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Posts tagged with Football

Football pop quiz on the road to Waco

Matt Tait is behind the wheel, talking non-stop, on the road from Dallas to Waco.

Jesse Newell is behind him, buried in his computer, trying to find out Baylor’s average gain on third-down plays into the wind in games that kick off at 2:30.

Nick Krug has his camera at the ready in case an opportunity to turn a fallen road-side deer into art presents itself.

Time for a quiz to test your trivial knowledge of America’s most interesting 1-7 football team.

  1. The roster with which KU started the season had 35 players from Texas and 24 from Kansas. What state ranked third with six natives?
    a.) California
    b.) Missouri
    c.) Ohio
    d.) Oklahoma

  2. He has been an assistant at Kansas for Glen Mason, Turner Gill and Charlie Weis.
    a.) Clint Bowen
    b.) Rob Ianello
    c.) Reggie Mitchell
    d.) Buddy Wyatt

  3. He was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for three seasons.
    a.) Dave Campo
    b.) DeMontie Cross
    c.) Tim Grunhard
    d.) Charlie Weis

  4. Started camp wearing No. 89 as a wide receiver and now plays cornerback and wears 25.
    a.) Brandon Bourbon
    b.) Ray Mitchell
    c.) Chris Omige
    d.) JaCorey Shepherd

  5. KU’s losing streak in games played outside of Lawrence.
    a.) 10
    b.) 12
    c.) 14
    d.) 19

  6. He was head coach at Franklin Township High in New Jersey when it won a state championship in 1989.
    a.) Dave Campo
    b.) Rob Ianello
    c.) Reggie Mitchell
    d.) Charlie Weis

  7. Had a team-high four interceptions for the 2005 Kansas team that won the Fort Worth Bowl.
    a.) Theo Baines
    b.) Randy Fowler
    c.) Charles Gordon
    d.) Aqib Talib

  8. Four Jayhawks average at least 15.0 yards per reception. Which player is not one of them?
    a.) Chris Omigie
    b.) Daymond Patterson
    c.) Kale Pick
    d.) James Sims
    e.) Andrew Turzilli

  9. Born in Luanda, Angola.
    a.) Keba Agostinho
    b.) Tunde Bakare
    c.) Pat Lewandowski
    d.) Aslam Sterling

  10. My twitter account.
    a.) @CoachWeisKansas
    b.) @GaryBedore
    c.) @JesseNewell
    d.) @mctait
    e.) @TomKeeganLJW
    f.) @NickKrug

Answer key: 1. a; 2. c; 3.a; 4. d; 5. d; 6. d; 7. a; 8. b; 9. a; 10. e.

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Kansas football coach Charlie Weis deserves a share of the credit for Notre Dame revival under Brian Kelly

Third-year Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has his team undefeated, ranked third in the nation and in contention for a national title.

First-year Kansas coach Charlie Weis, fired by Notre Dame five years into a 10-year contract, can’t be left out of the conversation entirely when discussing the revival of Fighting Irish football. Weis left Kelly with strong talent to develop.

Eight of the 11 starters on offense were recruited to Notre Dame by Weis: Linemen Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Zack Martin and Chris Watt; tight end Tyler Eifert; wide receivers John Goodman and Robby Toma; running back Theo Riddick.

Eifert leads the Irish in receiving yards (341) and touchdowns (three) and Riddick leads the team in rushing yards and is tied for the team lead with four rushing touchdowns. Senior Cierre Wood, another Weis recruit, ranks second with 467 rushing yards and averages 6.5 yards per carry.

On defense, in addition to high-character Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o, an inside linebacker, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, outside linebacker Dan Fox and safety Zeke Motta are Weis recruits.

Weis has some lingering bitterness about getting fired by his alma mater, but that doesn’t mean he’s wishing ill on the Fighting Irish. I asked him at a press conference earlier this month whether he was happy for his recruits.

“I’ll always root for anyone who I ever recruited,” Weis said. “I’ll never, ever root against them, you know, so I find enjoyment in their success.”

Weis won’t have the rich ND football tradition to dangle when he recruits for Kansas, but the ability to judge talent is such an underrated aspect of recruiting.

As well as the Irish offensive line has performed this season, that suggests Weis knows how to evaluate the position. With fifth-year seniors Trevor Marongelli, Duane Zlatnik and Tanner Hawkinson anchoring this season’s line, Weis needs to score big at the position immediately.

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One-year transfers Dayne Crist, Anthony McDonald, Mike Ragone and Josh Williams not making loud impact for Kansas football

Kansas football coach Charlie Weis took advantage of the rule that allows players who have graduated and have a remaining year of eligibility to transfer without sitting out a year by bringing four such college graduates to Lawrence.

So far, the four players have not made their previous schools look bad for not playing them more often.

Notre Dame graduate Dayne Crist ranks 121st among 122 rated quarterbacks with a 97.5 QB rating. Only Mike Wegzyn of Massachussetts (92.9) ranks behind Crist. Former KU quarterback Jordan Webb, now at Colorado, ranks 113th, and like Crist plays for a 1-6 team.

Nebraska graduate Josh Williams has performed well enough to hold down a starting job all season. He receives high grades for assignment soundness, but hasn’t been the impact playmaker Weis sounded like he expected when he talked about him in the summer.

Through seven games, six KU players are credited with a sack and two others have a half-sack on their records. Williams is not among them, but does share with Ben Goodman the team lead in quarterback hurries with two, has forced a fumble and has recovered two fumbles. Williams has contributed the most of the transfers who arrived with diplomas in hand.

Linebacker Anthony McDonald’s Notre Dame career was stunted by injuries and they have played a part in him appearing in just four games with one start for Kansas. Even when healthy, he hasn’t displayed enough quickness to establish himself as a starter.

At Notre Dame, tight end Mike Ragone built a solid reputation as a blocker, but had just 11 receptions in three seasons. For KU, he has blocked well but has just two receptions, one for a touchdown.

The so-so performances of the four college graduates doesn’t mean Weis should abandon taking advantage of the rule. It can work in a big way, as Russell Wilson proved in 2011 when he finished ninth in Heisman Trophy voting after transferring from North Carolina State to Wisconsin.

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KU football pop quiz

Matt Tait’s at the wheel, Nick Krug and Jesse Newell in the back seat on the road to Norman. Needed something to pass the time, so I gave them this mid-season KU football pop quiz:

  1. He leads the team in passes defended (interceptions plus pass breakups) with seven:
    a.) Greg “Lockdown” Brown
    b.) Tyler Patmon
    c.) Bradley McDougald
    d.) Lubbock Smith

  2. Number of Jayhawks who have more than one sack this season:
    a.) None
    b.) One
    c.) Two
    d.) Three

  3. Number of KU wide receivers to catch a touchdown pass this season:
    a.) None
    b.) One
    c.) Two
    d.) Three

  4. He leads the team with 248 receiving yards:
    a.) Daymond Patterson
    b.) Kale Pick
    c.) Tony Pierson
    d.) Andrew Turzilli

  5. He has not rushed for a touchdown this season:
    a.) Taylor Cox
    b.) Tony Pierson
    c.) Schyler Miles
    d.) Christian Matthews

  6. He leads the team with 22.9 yards per kick return:
    a.) D.J. Beshears
    b.) Bradley McDougald
    c.) Tony Pierson
    d.) Tre’ Parmalee

  7. His 40 solo tackles are a team-best:
    a.) Greg Brown
    b.) Ben Heeney
    c.) Bradley McDougald
    d.) Huldon Tharp

  8. Among 124 rated quarterbacks, Dayne Crist ranks:
    a.) 18
    b.) 58
    c.) 102
    d.) 122

  9. Kansas ranked last (120th) in the nation in 2011 with 516.4 yards allowed per game. This season’s ranking and yardage average:
    a.) 32nd with 341.3
    b.) 60th with 382.8
    c.) 93rd with 433.7
    d.) 124th with 558.8

  10. KU averages 19 points a game, which gives it a national ranking in scoring offense of:
    a.) 56
    b.) 81
    c.) 91
    d.) 111

Answer key: 1. b; 2. a; 3. a; 4. b; 5. d; 6. d; 7. c; 8. d; 9. c; 10. d.

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Kansas tight ends scoring touchdowns and getting ignored outside the red zone

Contrary to the beliefs of so many in the Moneyball camp, numbers don’t define value. But they do trigger deeper looks at issues and influence decisions in all sports.

A study of Kansas University football statistics by my friend Gimpy the Stick revealed a paradoxical set of numbers involving the team’s two tight ends, Jimmay Mundine and Mike Ragone. They have combined for just eight of the team’s 97 receptions, yet have three of the four TD catches.

Running backs: 26 catches, one touchdown. Special teams player: One catch, no touchdowns. Wide receivers: 62 receptions, no touchdowns.

If the tight ends get open when the field shrinks, it stands to reason they do the same when the defense has to spread out to cover a much longer field.

What to make of such odd figures?

Does Charlie Weis’ offense all but ignore the tight end outside the red zone? That doesn’t make sense when viewed in the context of his career.

As Gimpy points out, the year Weis served the Kansas City chiefs as offensive coordinator, Tony Moeaki ranked second on the team with 47 catches, averaged 11.8 yards per catch and made it to the end zone three times. The Chiefs’ three tight ends combined for 60 catches and five TDs. Patriots tight ends also were targeted frequently with Weis as OC. In the final three years of the Brady-Weis working relationship (2002-04), Brady threw 27 of his 79 touchdown passes to tight ends. Pro-style offenses typically use the tight end more than college spreads.

OK, so what we have here are tight ends who can get open, a head coach/offensive coordinator who knows how to utilize them and eight receptions in six games. That paradox must be a function of Dayne Crist not getting far enough in his reads to identify the tight end. The closer to the end zone an offense draws, the more a tight end gets his number called as a first-or-second option. The longer the field, the deeper down the line of progressions the tight end usually becomes and Crist doesn’t get far enough to check the tight end very often.

Weis said he will use both Michael Cummings and Crist at QB against Oklahoma, but the smart guess has Cummings playing first and more often. He energized the team against Oklahoma State and deserves a chance to build on that. Plus, he might get the ball to the tight ends.

Cummings threw 10 passes and completed half, not enough evidence to draw conclusions. Still, it is mildly interesting to consider 40 percent of his completions and his only touchdown pass were to Mundine, an under-utilized receiving talent. Just 7 percent of Crist’s completions, but 67 percent of his touchdown passes have been to tight ends.

Mundine explained his 21-yard TD from Cummings: “They were running a man coverage and I made the first guy miss and then they rammed into each other. I didn’t plan to make them run into each other, but that left me open, I caught the ball and ran in.”

It wasn’t supposed to work that way, but it did, and when Mundine sprung open, Cummings hit him. Kale Pick was all alone on a play that wasn’t supposed to work that way against Northern Illinois. Remember what happened?

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Charlie Weis’ search for a stronger foot comes up a foot short

Mention the name Matt Williams to sports fans outside of Lubbock, Texas, and most will think of the retired power-hitting third baseman. In Lubbock, the name conjures memories of a student who started the football season sitting in the stands and midway through the schedule found himself on the field scoring points.

Williams made his debut for Mike Leach’s Texas Tech team in Lawrence on Oct. 25, 2008, when he made all nine extra-point kicks in a 63-21 rout of Kansas.

Leach discovered Williams when he booted a 30-yard field goal at halftime of a game in a fan competition five weeks before the kicker’s debut.

At Notre Dame, Charlie Weis had an assistant coach call David Ruffer in his dorm room to see if he would be interested in trying out for the football team. Ruffer passed a three-day tryout. The year after Weis was fired by Notre Dame, Ruffer was one of the three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to college football’s top kicker.

Kansas so desperately needs a kicker that instead of taking what would have been considered a near-sure three points in most programs, Weis opted Saturday for a fake field goal in the first quarter of a scoreless game on fourth and seven from the Oklahoma State 17. A strong wind would have been at the kicker’s back for a 35-yard attempt. Holder Blake Jablonski was stopped five yards short.

Ron Doherty, a better punter than kicker, has been replaced at the top of the kicker depth chart by walk-on Nick Prolago, shaky even on extra points.

A search for a hidden foot among the KU student body has come up a foot short.

“I scoured the campus,” Weis said. “We had a couple of guys who came in, an Australian rules football player and a couple of other guys. So we had them come over, but they couldn’t kick a football. They forget it’s a different ball. There have been multiple guys from Australia who have shown up in the NFL, punting and all that other stuff, but no, we haven’t been that fortunate.”

Williams had spent two years at Tarleton State University in Texas, one as a walk-on kicker, before transferring to Tech. The NCAA granted the Red Raiders an exception to the rule that requires transfers to sit out a year because he had not been on scholarship. The 15 minutes of fame was not without its costs for Williams, who kicked a 49-yard field goal in a high school game. The NCAA did not allow him to collect the year of free rent he won by booting the 30-yarder through the uprights at halftime.

A risk to taking a student kicker who did not have the same college experience Williams gained at Tarleton: The ball is placed on a tee for high school kickers, on the ground in the college game, an adjustment some make better than others.

Not one of the 27,939 students enrolled this fall can give Kansas a legitimate kicking game.

Or could it be he or she just has not yet used that foot to step forward?

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Late sportscaster Beano Cook made KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus famous before his time

The casual sports fans first heard the name of Kansas University quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus when ESPN’s Beano Cook predicted before Powlus took a snap for Notre Dame that he would win the Heisman Trophy twice.

Cook was one of three sports characters who died during the week, joining former NFL player and color commentator Alex Karras and Chicago Tribune sportswriter/TV panelist Bill Jauss. I asked Powlus last winter if he had ever met Cook, whose prediction many blamed for adding unfair pressure and expectations to Powlus. He said he had not.

“People always say, ‘Are you mad at Beano Cook?’ ‘Do you blame Beano?’ I don’t,” Powlus said last winter. “The guy, his job is to make ridiculous statements. That’s what he does. That’s why people know his name, because he makes the statements and predictions. It’s not his fault. That’s his job. As a player, I was flattered. It was a nice thing to say. But I’m not mad at Beano. I don’t know Beano.”

Powlus never finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting, but did start 42 games for Notre Dame, set single-season school records for completions (182) and attempts (298) as a senior and set the ND record for touchdown passes in a game with four (three times).

As a coach, Powlus and KU receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello are in danger of enduring a third consecutive 1-11 season. Powlus worked as quarterbacks coach at Akron for Ianello, who had back-to-back 1-11 seasons in his only two years as Akron’s head coach.

Powlus has a tough challenge ahead of him this season. Dayne Crist entered the Oklahoma State game ranked 119th among 122 rated quarterbacks. Interestingly, Garrett Gilbert, more highly touted coming out of Lake Travis High in Texas than his predecessor, Todd Reesing, is ranked 121st. Gilbert, a bust at Texas, now plays for SMU. Tulane’s D.J. Ponder is ranked last.

Crist was off to a good start (4 of 5 for 55 yards) against Oklahoma State when lightning struck.

*Alex Karras isn’t the only athlete noted for punching a horse, but at least Karras only portrayed Mongo punching a horse in “Blazing Saddles.”

Arthur Long, who played at Cincinnati for Bob Huggins and is from my hometown of Rochester, N.Y., really punched a horse and was arrested for it. According to an old friend who was an assistant coach at a Division I school recruiting Long, he punched more than horses. During a junior college practice, Long punched a teammate during a scrimmage, was not disciplined for it and was allowed to continue playing in the scrimmage. That’s when my friend stopped recruiting Long.

*Really enjoyed covering DePaul with Jauss in the early ’90s, but the funniest DePaul-related story about Jauss came long after that.

In 2006, Jauss visited Ray Meyer on his deathbed and the coach was so weak he could barely whisper. As Jauss was leaving, Meyer motioned him closer, closer, close enough to hear him and then whispered in the sportswriter’s ear: “Hey Jaussy, you don’t look so hot yourself.”

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