpe runs 46 yards 1 of 10 and zero the other then who would you play most of the downs.

our motto is seniors over healthy and productive players.

singing in the rain, as I'm just fair weather fan.

hawkone 13 years ago IF you haven't read it you should. As a long time Kansas football fan and follower of the team good and bad I think anyone who has negative words should read this article. Quigley is finally the voice for a team that is hurting from both loss and from the statements made by "fans". Keep your head up Hawks I haven't given up on you as many of the true fans have not either. 3 games left and anything can happen. Just ask Texas after two losses to a very poor K-State team.

babyjay1 13 years ago

Wow - what a great article! I will cheer all that much louder for the seniors on Saturday! They are an awesome group! Makes me sad that it hasn't turned out they way we all expected, but this points out how much harder it is for the players than for any of us in the stands.... Thanks for posting the article....

90sHawk 13 years ago

I have been extremely frustrated by the play of the football team this last 4 games. And while we are all frustrated as fans of KU Football, no one is more so than the team itself. While the season has not turned out the way we wanted it to, we have 3 games left, starting with NU at home. I'll be out of town in Milwaukee but you can be sure I'll find a bar playing the game Saturday, b/c regardless of how this season has gone, I know they can jumpstart themselves and have the possibility of beating Nebraska. I could go on and on about the gripes I have with how some players have played recently and how some of the coaches decisions have seemed very questionable at times, but I'm a KU fan who will support the team until the season is OVER. That's my peace.

Rick Arnoldy 13 years ago

acsgreens, a “hiccup” is one game. A four game losing streak says there’s something systematically. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. The “fair weather fans” have already left for basketball. The “true fans” are still here talking football – just not blindly assuming things will get better if we cheer louder.

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