Sunday, November 24, 2013


Opinion: Defensive issues? It’s gotta be the shoes

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney reaches for Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney reaches for Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Charlie Weis explains how the field impacted play in KU's 34-0 loss to Iowa State

KU football coach Charlie Weis explains how the field impacted play in KU's 34-0 loss to Iowa State

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Iowa State 34, Kansas 0

Box score

— The grass near the boundaries of the football field at Jack Trice Stadium was covered with ice, and for most of the night it looked as if Iowa State wore ice skates and Kansas University roller skates.

The Jayhawks were slipping all over the place, and the Cyclones weren’t. Why? Not because Iowa State has more practice in such conditions, which are extremely rare and have not been experienced by either side this year.

So what was it?

The players weren’t wearing different skates, but they were wearing different shoes.

Kansas junior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, in the midst of a strong season, was burned repeatedly Saturday in a thoroughly embarrassing 34-0 white-washing administered by an Iowa State team that entered the frigid night winless in Big 12 play.

I asked Shepherd a series of questions about him and teammates slipping repeatedly on the field, particularly outside the hash marks, and why the Cyclones weren’t doing the same thing.

“It was just more maybe the shoes,” Shepherd said, an answer that made perfect sense. “Just the bottom of the shoes. Certain cleats are built for certain conditions, and I guess that their cleats were a little more suitable for this type of weather and the way the field was.”

How were they different?

“A lot of players on their team had more screw-in or metal bottoms,” Shepherd said. “And that helps you get a lot more grip. We just had our regular cleats that we always wear.”

So did Kansas bring the wrong shoes? Did the Jayhawks leave at home shoes more well-suited to an icy field?

“I don’t think so,” Shepherd said. “I think it’s more of a Nike and adidas thing, just the way that they make their cleats.”

College athletes have no financial stake in shoe companies. They merely want access to the equipment that gives them the best chance to compete. In Shepherd’s opinion, Nike had better equipment than adidas for the conditions under which Saturday’s game was played. Shame on anybody who gives Shepherd any grief for voicing his honest opinion.

The money shoe companies pay schools to wear their apparel — Kansas signed a six-year, $26 million extension with adidas last June — helps to fund athletic departments. Kansas won an Orange Bowl and a basketball national title in 2008 wearing adidas.

But Saturday, something gave Iowa State superior footing, compared to Kansas, which would have lost the game anyway. Nobody remembered playing on a field quite so icy.

“Outside the numbers, it was a lot more frozen,” Shepherd said. “It was a lot more difficult to come out of breaks. For me, it was difficult to do about anything. If you didn’t get your feet wide enough, then you would end up slipping. Inside, it was still slippery, but it wasn’t as bad.

“I wasn’t on the inside as much, but when I did go in there, I had a little bit more grip. But playing corner, I’m always numbers and out. I was pretty much on the frozen part of the field the whole game.”

And he and others playing near the sidelines were slip-sliding away.

“All day, even from warm-ups,” Shepherd said. “I knew it was going to happen. I tried to prepare for it, but there’s not really much you can do to prepare for it. I was slipping on every play. Run play, pass play, whatever it was, getting off a turn, I had to be very careful of the way I approached.”

Temperatures were in the low single-figures by the second half.

“We haven’t had a game this cold ever, but, honestly, I don’t think it was the cold,” Shepherd said. “It was just the field conditions and us not executing. You can’t blame it all on the field conditions. They were playing on the same field we were playing on, whether they had better cleats or not. At the end of the day, it’s all about how we executed. They executed better than us.”

James Sims rushed for 96 of his 114 yards in the first half and spent most of his time in the middle of the field. He noticed more slipping from teammates than from Cyclones.

“I guess longer spikes would help because you dig more into the turf, and we just didn’t have long enough spikes to dig into the turf,” Sims said. “It was kind of difficult for us, and I saw they didn’t really have a problem on the turf. I’m not trying to use it as an excuse, but the field … we just weren’t used to it, and it came in and got us today.”

ISU, better prepared for the game, was the better team in every way, right down to the equipment.


Phil Leister 8 years, 7 months ago Interesting comments about the cleats. Photo evidence, though, shows that at least one ISU player (a wide receiver, no less) wore the rubber-studded cleats. You can also see that most of the pictures of the KU guys had similar cleats. I respect Shepherd's opinion, and maybe the guys pictured were the only ones wearing the rubber cleats, but I'm not sure it's a Nike vs. adidas thing.

These pictures show similar cleats from both adidas and Nike. Guys are allowed to pick their cleats. So it looks like this is a result of personal preference from the players, and maybe the KU guys and/or coaches just didn't anticipate needing the metal ones, and ISU did. But again, I don't believe this is an adidas vs. Nkie thing.

Phil Leister 8 years, 7 months ago

Click on the link in the comment to see a good pic of the ISU player's cleats.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 7 months ago

I think you are wrong about the amount of latitude a player has in picking their shoes. At least that was the case when I ran there.

I also find it hard to believe you can tell the different of 1/8" - 1/4" in those pictures or the type of material used.

John Myers 8 years, 7 months ago

I made a similar comment to a friend on Facebook during the game. It seemed very apparent that our guys were slipping around a LOT more than ISU was. Doesn't justify or excuse the lack of execution in a lot of situations, but when your run game is limited to running up the middle, that really hurts the game plan.

Doug Cramer 8 years, 7 months ago

So it was the "shoes"...that caused Cozart to throw 5 foot over the hands of wide open receivers. C'mon man

Doug Cramer 8 years, 7 months ago

Ahhh - the title of the article includes "defensive issues".

But still...our line had gaping holes in it all night.

Cora Smith 8 years, 7 months ago

As soon as I started watching the game, I noticed the differences. We looked like a skating party and Iowa State was having very few problems. I turned to my wife and said "We have the wrong spikes. I figured we would change at half time and everything would be fine. Do we not have a second pair of spikes? How can we be so unprepared? Larry Smith

Mike Barnhart 8 years, 7 months ago

Once again, Kansas football excels in the art of excuse making, it's the cleats, it's the wind, it's the refs... or as Jake from the Blues Brothers put it:

"Honest... I ran out of gas! I--I had a flat tire! I didn't have enough money for cab fare! My tux didn't come back from the cleaners! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN'T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!!!"

Cora Smith 8 years, 7 months ago

Spikes did not cause the loss but are a symptom of the entire work of art. Larry Smith

W Keith Swinehart II 8 years, 7 months ago

In the years before domed stadiums professional teams did, in fact, wear different shoes for icy conditions. As yesterdays game progressed that same thought ran through my mind. But there were other things that KU was doing that didn't help.

KU ran lots of sweeps, all ending out of bounds or on the ground as the runners and blockers couldn't make the required turn. Early in the game Jake Love burst into the backfield confident of a sack, only to careen into the turf when the runner casually moved to the outside for a long gain. Montel's shiftiness and speed were disadvantages, not the normal advantages. Receivers couldn't make evading cuts or even make adjustments to catch a hard-thrown, spiraling frozen rock. Even kickers need sure footing for booming kicks.

No one can turn on ice, at least not with any degree of control. Better play calling would have helped, as in no sweeps and simple passing routes. But, yes. I agree it is likely the ISU players were wearing proper shoes like the old pro teams used to do. This should be a lesson in preparedness by coaches and players both.

Daniel Reinigungsmittel 8 years, 7 months ago

I'm pretty sure you can still buy 1" removable steel tipped cleats. This isn't even a Pro team issue; it's high school level stuff. We used to swap the 1/2" front ones out for the longer ones when the field was icy or muddy. Equipment manager brought boxes of various cleats to every game. If KU was wearing the same molded cleats they wear at Memorial, then that was just unbelievably dumb.

When Weis was in New England, did he get out of the coaches box at all?

Al Martin 8 years, 7 months ago

Exactly. It's not an equipment issue, it's a coaching issue.

W Keith Swinehart II 8 years, 7 months ago

Should be a coaching issue, but night games in single digits are rare. This was the worst I've seen watching college games since the '60s. Pros have covered complexes. HS done by now.

Maybe.... maybe ISU, a geographically northern school, didn't use shoes. But, from what I saw we should have. ISU could walk and run. We couldn't. Physically, we easily matched them. Next time we better be ready.

Chuck Woodling 8 years, 7 months ago

Were the receivers wearing cleats on their hands?

Bryan Mohr 8 years, 7 months ago

The excuses just keep sliding in. Even Gill's teams managed to compete with ISU (10-13 L), (16-28 L).

Robert Brown 8 years, 7 months ago

And those Iowa State teams were not 1-9 when we played them

Terry N Tom Denner 8 years, 7 months ago

I bet all the other teams in the conference would of packed different shoes for the weather conditions. Can not blame the team for this blowout. Coaching Staff is to blame for this one. Hope u did not sell your property in Florida Charlie. One more year with less than 4 wins will get u a free ticket back to Florida for sure.

Bud Stagg 8 years, 7 months ago

Cozart was overthrowing everyone because they were not moving as quickly as they normally would have been. When a guy runs 25% slower because of ice, it's easy to overthrow. My question was, why were we throwing so long?

Paul Christiansen 8 years, 7 months ago

We looked pathetic all night (except James Sims), but the Iowa State players looked like they were enjoying themselves. Their receivers were flying to the end zone.

I have to say that this was one of the most embarrassing losses i have ever watched. We could not make any cuts and the Iowa State defense made us look foolish.

ISU looked like they were far more mentally prepared.

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