Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tom Keegan: Army’s near upset of Oklahoma a nice blueprint

Army running back Kell Walker (5) avoids a tackle by Oklahoma defensive end Amani Bledsoe (72) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Army running back Kell Walker (5) avoids a tackle by Oklahoma defensive end Amani Bledsoe (72) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)


Look for eight more Big 12 defenses to play Kansas the way Baylor did Saturday in scoring a 26-7 victory vs. the Jayhawks: Put eight men in the box, gang tackle Pooka Williams and trust that KU’s receivers won’t get open deep.

So if the Kansas passing game can’t take the heat off of the lone running back, what remains as a means of making defenses play with more balance?

Maybe it’s not realistic to make such a severe change in midseason, but long term, one option is to embrace the triple option, a la Army, Air Force and Navy, service academies that typically don’t attract huge offensive linemen, the nation’s fastest receivers and quarterbacks with the strongest arms.

Various forms of the triple option have been equalizers for the service academies, so much so Saturday that Army nearly beat Oklahoma, losing Saturday in overtime, 28-21.

If the defense knows the run is coming, then, why is it any different from KU’s situation? Because they don’t know which of four possible runners will have the football. Did the quarterback give the football to the fullback, or did he pull it back and keep it himself? Is he really going to keep it or will he pitch it to one of the two slot backs?

The defense has to account for all of those possibilities, won’t have nearly as many opportunities to gang tackle and had better be ready to be sound with its one-on-one tackles.

Those who shoot down the prospect of a Big 12 team going the way of the service academies typically brush it off with something along the lines of saying it wouldn’t work against athletes from Power Five schools.

Well, if you don’t want to give Army’s near miss against Oklahoma any credence, and you think to much time has passed to make anything of defensive-back-turned-quarterback Nolan Cromwell leading Kansas to a 23-3 upset that ended the Sooners’ winning streak at 28 games in 1975, maybe you should consider that Georgia Tech has done just fine in the ACC with the flexbone under head coach Paul Johnson. Army coach Jeff Monken and Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, by the way, learned the offense working for Johnson before he went to Georgia Tech.

Also, perhaps Kansas State coach Bill Snyder’s thoughts on whether it could work in the Big 12 might carry some weight with doubters.

At Big 12 Media Day, I asked Snyder if he thought the offensive approach used by the military academies could work in the Big 12.

“It could be successful,” Snyder said. “It all depends on how well you do what you do. It doesn’t make any difference what you put out there as long as it’s legal and as long as you do it well. It can suffice in the Big 12 Conference, the Pac 12, the SEC or anyplace else, for that matter. It all boils down to can you do what you do well? How well can you do it?”

Same question can be asked of the Air Raid. How well can Kansas do it? Not very well.

KU hasn’t been able to recruit enough talented offensive tackles, big, fast receivers and gifted quarterbacks in recent years to mount a passing game that defenses have to respect enough not to load the box. Going after the same athletes from the same geographic footprint as schools with better winning traditions is a frustrating, often fruitless method of trying to climb out of the conference cellar.

Snyder, whose team doesn’t typically struggle the way it has this season, never has slipped into the pass-happy, fast-tempo approach favored by most Big 12 schools. In fact, he has made his offense, which always includes designed quarterback runs, a big part of how he defends against the quick-strike offenses throughout the conference.

“That’s part of our process,” Snyder said. “It becomes important for us to be able to take more snaps than your opponent does. In our conference, everybody’s going to go so fast. They’re going to snap the ball every half a second, so to speak, and that in itself, if you can do that, you’re going to get more snaps in a ballgame to utilize your time to that end. But if we’ve got the ball in our hands, then they don’t have the chance to get in as many snaps and that gives them fewer opportunities to get the ball in the end zone.”

In regulation, Army possessed the ball for 44 minutes and 11 seconds, Oklahoma for 15:19 in Saturday’s near upset. The favorite can’t score if the favorite doesn’t have possession of the football.

View KU’s game at Oklahoma on Nov. 17, see how things go and then ask yourself if you still think it’s a ridiculous idea for Kansas to embrace the flexbone.


Dane Pratt 3 years, 10 months ago

Well that would certainly put Peyton out of business.

Bud Moore made it work for two seasons but he had three exceptional athletes in the backfield. Cromwell, Billy Campfield and Laverne Smith. All three played in the NFL.

Steve Corder 3 years, 10 months ago

How reasonable is it to think a triple option offense can be installed in one week?

Dane Pratt 3 years, 10 months ago

Seems unlikely since it took three years to bail on a failing air raid offense.

[''] 3 years, 10 months ago

THIS! PS - Play calling by Meacham Saturday was horrendous! They had a game plan, it failed from the first series and they failed to make adjustments. Mangino's staff were masters at in-game adjustments and management. These clowns can't make adjustments week to week.

David Kemp 3 years, 10 months ago

Clearly Baylor loaded the box to stop pooka and you are right no adjustments made like using a tight end over middle or slant.

Doug Merrill 3 years, 10 months ago

Very interesting point. Keeping the ball might be our best/only defense, as Snyder points out.

Clarence Haynes 3 years, 10 months ago

KU will be mauled with its pocket passing QBs.

Craig Carson 3 years, 10 months ago

Id settle for a pocket QB that can pass and make plays to at least start LOL..then we can figure out how to make him ore mobile LOL

Joey Meyer 3 years, 10 months ago

Well said Tom. I feel like this solution would be such a good fit for us and the long-term outlook of the program.

Brett Hathaway 3 years, 10 months ago

With OSU, WVU a bye then T Tech, I can't imagine what we are going to look like against OU. We are going to get CREAMED...

Brad Avery 3 years, 10 months ago

"Maybe it’s not realistic to make such a severe change in midseason, but long term, one option is to embrace the triple option, a la Army, Air Force and Navy, service academies that typically don’t attract huge offensive linemen, the nation’s fastest receivers and quarterbacks with the strongest arms." Duh! Army, Air Force and Navy all win by finding quarterbacks who can run. In the 70's, the coaching staff took a kid who played safety, Nolan Cromwell, and ran the triple option successfully from the wishbone. KU has better running backs than the service academies. All they need is a mobile quarterback.

Thomas Wagner 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't chime in very often - but this is something I've been interested in years.

  1. Does it make sense to recruit the 35th to 40th best player at their position or the best player at their position. Well that is an obvious answer. KU can't compete with the other elite programs for the best QB, RB, WR, OL, DL, LB, CB etc... so you need to find players that don't fit into a cookie cutter system. Find the players that fit into a system that no one else uses. Example: Why get the 50th best pocket passer when you can get the 5th best running QB. It is really simple economics. Supply and Demand.

  2. Why have a game plan that the rest of the conference has seen from their other 8 conference opponents. Why not have a game plan that they only see 1 time a year. They spend 95% of their practice time working on defending the passing game and spread type of offenses. Example: Why was Nebraska so successful for all those years running the option. Their opponents only saw it once or twice a year during the 70's and 80's. Same as OU.

  3. You are going to hear that High School recruits won't want to come play in a program that doesn't highlight their skill sets. HS kids also don't want to play for a team that doesn't win consistently. HS kids will go play for any program that gives them a chance. Think about all the overlooked HS players that turn out to have a heart as big as the university. Its because they were overlooked, and put in more effort than the other kids. BTW - It works at Georgia Tech and they are in a P5 conference.

Finally - I believe the fan base would accept and be enthusiastic about seeing something different. Being unique and your own individual can be a good thing. Find the coach that can be unique. You don't need to follow the path of others to be successful. But above all else - Find the coaches that have a plan, stick to the plan and know how to coach to the plan.

Randy Bombardier 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't think Tom us advocating this for this staff but the next. Me, too, hence my.hat icon that's been there for a long time now. Not a single comment. So, hint, hint. Maybe a different direction? We've tried about everything else. Still, i am not giving up on this team this year. Yes, surprised we didn't throw more deep balls. Very pedestrian approach to play calling. Appears to me Ku ALWAYS calls plays according to a preconceived notion with little flexibility. I've played sandlot football more productively.

Titus Canby 3 years, 10 months ago

Just some aimless thoughts:

Let's use the Bud Moore approach and put our best athlete at QB for the Keegan Flexbone - Joe Dineen.

Thanks to one good run and some great defense, we outscored Baylor 7-3 in the second half Saturday. Something to give us some hope.

Is there anyone in the Big 12 we have a chance to beat? Maybe OK State?

[''] 3 years, 10 months ago

At this point -- hell yeah. Joe was an offensive beast in HS. Can't hurt.

[''] 3 years, 10 months ago

PS -- ain't noooo waaaayyy we have a chance in hell to beat Okie St.

Al Martin 3 years, 10 months ago

I remember the first two years under Bud Moore. Pretty great. I also remember the next two years...

[''] 3 years, 10 months ago

This past week Rutgers got shelled by a bad Buffalo team - and Central Mich barely beat FBS team Maine. So the wins are looking less impressive every day. Ain't no way we even sniff a Big 12 win the rest of the season. Hire Doeren!

Eric Eakins 3 years, 10 months ago

Hold on a minute.....sigh.....ok, back to reality. The offense showed no creativity, adjustments or stealthiness. What it looked like was predictable, telegraphing plays and stubborn. I get running Pooka up the middle the first time to test the waters even though every person involved was keying on him. To do it two times in a row with disastrous results and almost having his leg broken over backwards is indefensible. That was Turner Gill stuff there. Two runs up the middle for losses and safe five yard pass then punt. Defense did enough although I think Baylor could've done more if they wanted to but went into save it for next week mode. My expectation for coach to save his job was a 4-0 start and competitive football. He's failed at both. Interested to see where Long draws the line.

Larry McGlinn 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't think the administrators have the vision. They are going to think we need a "Big 12" offense, and they will go with a more traditional coach to replace Beaty, and it will be more disaster. Just in case, though, the name is Jeff Monken M-o-n-k-e-n, West Point, NY for a system that could make us competitive. If we ever improved enough to start attracting more talent I think he knows how to draw up passes, too.

Randy Bombardier 3 years, 10 months ago

I've thought quite a lot about Tom's suggestion Pooka be the QB in such a system and the more I think about it the more I like it. In fact it's very exciting. Wouldn't hurt our recruiting down in the Bayou either making him the star of the show. Darn good idea, Tom. He just needs a crease.

Michael Hansen 3 years, 10 months ago

Tom, you answered your own question we don't run the air raid very well. What makes you think we would run the flex bone any better with the current coaching staff? The answer is what ever the offensive scheme is used it has to be run well with coaches and players that know how to do it.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 10 months ago

I still think we will have a lot of 3 and outs. We will most likely be down two scores or more in the first quarter this week-end, at which point passing will be necessary to get back in the game. I guess we could play just to keep the score from being too lopsided.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 10 months ago

I agree with your general premise, but I think one of the most overused cliches in sports is the idea that if you're down a couple of scores early you then have to resort to passing. So 45 minutes of game time is not enough to come back from 14 points down unless you almost exclusively pass, even if you're not a passing team? Seriously??? In what universe would that have any prayer of giving us a better chance than if we continued to try to use our strengths?

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Do you have to completely change things by going to the *-bone, triple option?

Could you create plays with 2 RB's (not FB) in the backfield with the QB? It would seem that could create quite a few different options and still stay within some semblance of a system the players had seen before, while also getting extra skill position players in the game.

David Kemp 3 years, 10 months ago

If Kendrick is out you must go with Stanley because he can run. We also need to make more deep middle throws. 5 yard passes accomplish nothing. We must open up the field to keep defenses from crowding us. At one point last game I counted 9 players within 4 yards of line. They know we won’t challenge. We must what have we got to lose at this point?

Thomas Wagner 3 years, 10 months ago

I'm not advocating for this year, but the next hire.

If college football is big business, and it is, then the approach to recruiting needs to use the same principals. It really is scouting/recruiting to a system and supply and demand.

If everyone wants the same item, the price goes up. 4 and 5 star recruits But if you take a 3 star with some flaws that fit your system, then you are doing it right. Think about both the QB and OL positions.

QB - Everyone wants an Elite 11 kid who can scan the field and throw the deep ball to fit into the high power spread offenses. Why not take some of the 3 star QB's in HS that don't have a great arm, but are smart and run really well. As I said earlier - isn't it better to have a top 5 running QB vs a 40-50th rank throwing QB.

Same with the OL -- Everyone wants a kid that is 6'4" 310-320 lbs. There just aren't a lot of them out there. Why not take the kid that is 6'0" 275 lbs that has great technique and speed and use him in the run game instead of pass blocking.

Maybe this is too simplistic of a concept, but something radically different needs to happen with the next hire.

PS - I've not given up on this year because of the kids, not the coaching staff..

Brad Watson 3 years, 10 months ago

I love the WISHBONE! No one ran it better than Okl;ahoma ...and to think Army went down to Norman and almost beat them using it....I think the Sooner fans enjoyed seeing it work and my guess is Switzer was loving it....I think we should give it a try...why Wishbone Smash might just be the formula...Thanks Tom...good article.

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