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Archive for Sunday, September 2, 2001

No-huddle offense should give KU faithful hope

September 2, 2001

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You're a Kansas University graduate living in, oh, say, Richmond, Va., and you check this morning's newspaper to see how the Jayhawks did in their season football opener.

Kansas 24, Southwest Missouri State 10.

Let's face it. That's not a score that will make you feel warm and cuddly about your alma mater. SMS is, after all, a Division I-AA school, and KU supposedly has a new commitment to football.

"We should have treated them like a I-AA school and beat them bad," said senior cornerback Andrew Davison. "In the back of our minds, we should have shut them out."

It's tough to shut a team out when the offense turns the ball over four times, which Kansas did. In fact, if the Bears' field goal kicker hadn't misfired three times and if the Bears hadn't botched a couple of red-zone chances, KU might have suffered a similar indignity as last year's opener against SMU in Dallas.

Still, I saw a lot to like in the new Kansas offense the no-huddle spread designed to maintain the players' focus while putting constant pressure on the defense.

Without doubt, it's going to take more consistency from soph quarterback Zach Dyer, who was making his first career start, and a more talented running back than Daniel Coke, who was filling in for suspended starter Reggie Duncan.

Dyer looks good in a suit. He's athletic, he's fast and he's, well, an average passer. That's why the Jayhawks' offense is designed for short- to medium-range passes. Dyer won't be throwing many bombs this season.

Maybe I'm being too harsh on Coke, also a sophomore. His average of 2.1 yards per rush won't cut it, and he fumbled twice, losing one, but Coke did bust a 61-yard run in the second half that was called back by a holding penalty, so perhaps the jury should remain out.

Dyer displayed rabbit wheels at times, and he threaded some needles while passing. Yes, Dyer also tossed two interceptions, but one bounced right out of the hands of wide receiver Harrison Hill into a SMS defender's mitts. The other theft was a typical rookie mistake. Dyer threw into a crowd.

If you were among the estimated 37,500 fans on hand Saturday, you must have wondered what the heck was going on when the Jayhawks were on offense. Each player trained his eyes on the sideline. Each player, that is, except the linemen, who are informed of the snap count by Dyer.

How is the play transmitted to the players? Assistant coach Clint Bowen is the semaphore man, wig-wagging the signals with a series of hand and arm motions.

Unlike the other coaches who wear red shirts, Bowen wears a white shirt so he'll be easier to spot. Offensive coordinator Rip Scherer calls the play from the press box, Bowen hears it on his headset and then begins his gyrations.

"It seems it would be a lot harder than it really is," Bowen said. "I couldn't even guess the number of formations and plays, but there's simplicity to the madness."

The beauty of the no-huddle is it alleviates panic as the play clock ticks down and reduces the chances of burning a time out to prevent a delay of game penalty. Still, you'd think there would be confusion about the snap count. On Saturday, however, the Jayhawks were called for just one illegal procedure penalty.

I like the new offense. I think once the Jayhawks mainly Dyer become more comfortable with it, that KU grad in Richmond, Va., and others around the country will fly a Kansas University flag proudly on game days.

In reality, given the Jayhawks' brutal schedule, it's probably too much to expect a winning season. At the same time, though, you can't help but feel something unexpected is going to happen at Memorial Stadium this season.

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