Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kansas football still a work in progress

Charlie Weis gives his team some not so kind words before halftime on Saturday, Sept 21, 2013.

Charlie Weis gives his team some not so kind words before halftime on Saturday, Sept 21, 2013.


It’s an old concept that has been a fundamental truth of sports for ages: Winning takes care of everything and can mask a lot of problems.

So even though everyone associated with Kansas University’s football program was overjoyed about Saturday’s improbable, last-second, 13-10 victory over Louisiana Tech, the Jayhawks (2-1) did not leave the field believing that all’s well in Lawrence.

“We obviously have a lot of work to do,” said KU coach Charlie Weis, who cut short his postgame meeting with the media because he wanted the players to be the ones talking about the win. “We’re an imperfect team. We have a lot of holes. We have a lot of things to fix.”

Today marks the beginning of KU’s second and final bye week of the season. The Jayhawks have two weeks to fix those things before their next game, Oct. 5 vs. Texas Tech.

The general consensus surrounding the team is that the Kansas defense is rapidly improving and has been the most obvious bright spot of the team through the first three weeks. KU’s defense has given up just 40 points to its first three opponents (13.3 per game) and also has recorded nearly as many sacks (9) and interceptions (4) as it had all of last season.

“We’re very confident with our defense,” defensive tackle and co-captain Keon Stowers said. “(Linebackers) coach (Clint) Bowen is doing a great job coming up with game plans every week. We’ve got guys out there flying around. The defensive line is playing good, the linebackers are playing good. I’m really confident with where our defense is right now.”

KU’s offense has invoked different reactions at different times, but largely seems to be struggling to find a rhythm and perhaps an identity.

Last year, the Jayhawks became known for pounding the ball at opponents and proved weekly they could run against anyone in the Big 12. Senior tailback James Sims, who moved into fourth place on KU’s all-time rushing list with his 78-yard effort against Louisiana Tech, is off to a solid start, and KU’s ground game as a whole is averaging 4.2 yards per carry, a number that dipped after Saturday’s 3.5-yards-per-carry effort.

The passing game took a small step forward against Louisiana Tech, with quarterback Jake Heaps leading the group to a more efficient performance and his receivers dropping fewer passes in more attempts. Despite questions at offensive line and receiver, the Jayhawks still believe their offense is packed with potential.

“I’m not really that concerned,” Sims said. “We just have to be more consistent with the little things and not try to do too much. If we just settle down, we should be fine.”

That’s precisely what the Jayhawks did on that final drive against Louisiana Tech, when Sims had room to run, and Heaps had time to throw. Heaps said coming through when it counted most was a sign of progress.

“This is a huge thing for our football team and our locker room,” Heaps said. “It may not have been the prettiest, but it was definitely a big step.”

Added Sims: “It was tough. It was a grind. But the outcome of the game was what we expected. It’s not a matter of how many yards or anything like that. As long as we get the win, that’s all that really matters.”

For just the second time since Mark Mangino left town, KU takes a winning record into Big 12 play. And because of the way the schedule fell, the Jayhawks get an extra week to enjoy it.


Joe Ross 9 years, 2 months ago

The problem with the running game is really a combination of poor push off the ball by the offensive line and defensive preparation geared to stop the run. Listen. James Sims, Darrius Miller, and Co. are no strangers to opponents.

The problem with the passing game is that the offensive line can't pass protect, and Heaps is hurried on too many occasions (which affects his accuracy). That, and the fact that our receivers have butter fingers. I can't really fault Heaps' decision making in the first three games. Sure, there are some balls he'd like to get back and an interception or two that was ill-advised, but all QBs have those moments and Heaps has fewer than I would expect given his newness with the offense and the poor quality of the pass protection. The one thing I fault him for is his pocket presence (doesn't know when to throw the ball, when to scramble out, and he definitely loses that "Heaps cool" when the defense is close but the pocket is being maintained.

Steve Reigle 9 years, 2 months ago

It would be very difficult to maintain cool when the pocket is still there but the defense is very close simply because the protection does not often manage to hold. In other words, the prevailing feeling would be I'm about to get this ball crammed down my throat even though the defense has not yet broken through. If the protection improves, I believe his pocket presence in those situations will improve as well.

Joe Ross 9 years, 2 months ago

A couple of other points. Winning covers over a multitude of sins, as Matt says. At least emotionally there's the facade of a good feeling, but inside we all have the sense that this team is whistling past the graveyard. Having said that, the effort of the defense is a solid hook to hang a hat on, and going into a bye week they can marinate in the fervor the defense has created. The special teams as well, for that matter. I think the quickest key to a healthy offense is a line that does its job. Push the defense a yard back and stop letting defenders get past you with swim moves and so on. You know before the defense does when the ball will be snapped! Get in position and then block, or leave and let someone else do it.

NebraskaJayhawk 9 years, 2 months ago

Although we seem improved, I'm not going to agree that they can hang their hats on the defense just yet. They basically had two touchdowns removed by 2 fumbles on the 1 and 2 yardline. They had no problem moving the ball on us most of the time. I like the fact that they never gave up on the play which did result in turnovers, but I'm not impressed with our run defense at all.

Mark Lindrud 9 years, 2 months ago

I know some people have criticized this team after the win as the team still sucks and other negative references and they're entitled to their opinions. Yes, this team may not be very good and yes it has various deficiencies that some people keep wanting to harp on, but the team knows what's wrong just like we do. The biggest thing right now is they learned how to win. Attitude of a winner is a huge part of the battle. No it wasn't pretty, but unlike last year when a game was close and they let it slip away, they finally won. They have a winning record. They believe they can have a good season and the odds may not be in their favor to get to a bowl game, but they believe that just maybe they can. It starts with attitude, and the right attitude can be contagious. Until they're eliminated from bowl contention I'll hold out hope and believe.

Doug Cramer 9 years, 2 months ago

Keep sawin wood Hawks. Baby steps...focus on each task and improve on it every day. Building a college football program is a lot like investing. It's a marathon and not a sprint.

John Fitzgerald 9 years, 2 months ago

I just looked at the 2007 football schedule. Man, we were good. We put up 70 points against Nebraska and over 50 points on a few other opponents, including 60 on Baylor. That's why KU football is so displeasing, because of that one season. We man-handled every opponent, except Missouri. And I personally think we were a better team, we just had poor game preparation and were a little nervous being in the spot light. Either way, it's sad to say we probably won't ever get that season back, at least not for awhile. But if I were Weis, I'd print that schedule out along with the scores to show the players what KU football once was. It will give them an idea of what KU football is capable of.

As for our current team, we have 3 big problems right now:

1.) Offensive Line - Either they don't have the strength, attitude, or the intelligence to do their jobs. If it's intelligence, I'm worried. If it's strength or attitude, that can easily be fixed. My fix is in practice put 7 rushing defenders on our front 5 and see how long they can hold them off before they get to the QB. Do this repeatedly until they get the hint or we find guys that are willing to put in the effort. These guys need endurance, knowledge, and a tough guy attitude to get the job done.

2.) Receivers - I don't know if this is poor route running, bad play calling, or if our receivers just don't know how to read defenses and get open. Either way, the outcome is the same. My fix is let the receivers practice with the defense for a day. Then let them practice with the QB for a day. This can open their eyes a little bit and put things into a new perspective. Also, take them back to the basics of catching the ball then running, not trying to catch the ball when you're thinking about being 30 yards down field already.

3.) Play Calling - This is a mix of player execution and bad play calling I'm sure but both can be fixed. Weis needs an offensive coordinator. I can't think of many head coaches that are greatly successful without an offensive coordinator. The reality is, regardless of how smart he is, it's just too much work. If he took the time to find an offensive coordinator, I think our offensive struggles would decrease dramatically. Also, we need to be more creative with our play calling. I see a lot of the same plays on a consistent basis. I think using Michael Cummings in the wildcat formation can play as an advantage for us. We also need to work on bootleg plays. This can cause a defense to collapse and open up some receivers.

David Denning 9 years, 2 months ago

For the Offensive line and the receivers is could (I hope) just be a matter of game experience. Going against the show team (ie, KU 3rd string) is a lot different than going against an opponents 1st string. Techniques that work against the show team may not work against a 1st stringer that is bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic and more experienced. This is especially true for the O line where technique and positioning is crucial. According to the TV announcer, La Tech returned almost everyone. This could be why the coaches say that they look good in practice but struggle in games. If this is the case, then they should get better as the season progresses, but we will be going against better teams in the BIG XII, so we may stay behind the curve this year.

kellerman411 9 years, 2 months ago

I actually still feel pretty good about the Big 12 schedule. We have the kind of defense that prevents opponents from putting up 50 points. We make teams put drives together and we get tough in the red zone. How many 60 yard touchdowns have been ran or thrown on this team?

If this KU offense can find a way to score 21, that should give us a chance in most of the upcoming games.

Many people talk about what KU needs to do to win. Here is my success formula for this team. ACHIEVE AT LEAST ONE FIRST DOWN ON EVERY DRIVE. Three and outs absolutely kill a team. Getting a first down improves field position and gives the defense time to breath. If we don't have a single three and out against Texas Tech, I believe we'll be in it in the 4th.

If we'd have hung on at Rice, this team could of maybe went to a bowl. That is not likely anymore. Three conference wins has to be the goal this year, man is it going to be tough.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 2 months ago

Good post. Your first down argument is spot on. I agree with almost everything else you said, but I think we'll probably need 24-27 points a game to get some wins. Our D has looked better, but we haven't faced any dominant offenses, which we will in the Big XII. Even if you throw Baylor out of the mix (they are just insane offensively), we'll still need to score some points to have a chance against TTech, OU, ISU, KSU, etc. One mistake against those teams and we could be down 14-0 without even blinking.

But as they say, "That's why they play the game..."

Topher Peters 9 years, 2 months ago

Get real dude. The best team that the Hawks have played by far is Rice, who isn't even that good. "How many 60 yard touchdowns have been ran or thrown on this team?" Better be 0 against 3 sh*tty teams, but I have a feeling TTU is gonna have at least 1. It'll be a miracle if this team wins a conference game.

John Elliott 9 years, 2 months ago

I was about as frustrated Saturday as I have ever been. Yet I feel the first paragraph of the article hits the nail on the head. Sawin' wood is the key. I actually see a much more capable and amore physical team than the past 4years or so. I also still have hopes for a very positive season considering the overall weakness of the entire conference. So keep the faith, dont panic, and allow the staff and players to work on this project. Rock Chalk Baby.

Kyle Coffey 9 years, 2 months ago

This team has some trash talkers, and some guys that play with physicality and emotion on every snap. That honestly hasn't happened since 2007 and it's great to see. Heeney reminds me so much of a Nick Reid in the way he flies to the football and how he acts like an a-hole when he gets there and makes the play.

Bee Bee 9 years, 2 months ago

Heeney and Bourbon act like they want to play. The REST stand and watch them. K U will need a FEW more that want to do what it takes to win or last Sat was the LAST WIN.

Armen Kurdian 9 years, 2 months ago

Though Heaps hasn't yet shown he's a downfield threat, the short field passing w/in 20 yards or the sideline passes will help keep our time of possession high. We just eliminate the turnovers and contineu to wear down defenses.

KURiggins 9 years, 2 months ago

Rock Chalk. Good job winnings Hawks. In the end, all other things aside winning is what counts. Good job and Rock Chalk

Stan Unruh 9 years, 2 months ago

What's the latest on Taylor Cox? We could have used him Saturday

WalterSobchak 9 years, 2 months ago

There was a previous article mentioning Cox was a potential medical redshirt for this season. I think RB is the least of our concerns at the moment though.

kellerman411 9 years, 2 months ago

I'm not so sure about that. We could have used another banger like Cox on Saturday. Simms is the only true between the tackles runner.

WalterSobchak 9 years, 2 months ago

I think the O-line's inability to open up holes for the RBs is a huge problem right now. It doesn't matter who has tried running the ball, the run game is way down so far this season. Hopefully that gets fixed during the bye week.

VaJay 9 years, 2 months ago

I was really pleased to see us do some play-action pass plays - they tended to work pretty well & bought Heaps some time.

I also don't think I have ever seen a better performance from a punter/kickoff specialist before! He gets the MVP award in my book - we are not getting a chance to kick a winning field goal without Perdula blasting punts 20 yards further than the LA Tech punter each time.

Along with our O-Line's difficulties, our receivers missed blocks too that would've allowed our running backs to get into the secondary. Lots of work to do in the next couple of weeks.

Pbbut 9 years, 2 months ago

The ability to create space appears to be the biggest problem. Is it just my perception, or are our RBs having to bounce just about everything outside? And when they do bounce, there appear to be no cutback lanes, they end up flowing to the sideline.
In the past, Sims, Miller, Cox and even Tony ran the ball inside successfully. Those opportunities have seemed scarce through the first three games.

leonard 9 years, 2 months ago

"KU’s offense has invoked different reactions at different times, but largely seems to be struggling to find a rhythm and perhaps an identity." -- Matt Tait

Amen. Poor OL play and more importantly...Charlie's offensive scheme and play calling. For whatever reason, Charlie is the one that is not showing much improvement.

Defensively we're better on the DL, at LB and in the secondary. Offensively we're improved at QB, RB and WR. Kicking game is oughta site.

Overall, I'm pleased with the progress...but...c'mon Charlie, you've got to do a better job with the offense.

Robert Brock 9 years, 2 months ago

Our defensive backs and safeties will be tested against Texas Tech. Big time.

Kyle Coffey 9 years, 2 months ago

The matchup I'm looking forward to is a possible Sendish vs Amaro. Amaro is a very good and big slot guy and Sendish has good cover skills.

Texas Tech has been struggling a bit with their QB's. Both games they have benched the starting QB, granted once was because of a banged up ankle, but on Saturday he was replaced for being ineffective. Something like 10-24 and a pick before being benched.

One of the biggest reasons why KU won, besides the timely fumbles by LaTech, was that we started to play the safeties up to stop those little 5 yard outs and dared Tech to throw deep against Shepherd and McDonald. They seemed to make that adjustment midway through the 3rd quarter and the corners pressed a little more.

This team is more set up for a pass-happy team as they have good pass rushers and some good cover guys and some LB's that like to run. This bodes well for the defense in nearly every conference game.

kellerman411 9 years, 2 months ago

Couldn't agree more. As I stated above, this is not a defense that will give up 50 points per game. They'll let you move the ball but you're going to have to put together a 10 play drive if you want to score.

Triceec 9 years, 2 months ago

Rock chalk jayhawks . It's gonna happen🏈

Lance Cheney 9 years, 2 months ago

Okay I couldn't even read the article because I I couldn't get past the caption for the picture. "Charlie WEISS...???" Really LJW? It's bad enough we got posters on here that don't know how to spell our coach's name, but I think at the very minimum the sports department for the newspaper should be able to spell it right. It just adds to the KU sterotype that we don't take football seriously. I don't think you'll see any articles in the Manhattan Mercury about "Coach Bill Schneider," and I doubt anybody in Tuscaloosa is writing about "Coach Sabun." It's just been a pet peeve of mine for a while, and it rubbed me wrong today. I'm sorry if I offended anyone. I'll get off of my soap box now.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 2 months ago

You're absolutely right. I can't stand it when posters don't spell Weis right, but for the paper to get it wrong is ridiculous. I wonder if they ever show pictures of Coach Celf?

Matt Tait 9 years, 2 months ago

It's fixed now. Thanks for pointing it out. And, just to be clear, photographers are not writers, so nobody writing about Coach Weis got it wrong. Still shouldn't happen.

MichealJayHox 9 years, 2 months ago

No, it shouldn't happen. But people also shouldn't get so bent out of shape for simple typos. Not a single person posting on this board is perfect at his/her job.

Relax, people.

Lance Cheney 9 years, 2 months ago

Sorry for the outburst. I didn't figure it was you that made the typo, but thanks for fixing it. I still love you, Matt!

texashawk10 9 years, 2 months ago

And I couldn't read the rest of your post after your typo in the first sentence.

Lance Cheney 9 years, 2 months ago

That wasn't a typo. I was stuttering... (I hate being wrong.)

Andy Godwin 9 years, 2 months ago

The biggest concern was the KU lines got beat up. We had players limping off the field throughout the game. LA Tech's defensive line appeared much stronger than KU's offensive libe. LA Tech's offensive line also looked to be able to open holes against the Jayhawks, but it was hard to tell which line was dominent since their QB threw most of his passes using short drops. Work in progress is unfortunately true and now the opposing offenses get that much better.

Mick Allen 9 years, 2 months ago

La Tech's 350 lb. nose tackle was a load. Supposedly La Tech has 2 defensive linemen that have attracted NFL attention.

AZJHWK 9 years, 2 months ago

The win was great, but looking at our first 3 opponents I think it will be great if we get 1 or2 more wines. LA Tech lost to Tulane who was crushed by Syracuse, Rice got thumped by Houston, and SD was beaten by Northern AZ U. NAU is pretty good for their level, but they lost 35-0 to the U of AZ. Charlie is ether not a good judge of talent or fairly dishonest in his representations about the talent on this team. The other poster's comments about the play calling, and o-line are on the money. Remember Charlie was a genius in the NFL when he had a couple of Pro Bowlers calling the signals. How has he done since? OK in KC (with a good defense). not so much at ND when he was in charge. We will see if he is head coaching material or belongs at coordinator where someone else is picking the talent.

kureader 9 years, 2 months ago

Is McCay hurt? I thought Weis made significant improvements this week with his play selection. Last week, there was discussion about why Pierson, the most dangerous player we have in the open field, had only 5 touches against Rice. This week, he had at least 14 touches ... 5 runs and 9 passes ... a step in the right direction for sure. Additionally, Bourbon had 7 catches ... up from practically nothing the first two games. Weis also made adjustments on the type of patterns he ran. More than half of Heaps passes were 15 yards or less. So, Weis is throwing shorter passes to different receivers. But, as mentioned previously, our ineffective pass blocking is really affecting our ability to throw the football, especially on the left side. This is hard to fix. With 3 games under out belt, our coaches have enough information to make some changes during the next few weeks. I was just pleased with the changes this week. I'm not yet ready to concede the Big 12 conference games.

HighQ 9 years, 2 months ago

A win is a win.

If we want another one,

Get the trenches fixed.

MichealJayHox 9 years, 2 months ago

From the department of redundancy department, we were lucky to get this win. The LaTech QB handed us that game on a silver platter when he flipped the ball out of the endzone for a touchback. Then we still needed another takeaway and a long FG as time expired to get the win. I'm grateful that we won, but if we don't get a lot better as the season progresses, methinks we've seen the last W of the 2013 season.

texashawk10 9 years, 2 months ago

It absolutely was an ugly game, but at the same time it was awesome to finally see a last minute drive go KU's way. Obviously there are no guarantees going forward other than KU will finish with a better record this year than last year, but Saturday's win very well could be the type of win KU needed to get their confidence boosted to win some more close games. We'll have to wait and see what happens, but don't be surprise now that the monkey is off the back to see KU win another close game or two this year.

Robert Brown 9 years, 2 months ago

I am not sure why all the praise for the defense. La Tech gained over 400 yards on us and at the end of the game drove the ball 90 yards down the field on us pretty much with ease. There was a holding penalty that prolonged the drive, but that was a pretty methodical drive.

This game looked very similar to the Rice game, where Rice in the 4th quarter was able to run at will and score a late TD.

We haven't played 'big boy' football yet. Fortunately, the Big 12 is not as big as it was last year, while could bode well for us. ISU, WV and maybe KSU on paper are beatable buy in order to do that we need much better offensive efficiency.

The one thing I thought we would see under Weis would be a creative offense that could get into shoot-outs with opponents with more talent. He has some talented runners and has had (on paper) good QBs. We lose 52-28, but the game was entertaining. Good offensive coaches are able to figure that out, but this is the third consecutive year where Weis's offenses have underperformed. He was OC at Florida the year before we came to KU and Florida's offensive statistics were almost as bad as KU's that year. There are 7-8 other coaches in the Big 12 who are better offensive coaches than Weis at least for the college game.

AZJHAWK94 9 years, 2 months ago

I have scanned articles and apologize if this has already been addressed, but I saw Justin McCay suited up on the sideline but didn't see him in at all and he's not on the stat sheet. He and Heaps have "chemistry" and he's such a threat, can anyone tell me why he wasn't in on Saturday? Dog house? I know Parmalee had the appy. Thx!

Lance Cheney 9 years, 2 months ago

He was the one that made that big time hit on a kickoff. He leveled the LA Tech ball carrier. But I'm not sure about him playing on offense. I just noticed him on that one special teams play.

kay_you 9 years, 2 months ago

The best thing to come out of week 3 is we found a way to win. And that is something that eluded us all of last season.

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