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The Day After: A wobbly night at West Virginia

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A deep pass to Kansas receiver Justin McCay goes long as he is trailed by West Virginia cornerback Ishmael Banks during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

A deep pass to Kansas receiver Justin McCay goes long as he is trailed by West Virginia cornerback Ishmael Banks during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

The last time KU played at West Virginia, the Jayhawks were drubbed 59-10 and limped off the field with no life and no fire. Not Saturday night.

Sure that team had Geno Smith and Tavo Austin and several other big-time WVU players, but it's not like this team isn't any good. They hung with Alabama and Oklahoma and, at least for a half, the Jayhawks hung with them.

The first half was a total nightmare, as sophomore starter Montell Cozart continued to struggle and KU's offense had absolutely no rhythm. They're not going to have a chance if that continues, Clint Bowen or no Clint Bowen. In the second half, Bowen made the switch to Michael Cummings and things improved a little on offense, but the defense's effort in the second half was flat-out terrific. The only WVU points came on a kickoff return and it wasn't like the Mountaineers had trotted out their second- and third-string guys. Quarterbakc Clint Trickett played most of the way and KU stymied him and the WVU passing attack in the second half.

It didn't do much in the way of helping put the Jayhawks in position to win, but it was one of a handful of small steps that they may be able build upon and helped make the final score a more respectable 33-14 margin.

Kansas backup quarterback Michael Cummings throws to a target against West Virginia during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Kansas backup quarterback Michael Cummings throws to a target against West Virginia during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

Quick takeaway:

While critical analysis will show that this game taught us several things about this team, the only one that's important is what it revealed about the quarterback. I like Montell Cozart a lot. He's an impressive young man, a good athlete and he carries himself well and with a positive vibe. But he's not yet ready to play quarterback in the Big 12 and Michael Cummings is. Neither player is a set-the-world-on-fire type of QB, but Cummings looks to be in way better control out there, sees the field better, knows where to go with the ball and has done it enough to refuse to get rattled. His skill set is still lacking, but I think if you build it around what he can do, the KU offense could definitely take a step forward with Cummings under center.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – I don't care who you are or what you like about football, you have to agree that watching JaCorey Shepherd play and compete is an absolute joy. Shepherd played one of his best games to date against the Mountaineers, breaking up two passes in the end zone and three total. He was right with his receiver all afternoon and played the kind of tough, physical football that teammates would like to emulate and follow. The game means something to Shepherd. Representing KU means something to Shepherd. He's far from the only one on the team about which that can be said, but, with seven guaranteed games remaining in his career, it's clear that Shepherd is taking seriously his opportunity to help set the foundation for the new future of Kansas football.

Kansas receiver Nick Harwell looks to escape West Virginia safety KJ Dillon during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Kansas receiver Nick Harwell looks to escape West Virginia safety KJ Dillon during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. by Nick Krug

2 – Nick Harwell has had enough. Not only did the senior receiver put together a heck of an individual effort to take a meaningless punt to the house late in the game — Harwell credited his blocking for making it possible — but he also showed exactly the kind of fire and passion the Jayhawks need from one of their leaders and best players. Late in the game, after a nice completion from Michael Cummings to Ben Johnson for a big gain, KU's Justin McCay was flagged with a personal foul penalty that completely wiped out the play and forced the Jayhawks into a punt. Without showing anyone up or throwing a fit, Harwell made it clear with his body language that such breakdowns were not acceptable. Asked about it after the game, Harwell said: “We never want to hurt ourselves, but we especially don't want to hurt ourselves after we just made a big play. It was kind of a bummer for that drive.”

3 — The “AM” stickers worn on the backs of the KU helmets in honor of Andre Maloney would make anyone smile. Maloney, who passed away one year ago to the day after collapsing on the field during a high school game his senior season at Shawnee Mission West, touched a lot of people in his short time as a Jayhawk and, as interim coach Clint Bowen last night and former KU coach Charlie Weis throughout the past year both pointed out, the talented and extremely likable Maloney will remain a part of the KU football family forever.

On the back of the Jayhawks' helmets are the initials AM to represent Andre Maloney, a Kansas recruit from Shawnee Mission West High School who died after suffering a stroke on the field on Oct. 4, 2013.

On the back of the Jayhawks' helmets are the initials AM to represent Andre Maloney, a Kansas recruit from Shawnee Mission West High School who died after suffering a stroke on the field on Oct. 4, 2013. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – It continues to be frightening to see how easily Tony Pierson can be taken out of games. The senior receiver is one of the Jayhawks' most dangerous weapons and, at the moment, they just can't get him unleashed. They try to throw his way but he's usually tightly covered. When they hand him the ball, he often runs into a wall of defenders and has to dance around just to get back to the line of scrimmage. Short of upgrading the offensive line and the quarterback, it's hard to find a solution that ends with getting Tony more touches. But even if they have to force-feed him the rock, he's got to get more involved. That shovel pass they threw to tight end Jimmay Mundine would have been one way. And there have to be countless others.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart takes a helmet-to-helmet hit from West Virginia safety Karl Joseph while releasing a pass during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. Also pictured are KU offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi and WVU defensive lineman Eric Kinsey.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart takes a helmet-to-helmet hit from West Virginia safety Karl Joseph while releasing a pass during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. Also pictured are KU offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi and WVU defensive lineman Eric Kinsey. by Nick Krug

2 – The offense, in general, is really becoming a headache. It lacks flow, rhythm, creativity and imagination and just is not putting KU in positive positions. The offensive line is definitely the biggest culprit and maybe getting right tackle Damon Martin back will help with that. But too often, even when KU does get the ball to its playmakers, the blocking is either not there or doesn't hold up to create something positive in an attacking manner. What's more, senior punter Trevor Pardula set a stadium record with 14 punts and set a KU record for net punting yardage with 621. That's never what you want to hear no matter how talented your punter is.

3 – Junior running back De'Andre Mann left the game after just one carry with an apparent injury and did not return. Freshman tailback Corey Avery has gotten off to fantastic start to his career and is a hard-nosed runner, but he can't do it alone and the Jayhawks need Mann back and healthy. Look no farther for proof of that than the on carry Mann had when he was in the game against WVU. His bull-ahead, hard-charging style netted eight yards and his physical presence helps the running game tremendously.

One thought for the road:

KU's 33-14 loss at West Virginia dropped the Jayhawks to 2-3 on the season and 0-2 in Big 12 play. It also...

• dropped KU to 578-592-58 all-time.

• Featured the KU defense, for the third time in four games, not allowing a touchdown on the opponents’ first three possessions. West Virginia had only been held out of the end zone on its opening three drives once over four games this season.

• Was a classic bend-don't-break performance by the KU defense, which looked its best in the second half but still did not record its first three-and-out until 6:56 remained in the third quarter.

Next up:

The Jayhawks return home to face an Oklahoma State (4-1 overall, 2-0 Big 12) squad that saw a first-half scare against Iowa State at home this weekend but then put the Cyclones away in the second half.

Comments

Chris Bailey 8 years, 2 months ago

Matt,

I understand everyone likes Cozart. A lot of people like me too but you wouldn't see anyone wanting me starting a QB at an FBS school. IMO the same goes for Cozart. I keep hearing how great of an athelete he is but we never see it on the field. I honestly cannot see him as our future at QB. Cummings is a much better player overall. He may not have the athletisim but he knows how to play at this level. The Cozart experiment will never play out. Can anyone name a player who only played QB for 2 years prior to college and then became even a decent player? We need to recruit a JUCO for next season period. I'm done watching Cozart he's not a QB. He is a big reason we've lost 3 games. Yes the OLine isn't very good but they're good enough that if Cozart were a decent player we'd score some points. We've scored 3 points against FBS teams with him at the helm. That is flat unacceptable. I get that he's a good kid. But he isn't being given a scholly to be nice. If that were the case we could fill a whole roster with nice guys, likeable guys. And honestly was Heaps or Crist any different? I want a confident kid leading our team. Someone who can back it up on the field. Cozart, well he needs to find a new position. He ain't cutting it!

Aaron Paisley 8 years, 2 months ago

KU has scored 27 points against FBS teams this year, 3 against Big 5 conference teams.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 2 months ago

I thought CMU was an FCS team? And I was talking with COZART at the helm. If CMU is an FBS team fine throw them out they're terrible and then we're at 3 with him playing. Competiion gets better and his production gets worse.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 2 months ago

And yes they're an FBS team. My bad. Still like I said throw them out because they wouldn't win a game in our conference so the point still is there.

Kit Duncan 8 years, 2 months ago

CMU is 3-3 with a win over Purdue which beat Illinois yesterday.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 1 month ago

So does that mean we're good? CMU isn't a good team. I don't care.what their record is.

John Randall 8 years, 1 month ago

KU all-time great, John Hadl, NEVER played QB until late in his sophomore year at KU. In those days, freshmen weren't allowed to play on the varsity team.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 1 month ago

Wait. So you're comparing Hadl to Cozart? Why not throw my name in the hat. I've never played quarterback. So why not let me have a shot. Cozart wouldn't make a pimple on Hadl's backside. Couldn't carry his jock. Or however you'd like to hear it.

John Randall 8 years, 1 month ago

My comment is answering your question …

Can anyone name a player who only played QB for 2 years prior to college and then became even a decent player?

As you point out, JH was a good deal more than "even a decent player" – on some 1961 All-American teams, Bluebonnet Bowl MVP, first round pick of the Chargers, several all-pro years.

Oh, did I mention he became a full time QB as a college junior? There are many players with skills for more than one position, sometimes including QB.

Sorry you're not one of them, Chris. The jury is still out on Cozart, and your pissy comments logged for future reference.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 1 month ago

I doubt Hadl looked like a fish out of water after. Playing spring ball and 4.5 games. My observations tell me Cozart isn't gonna be very good. And without HUGE improvement to next season we need to recruit a JUCO kid that's capable of running the show. We're in trouble going forward especially if we are relying on an IF he gets better scenario at QB. Unless he finds some magic fairy quarterback dust or is granted 3 wishes, one which he could spend on becoming a capable QB, then I'm hitting the panic button. That button includes setting him on the bench and getting a JUCO kid as well as recruiting a good high school QB or two. We CANNOT begin another season with our current group of quarterbacks being our best options. And speaking of options if Cozart runs the option again I'm gonna puke. I've seen middle school kids execute it better.

Brian Skelly 8 years, 2 months ago

Cozart just doesnt react or make quick enough good decisions to keep playing at QB.     Is that because of him or the O-Line or receivers or the coaching?    At this point does it matter?  None of those things are changing this season anyhow.    I am dumb founded how the coaching staff cant put Cozart (or Cummings for that matter) in a better position to succeed.     I dont mean score 50pts per game.   I just mean be remotely close to below average.    We arent even close to that on offense, and havent been.

What's most frustrating is the fact that for going on 6+ seasons now we're the worst Big 5 school,  and there is only a few others that are in the running.    It isnt lack of resources.     Our facilities are above our performance.     Is it UT or OU?  No.   But it doesnt need to be.    And neither does the performance realistically.    I dont know a bunch of alums who expect to be in a top flight bowl year in and year out.

But the "losing support on all levels" comment by Dr. Z was accurate.     And its hard to ask for handouts and more donations when its like that.    That's not just problematic for football,  that hurts the whole athletic department.      At KU,   football even remotely mediocre is enough to get the bills paid.    In its current incarnation,  its far tougher to do that.

Titus Canby 8 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if our QB woes are the curse of Brock Berglund.

Stan Unruh 8 years, 1 month ago

Berglund is not even seeing the field for Northern Colorado...

Robert Brown 8 years, 2 months ago

What is really frustrating about the offense is that there are offense coaches who routinely turnaround an offense. Look at at program like Cal. They hired Sonnt Dykes from La. Tech, someone KU could have hired instead of Weis. He went to Cal last year and they were 1-11. Now, in year 2, they are scoring a lot of points and giving up a lot of points, but probably have a shot of bowl eligibility.

I really thought Weis would move KU down a similar path. I can't believe the offense is this bad.

Lloyd Kinnison 8 years, 1 month ago

The quarterback (Cozart) is extremely slow and appears to have difficulty making decisions. Cummings appears to be more into the game and can make a decision. Why cannot the coaches see this major problem? It is a new game day and a new coach. Let us at least see some changes.

Chris Bailey 8 years, 1 month ago

Well. I think Bowen finally pulled the hook on him. I doubt we see Cozart again. If I were him I'd change positions. He ain't a QB.

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