OK, so my game balls aren't traditional. I'm a little too weird for that.
But I think it's appropriate to recognize effort that may otherwise go unnoticed (or in some cases, wrongly scrutinized). So here are my personal heroes from Kansas University's football-season-opening victory Saturday:
¢ Justin Thornton, I feel for ya buddy.
Thornton's most memorable moment Saturday was chalked up as a freshman mistake, but c'mon. Who would get that right?
On a fourth-down play during the first half, Northwestern State punter Marshall Burton booted the ball under heavy pressure. It hit off the end of his toe and went shooting through the line, end-over-end, on the ground. A worm burner. An Angel Berroa double-play ball. A Tom Keegan tee shot on a par 5.
The exact opposite of what a punt is supposed to look like.
Put yourself in Thornton's shoes. What do you do when, in a punting situation, you see a football shoot through the scrum, never leaving the ground? You can't possibly think that was kicked cleanly, can you? It's likely Thornton would have to go back to Pee Wee football to remember a punt that atrocious.
Thornton attempted to pounce on it, probably thinking a teammate already deflected it. The pigskin squirted free from his grasp, and the Demons retained possession.
Once Thornton got to the sideline, three coaches gave him a piece of their minds. I'll be the sympathetic one. If it were me, I would've just stood there in awe. I usually do that when I witness something I'll never see again.
¢ Larry Keating, you earned your keep this year.
Kansas University's associate athletic director, who among other things is in charge of scheduling, soon should have a bronze statue erected outside of Memorial Stadium, simply for his brilliant work in 2006. I'll donate a nickel toward it.
Keating put together the perfect nonconference schedule this year. Flawless. Genius. Lacking a single problem.
Before the Jayhawks begin Big 12 Conference play on Sept. 30, they'll have two cupcakes to get comfortable with (Northwestern State, Louisiana-Monroe), a road test on national television (at Toledo) and a BCS conference matchup at home (South Florida), in order. There's shouldn't be any major surprises Sept. 30 at Nebraska, and with a young defense and young quarterback, that's very good news for KU.
Now Keating needs to take it to the next level. Before the Journal-World catches on and cans me (they still haven't!), Keating must schedule a road game every year at UNLV, and throw in a home-and-home series with Hawaii. I'll double my donation if that's pulled off.
¢ Well done, NCAA. Saturday's game lasted 2:57, right around the attention-span maximum of three hours we Americans are wired for.
Last year's season opener against Florida Atlantic, for example, was 23 minutes longer and had 18 fewer points. KU coach Mark Mangino noticed that the contest flew by, but when it's a 31-point blowout, who really cares how quick the end approaches?