The following is a list of “explosive” plays of 20 or more yards turned in by the KU offense this season.
- Tim Biere 25-yard catch vs. NDSU; 25-yard catch vs. USM.
- Daymond Patterson: 32-yard TD catch vs. GT; 21-yard catch vs. NDSU.
- Bradley McDougald: 32-yard catch vs. NDSU.
- Angus Quigley: 20-yard catch vs. NDSU.
- Johnathan Wilson: 41-yard TD catch vs. USM.
- James Sims: 21-yard run vs. GT; 26-yard run vs. USM.
- Daymond Patterson: 51-yard run vs. NDSU.
There’s a section in the Kansas University football weekly notes that is dedicated entirely to “explosives.”
These plays, defined as any pass reception or run of 20 yards or more, are charted game-by-game for the Jayhawks and their opponents, but the small, 10-point black font on one of last pages in the notes packet does not do justice to their importance for the KU offense.
“Explosive plays are real critical to any team’s game plan because the more plays you run when you’re out there on offense, the more chances you have of making mistakes and the other team doing something to get the ball away from you,” KU junior Daymond Patterson said. “When you can create those 40-, 50-, 60-yard plays, you’re on and off the field and you’re putting up points.”
Through three games, the Jayhawks have recorded 10 explosive plays, seven in the passing game and three on the ground.
While those numbers compare favorably to their opponents’ — KU’s foes have just six explosive plays this season — many within the Jayhawks’ offense say they’d like to see the number increase dramatically.
“That’s the missing element right now,” KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. “We’re working toward getting the ball down the field. That’s something I have to call more of, and it’s something we have to execute when we do it.”
Patterson leads the Jayhawks in explosive plays with three. In the opener against North Dakota State, Patterson ran 51 yards on a reverse. A week later, against Georgia Tech, his 32-yard TD catch proved to be the game-winner — as well as an ESPN SportsCenter top play — and he also has a 21-yard catch among his 16 grabs and 166 yards this season. Despite the starring role, Patterson said he, too, would like to deliver more big plays.
“It’s no pressure on me,” he said. “I feel like every game I should go out there and help the team the best I can, try to get some big plays to get the team going. It’s not something where they just say, ‘Hey, Daymond, this game we need you to make a big play.’ I put it more on myself, and every time I get the ball I’m trying to make something happen.”
That’s exactly what first-year KU coach Turner Gill tries to emphasize to his team on a daily basis. Whether it’s through specially-designed drills on the practice field or in front of the big screen in the film room, Gill stresses the importance of focusing
“There’s always going to be anywhere from two to four plays that can define a football game,” Gill said. “It doesn’t mean you’re always going to win or lose a game, but it usually takes the game in one direction or the other and you gotta be able to overcome that momentum. That’s the way the game of football is.”
Gill continued: “We gotta make sure to tell every player that every play is important. You don’t know which one of these plays is going to be that big play.”
Never was that more true for the Jayhawks than during last Friday’s 31-16 loss at Southern Miss. With just under four minutes to play in the half, the Jayhawks trailed, 7-3, and the Golden Eagles were in a first-and-10 situation near midfield. In a flash, after the Jayhawks missed an assignment and then took a bad angle to the ball, USM’s Desmond Johnson raced 49 yards for a TD that made it 14-3. Moments later, Southern Miss tallied a game-changing blocked punt and took a 21-3 lead into halftime.
Though the Jayhawks lament the big plays they’ve given up, many of them tend to believe that delivering more explosives on offense would render their opponents’ big plays less problematic.
“Sometimes you’re gonna have to grind it out, those 15-play drives,” Patterson said. “But when you’re on and off the field, that one- or two-play drive, it tires their defense down, and it’s really discouraging when another team makes that big play on you.”
Sophomore receiver Bradley McDougald, who is responsible for one explosive play this season — a 32-yard grab vs. NDSU — and in a position to make more, said he believes the Jayhawks are on the brink of lighting the fuse on more explosives. He also said getting a few more big plays would do wonders for the team’s overall confidence.
“It’s definitely a big part,” said McDougald, asked how critical big plays were to the KU offense. “When you’ve got a guy streaking down the middle of the field but you end up taking a sack, that’s gonna hurt any kind of offense no matter what play you’re calling, no matter who you got running the routes or who’s throwing the ball.
“I feel like we’re a play here and a play there from being a great offense.”
So, too, does Long, who has the responsibility of dialing up the right calls to cash in on the talent around him.
Gill said Tuesday it was important for people to remember that the KU coaches have called for more plays down the field than people have seen. Protection breakdowns — from the offensive line blocking to the running backs picking up blitzes and the quarterback making the right reads — have turned those plays into sacks, scrambles or hurried incompletions. And mental mistakes in all areas of the field also have gotten in the way.
“There were a couple times in the (USM) game when it just felt like we were on that hump,” McDougald said. “We came out after halftime and had the quick score, but then we came back and had a couple of sacks and a couple of mental errors, and that just messed up the whole drive.”
Added senior offensive lineman Brad Thorson: “To see those passes that were open down the field and to know that we could’ve hit Southern Miss big-time down the field a couple times is tough. It’s individual breakdowns across the (offensive line), and we need to be able to get all five guys operating on the same page.
“We’ve got the players, and we’ve got the schemes. As a team, we see big plays on each one of our drives that stalled that definitely could’ve changed the momentum of the game and been a whole different story.”