Archive for Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The 2006 Woody Awards: Early returns

No bowl means no awards delay

December 12, 2006

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2006 Woody Awards

Ryan Wood's 2006 Woody Awards Enlarge video

Behold the annual postseason awards for Kansas University's football team.

This year's honors are passed out a little earlier, because KU's season ended a little earlier. A 6-6 record wasn't enough to earn a bowl bid, so the Jayhawks are instead left accepting trophies that don't exist from the Journal-World.

There were highs and lows for KU in 2006, and they're all covered here. Get your acceptance speeches ready, Jayhawks:

OFFENSIVE MVP

Jon Cornish, running back - Is there a more obvious answer than this? Cornish was the heart of KU's offense, showing strength and acceleration in running for a school-record 1,457 yards. He always ran hard, always fell forward and always gave Kansas a spark on offense. He long will be remembered among KU football fans, and will be really, really hard to replace next season.

Honorable mention

David Ochoa, center - Leader of an offensive line that collectively had a solid season, particularly in assisting Cornish and the run game.

DEFENSIVE MVP

Aqib Talib, cornerback - A gifted athlete with the instincts, talent and attitude to get paid good coin for playing cornerback the next decade or so. Talib had six interceptions and 22 pass break-ups in 10 games. KU's pass defense was bad, but imagine how bad it would've been without the Big 12's best defensive back.

Honorable mention

James McClinton, defensive tackle - The best cog of KU's pass rush by far. Playing in the interior, McClinton still had 51 tackles - 16 for a loss.

SPECIAL-TEAMS MVP

Brandon McAnderson - A full-time fullback, McAnderson had 11 tackles on special teams, mostly on kickoff coverage. He seemed to be the first one downfield, the first to slip through any sort of wedge and the first to knock down a return specialist inside the 20 - and never gently. He was the special teams' unsung warrior.

Honorable mention

Jonathan Lamb - Sure-handed punt-return specialist. Despite lacking breakaway speed, still averaged 11 yards per return.

RUN OF THE YEAR

Todd Reesing's 63-yard scramble vs. Colorado - It's still amazing how the play opened up for Reesing. After the backup quarterback was flushed out of the pocket, he scrambled past the line of scrimmage for what looked primed to be a six- or seven-yard gain. But with the right cuts, timely blocks and just enough speed, he kept going : and going : and going. When Reesing's legs finally gave out, he had a 63-yard gain and almost scored a stunning touchdown.

Honorable mention

Jon Cornish's 42-yard run against Missouri - Shot up the left sideline, knocked over a Mizzou player and fell into the end zone.

Wayne Wilder's 34-yard fumble return vs. Kansas State - Because it's fun to see 290-pound defensive tackles rumble with the rock.

PASS OF THE YEAR

Kerry Meier's 13-yard touchdown pass to Dexton Fields vs. Baylor - With Baylor up, 17-14, Kansas faced a must-score on third down from the Baylor 13. Meier dropped back and lobbed a pass toward the back right pylon. It was perfect, slipping just over Fields' left shoulder pad and right into the sophomore's hands. Meier had some troubles with his touch this season, but that throw was as good as it gets.

Honorable mention

Adam Barmann's 46-yard strike to Brian Murph vs. Nebraska - A deep ball that was right on the money and set up KU's go-ahead score.

Todd Reesing's 31-yard completion to Jeff Foster vs. Colorado - Flushed from the pocket, Reesing threw across his body and connected for a clutch fourth-quarter completion.

CATCH OF THE YEAR

Derek Fine 29-yard touchdown catch vs. Iowa State - With Kansas up, 6-3, near the end of the first quarter, Reesing was flushed out of the pocket and noticed Fine downfield. Reesing motioned with his left hand for Fine to get open, then threw an off-balance jump ball toward the right side of the end zone. Fine and ISU's Jason Harris both got hands on it, but Fine wrestled it away for an acrobatic - and impressive - touchdown as he fell to the turf.

Honorable mention

Jonathan Lamb 43-yard reception vs. Iowa State - Lamb lost it in the sun until the last second, but made an incredible catch while rolling on the grass.

Marcus Herford 33-yard touchdown catch vs. Oklahoma State - Herford caught it in stride by his fingertips on a pinpoint pass from Kerry Meier.

HIT OF THE YEAR

Jon Cornish knocks over South Florida player at goal line. Just what you want to see a physical running back do. As Cornish got the option pitch and raced to the end zone, one man was in his way - South Florida's Mike Jenkins. Cornish dropped a shoulder and knocked Jenkins on his tail as he crossed the goal line standing up, then appeared to give Jenkins a little glare before celebrating with teammates. As Rube Baker said in Major League II, "You're standing on the tracks and the train's coming through :"

Honorable mention

Baylor camera platform drilling Brian Murph - An overthrown pass by Marcus Herford led Murph full-speed into a bulky camera platform behind the end zone. It looked painful. He would be OK, so it's OK to find it extremely funny now.

Jeff Wheeler sacks Baylor's Shawn Bell - One play after getting a 15-yard penalty, Wheeler takes Bell down for a loss of 16.

FEEL-GOOD MOMENT OF THE YEAR

Kansas 39, Kansas State 20 - The rivalry win is one thing, but the way Kansas did it showed a glimpse of a team that could be so much better than it was in 2006. Kansas forced six turnovers and thrived with Cornish's 201 rushing yards. Certainly KU's best effort of the season, and the opponent only made it sweeter.

Honorable mention

Jon Cornish breaking school rushing record - And he did it with 250 carries, 23 less than Tony Sands in 1991.

Bob Whitaker - Playing on two horrible knees, KU's left guard earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors despite the ceaseless pain that made it tough to watch him walk.

FEEL-NOT-SO-GOOD MOMENT OF THE YEAR

Baylor 36, Kansas 35 - This would be choice one, two and three. Kansas had a 35-17 lead with 9:22 left, then watched it disappear through poor pass defense, a dropped touchdown pass and just an all-out inability to put the foot on the throat. One of the lowest lows of the Mark Mangino era.

Honorable mention

Eric Washington's head injury vs. Nebraska - Ended a promising season in scary fashion; good thing he'll be OK.

Overtime woes vs. Toledo - A muffed handoff gave away a sure victory in the first overtime; a devastating interception sealed a sure loss in the second OT.

INTERCEPTION OF THE YEAR

Anthony Webb's 42-yard interception return for a touchdown vs. Kansas State - Signified the flair and occasional fireworks of KU's "baalllin!" cornerbacks of 2006. KSU freshman Leon Patton tipped an overthrown screen pass in the air, and Webb caught it midstride and raced toward paydirt untouched. He did a Reggie Bush dive into the end zone and got a flag for celebrating. One of the season's most electrifying plays.

Honorable mention

Justin Thornton's pick against South Florida in the end zone - The last play of the USF game. If he didn't catch it, the Bulls receiver might have. That would have been a disaster.

Aqib Talib returns pick 59 yards against Colorado - The turning point of a game Kansas HAD to win.

QUOTES OF THE YEAR

¢ "He impressed me. He looked about as good as me out there." - Straight-faced Aqib Talib on Anthony Webb, Sept. 23.

¢ "That only makes me want to destroy them more." - Jon Cornish on Kansas State fans who harassed him on the Internet, Nov. 18.

¢ "He gets them short little dumpy legs going pretty fast, you know?" - Derek Fine on 5-foot-10 quarterback Todd Reesing's 63-yard scramble, Oct. 28.

¢ "He's pretty spookable himself, man." - James McClinton, asked how to "spook" 6-foot-6, 235-pound K-State quarterback Josh Freeman, Nov. 14.

¢ "I don't need to break any rules." - Mark Mangino on his program's NCAA violations, Oct. 12.

FIVE THOUGHTS ON 2006

¢ It was frustrating as heck for KU's ever-growing fan base. Of the six losses, just one was a four-quarter whooping - the season finale at Missouri. Kansas had second-half leads in the other five, and watching each crumble in a unique way may have been enough to make some give up on fandom forever.

¢ Injuries shouldn't be an excuse, but all the setbacks are impossible to ignore. Rodney Harris was lost in the spring, Angus Quigley in the preseason and Eric Washington in game five. In addition, James Holt, Darrell Stuckey, Brandon Duncan and Kerry Meier missed a significant chunk of the season. That's a lot of valuable players.

¢ Apparently, more bowl games are needed to take care of all the mediocre teams left in the cold.

Just kidding.

¢ The Border War game with Missouri was moved to Thanksgiving weekend for television exposure, and was then shown to 8 percent of the country, with the other 92 percent getting Florida-Florida State.

Among the states to not get the game was most of Texas, where Big 12 Conference headquarters are located and where Kansas recruits heavily. Now, why was that game moved again?

¢ Red is too common across the Big 12, but playing more games with the alternate red jerseys has to be considered. Kansas has yet to lose when it wears them, including a 2-0 mark this season.

FIVE THOUGHTS ON 2007

¢ Who will replace Jon Cornish? It appears Jake Sharp and Angus Quigley - or both - will win the job, but nobody can expect either to fill Cornish's shoes. This is gaping hole numero uno that Kansas must address in the spring.

¢ There's one real nonconference scare on next season's schedule - MAC champion Central Michigan in Lawrence on Sept. 1. Kansas probably will be favored, but the Jayhawks never play great football in the season opener, and CMU is young and talented. Early forecasts call for a good game.

¢ There shouldn't be a quarterback controversy, and the hunch here is that Kerry Meier will have a breakthrough sophomore season in 2007 - if he can stay healthy. If, if, if.

¢ Look for Aqib Talib to have one more sensational season as KU's No. 1 cornerback. After 2007, he might be ready for the NFL.

¢ Should Mark Mangino start feeling heat? He's certainly safe heading into 2007, but it's come to a point where he has to meet the expectations he himself raised to a high level. With eight home games and no Texas or Oklahoma, Kansas shouldn't do any worse than 7-5. If they do, the "fire the coach" mob will come out of the woodwork again.

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