Posts tagged with Ku Football

Will offensive linemen Damon Martin and Riley Spencer make a difference for KU’s offense?

This week's changes on the Kansas University football offensive line — the first such tweaks to the starting lineup in a month — were designed with the idea of putting more physical players on the field.

Damon Martin, a third-year sophomore, and Riley Spencer, a fifth-year senior, will take over for Mike Smithburg and Pat Lewandowski and right guard and left tackle, respectively, and, in doing so, will bring two of KU's strongest, biggest men back to the field.

Both have played in back-up roles throughout the season, but KU coach Charlie Weis said this week that it was time for them to take a bigger role because it's time for the Jayhawks to match the physicality of their opponents for more than just spurts.

Spencer's a guy who's been around for a while and been through a ton of injuries. Had he not gone down the injury path, I think he would've been a stud. His raw size has always blown my mind and he was an elite athlete in high school.

Here's what Weis had to say about Spencer, when asked on Tuesday:

"He's had both knees done, he walks around like me. But, what he is is a big man that is very physical. He's a big, physical guy. He has some limitations because of all the surgeries that he's had, but big and physical and tough, he's all of those things. You have to understand the limitations of your players and know what you're getting. Well, I know what we're getting even in the plays that he played in last week, a bigger body and more physical presence."

Moments later, Weis echoed similar thoughts about Martin, who is perhaps the one guy of all of KU's linemen with the most untapped potential. He's still young, so there's time for him to develop yet. But it sure seems that these last four games of 2013 could go a long way toward determining whether Martin is going to be the man during his final two years at KU or just another guy.

Here are Weis' comments about Martin from earlier this week:

"Damon is a physical, physical presence. One of the strongest guys we have. His issue never has been whether or not he can play. His issue has always been one of consistency. Actually, if he wasn't playing more consistent, then he wouldn't be listed as first."

From the sound of it, the move to throw these two guys into the starting five — along side Ngalu Fusimalohi (LG), Gavin Howard (C) and Aslam Sterling (RT) — was as much because of their improvement and steady play of late as it was Weis needing to find new options.

Smithburg and Lewandowski both have had good moments this year. But one is playing Div. I football for the first time and the other is playing on the offensive line for the first time. It only makes sense that they would not be polished machines right away.

Time will tell if Spencer and Martin are ready to close the season as staters, but, I think it's a safe bet that if they show up this weekend at Oklahoma State, they'll be in there the rest of the way.

Remember, continuity and chemistry are keys at this position and KU has not had much luck with either throughout 2013. That leads to penalties, breakdowns and uncertainty from the quarterback and running backs.

There are plenty of areas in which this offense could improve, but if the line can finally click, I think the rest will fall into place around it.


Monday Rewind - Texas: QB Heaps shows toughness, improvement

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps bemoans a missed opportunity in the fourth quarter as he heads off the field with offensive lineman Gavin Howard after being sacked by the Texas defense during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps bemoans a missed opportunity in the fourth quarter as he heads off the field with offensive lineman Gavin Howard after being sacked by the Texas defense during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

Say what you want about Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps' season, skills and struggles as KU's quarterback. But don't question the guy's toughness.

Playing — or is it praying? — behind on offensive that has struggled to keep Heaps' uniform clean all season and given up free paths to pound town, Heaps has stood in there and taken some monster hits. More important than his ability to take them, though, has been his ability to keep getting up.

With each week and each bone-crushing hit, Heaps has taken a little longer and a little longer to get back to his feet. Never was that more evident than during last weekend's 35-13 loss to Texas in Austin, when Heaps saw some of the biggest smacks sent his way all season.

The two that come to mind first were the game-changer in which Heaps, swallowed up by a sea of Texas defenders, coughed up the football and watched UT turn the fumble into seven points, and an all-out blitz in which Texas sent one more pass rusher than KU could block and made Heaps pay for it.

“The strip-sack wasn't as bad as the one he took off the right side,” KU coach Charlie Weis said of the two hits. “Their Sam linebacker was hitting him straight in the face as he was getting ready to throw the ball. That hurt me and I was watching. I wasn't even the one taking the hit.”

Heaps admitted after the loss that he was as sore as he could remember being after a game, and who could blame him? It's surely not just the physical pain that hurts. KU's inability to block defenders — be it in the running game or pass protection — has crippled this offense throughout the season and led to as much mental and emotional pain as any of the beatings Heaps has taken.

Don't get me wrong; Heaps has struggled, too. His celebrated accuracy has taken a turn south, his lack of feel in the pocket — which I think may be a result of him hoping so badly that plays will develop that he does not get the heck out of there when he should — has led to far too many sacks and stalled drives and the offense, to which he holds the keys, has averaged just 17 points per game and scored in the teens for seven consecutive weeks.

If there's one positive sign in all of the ugliness, it's that Heaps' past two games have been two of his best. I thought he was solid in the opener, decent in the Rice game and then bad in the games that followed. But against Baylor and Texas, despite the lopsided scores, Heaps looked better.

Weis agreed.

“For the most part, when the game was under control, I thought the passing game was fairly efficient,” he said after Saturday's loss.

Heaps finished the UT game 11-of-21 for 160 yards but, for the second game in a row did not throw an interception, and also showed improving chemistry with and confidence in junior Rodriguez Coleman down the field. In his last two games, Heaps is 18-of-40 for 245 yards, one touchdown and no picks. Now, I admit that those were the types of numbers I expected to see from Heaps and Weis' offense each game, but, hey, since we have to deal in reality, those numbers do represent progress, even if that doesn't mean much.

I know KU fans aren't interested in moral victories any longer. And who could blame them? But saying that Heaps deserves some love instead of the hate or that the guy should be given credit for battling week after week, series after series despite getting battered play after play does not sound, to me, like moral-victory chatter. It sounds like the humane thing to do.

Heaps is a big part of this Kansas offense and he will continue to be for the Jayhawks' four remaining games — games, by the way, which he said KU needed to win to become bowl eligible. See. Still fighting. And instead of laughing at the guy for even bringing up the words “bowl game” during a season as woeful as this, I'd think fans would appreciate that the guy has not been knocked out yet. He's still believing, still trying to get things figured out.

Who knows if Jake will be the quarterback next season? That hardly matters right now. What does matter is that the guy is taking a beating every week all in the name of doing all he can to help KU football get out of the mud.

Maybe he's just grinding his gears. Maybe it's a crane and not a quarterback that the team needs to get out of this mess. But give the guy credit for trying. And give him an Advil or two for the pain.


Keegan vs. Tait: Week 8

For just the second time in our teacher vs. pupil challenge, we saw a perfect week during Week 7. And for the second time that prediction perfection belonged to Tom Keegan.

I know. Troubling. And I'm pretty sure that does not just go for me, it's probably true for the dozens of people on our plane down to Austin, Texas, who Tom told about his big week, too.

Oh well. Perfect is pretty so we'll give the guy all the time he wants to enjoy it.

After a rough Week 6, we both enjoyed bounce-back weeks in Week 7, but Keegan's zero-miss effort moved him into a two-game lead. With only one game different this week — Keegan picked Michigan State and I picked Michigan — Tom is guaranteed to hang onto that lead for at least another week.

At this point, I'm just hoping he doesn't add to it.

Here's a look at the rest of this week's picks, including similar scores in a Texas victory over Kansas.


 Tait: 8-2 in Week 7; 53-17 overall

Keegan: 10-0 in Week 7; 55-15 overall

Week 8 Games:
Kansas at Texas
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Iowa State at Kansas State
West Virginia at TCU
Miami at Florida State
Michigan at Michigan State
Mississippi State at South Carolina
Navy at Notre Dame
Wisconsin at Iowa
Georgia at Florida

Question: Now that the weather is starting to turn cooler and more resemble "football weather" what's your best weather-related football memory, be it as a participant, fan, reporter, whatever?

Matt Tait
Texas 38, Kansas 20
Texas Tech 42, Oklahoma State 33
Kansas State 35, Iowa State 19
TCU 24, West Virginia 20
Florida State 41, Miami 24
Michigan 27, Michigan State 23
South Carolina 30, Mississippi State 20
Notre Dame 33, Navy 23
Wisconsin 31, Iowa 17
Florida 33, Georgia 31

Answer: Although I have covered a bunch of great games in cold weather and been to plenty as a fan, the answer to this question is easy. The year was 1995, the fall of my senior year of high school, and with Lawrence High en route to another state football championship, one of the only major hurdles that remained was powerful Olathe North. North already had beaten LHS earlier in the season and had started to lay the groundwork for its incredible run of state titles that followed years of Lawrence High dominance. Now would be a good time to point out that I didn't play football in high school, but on this night I did. In the snow. While wearing shorts. Without using an actual ball. Stone sober, too. Anyway, hours before my buddies who were on the team showed up and knocked off the Eagles 32-7, me and those of us who weren't playing showed up for a little game of fake football on the snow-covered Haskell Stadium turf. We ran plays, made blocks, called penalties and even ran a dive play from the 1 yard line to win the game, which lasted so long that the O-North players actually waited for us to finish before they took the field for warm-ups. The shorts were worn (by a few of us) in honor of LHS assistant coach Jerry Skakal, who always wore shorts no matter what the weather conditions brought. The fake game was played because we were too young to know any better and plenty dumb enough to go through with it. What a good time, though. Thank goodness we won.

Tom Keegan
Texas 35, Kansas 17
Texas Tech 34, Oklahoma State 31
Kansas State 28, Iowa State 24
TCU 24, West Virginia 17
Florida State 38, Miami 21
Michigan State 24, Michigan 21
South Carolina 31, Mississippi State 10
Notre Dame 35, Navy 34
Wisconsin 20, Iowa 10
Florida 17, Georgia 14

Answer: Since nobody wants to hear about me wearing a No. 5 jersey in my back yard, scrambling in the snow, avoiding would-be two-hand-touchers, keeping my eyes downfield the entire time, extending the play so that one of my two super-fast brothers (six boys, four girls in my family) could spring open, and then putting it right over his shoulder and softly into his hands, a good 10, 12 yards from where I threw it and watching him go …. all …. the …. way, I won't bore anybody with that story. So, my favorite weather-related memory has the snow falling at Arrowhead Stadium. Todd Reesing, looking like a certain No. 5 from a certain back yard some 40 years earlier, side-steps pressure and long after the play had broken, Kerry Meier breaks open, Reesing lofts a perfect touch pass to him and as Bob Davis put it, "TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN!" The No. 5 jersey worn in Rochester, N.Y. had Notre Dame on it back when Terry Hanratty was the quarterback. Reesing's said Kansas. Other than that, only the sharpest of football eyes would be able to differentiate the quarterbacks.

Runner-up: The year was 1970, the Los Angeles rain turned the field into a mess and Joe Theismann, trying to rally heavily favored and undefeated Notre Dame to victory, threw for 526 yards. But eight turnovers — four interceptions and four fumbles — undermined the Fighting Irish, who lost to the Trojans, 38-28. Fortunately, given the conditions, I watched this one from the comfort of the tiny den where we used to cramp as many as 10 people to watch games. Monte the Milkman sometimes joined us and occasionally ate one of our dog's milkbones, just to watch our jaws drop. But I digress. What was the question again?

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing looks to pass through the Missouri defense during the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing looks to pass through the Missouri defense during the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium. by Nick Krug


New college football rules for recruiting and summer access and their impact on Kansas

The NCAA on Wednesday adopted and released the details of five new football rules pertaining to offseason recruiting and coaches' access to players during the summer.

According to a news release, the rules are effective immediately and, at a program like Kansas which is in the middle of a rebuilding project, may have an immediate impact.

The new rules include:

• 1 • Allowing football players to participate in eight hours per week of required weight training and conditioning during the summer. Up to two of the eight hours can consist of film review.

• 2 • Prohibiting school staff members from attending all-star games or activities associated with those games, which prohibits in-person contact by coaches from the time an athlete arrives at such an event until the time they return home.

• 3 • Establishing an extended dead period when no in-person recruiting can take place in December and January. For 2013-14, Dec. 16 through Jan. 15 is now a dead period.

• 4 • Establishing a 14-day dead period in late June and early July for FBS schools.

• 5 • Allowing schools to pay for meals for up to four family members who accompany a recruit on an official visit. Previously, schools were allowed to pay for meals for the recruit, his parents/legal guardians and spouse or children but not siblings or other family members.

Here's a quick look at how these rules may affect KU:

Rule No. 1 certainly will not hurt anyone and could actually stand to help a program like Kansas, which would benefit from as much time as possible for player development of its athletes — new and old — in the ongoing effort to close the gap between KU and the rest of the Big 12.

Rule No. 2 takes away a valuable recruiting tool because coaches often benefit, in terms of relationships, from supporting athletes at all-star games and, oh so rarely, can stumble upon unknown talent at such events.

Rule No. 3 is the biggest blow to the current KU program — and those like it — because if a team does not make a bowl and therefore is not practicing during the new dead period (Dec. 16 through Jan. 15) it no longer can make up time on the recruiting trail while bowl teams are busy practicing. In addition, it severely limits the role Allen Fieldhouse can and does play in football recruiting.

Rule No. 4 hurts Kansas a little because very few head coaches are as actively involved in going out on the road to recruit as Charlie Weis is and this takes away a two-week advantage he had on several coaches.

And Rule No. 5 is one that can only help recruiting because it will make life easier on several prospects and encourage more family members to join athletes on visits, which gives coaches more people to connect with.

None of these (aside from No. 3) are earth-shattering for college football but they will create a period of adjustment, as is the case with most rule changes.

Weis and his staff already work meticulously to maximize every minute of allowed recruiting time and, no doubt, will continue to do so. But functioning under the new rules will require even more organization, focus and strategy, all of which appear to be strengths of the KU coaches on the recruiting trail.


Tweetcap from Monday, Oct. 28

Matt Tait's "Tweetcap"

Matt Tait's "Tweetcap" by Matt Tait

Between the morning Big 12 coaches teleconference and KU football coach Charlie Weis' “Hawk Talk” radio show at night, Monday's usually a pretty big Twitter day for me.

In the second installment of my new Tweetcap feature, here's a look back at some of the highlights of a busy Monday, which included a look back at KU's loss to Baylor and a look ahead to KU's match-up with Texas this week in Austin.

Here it is, in reverse chronological order:

Weis said he senses that all the ‪#KUfball guys from Texas are fired up for this week's chance to play at UT…

Weis: KU will leave for Austin earlier than normal Fri. Doing walk-thru @ UT instead of at KU… Trying anything to come out sharp. ‪#KUfball

Weis has respect for Mack Brown: He's a good coach and a good man. But he was a good coach & man last year when tried to beat him… ‪#KUfball

Weis was asked when Pierson might be OK: We just don't know. He practiced all week last week & we thought he was good… ‪#KUfball

Weis said LB Ben Heeney is better & has a chance to play this week… Holding him out was a game time decision vs. Baylor. ‪#KUfball

Weis on punter Trevor Pardula, who averaged 47+ yards on 11 punts vs. Baylor: He bounced back nicely from the Oklahoma game… ‪#KUfball

Weis on Josh Ford injury: Got hurt in practice last week during a special teams drill and that's why he missed the Baylor game… ‪#KUfball

Weis on RB/WR Brandon Bourbon: The fact that he's become more versatile has allowed us to get him more involved this year… ‪#KUfball

Weis said guys like Keba Agostinho & Kevin Young are two of the guys playing the best right now b/c of pride & experience… ‪#KUfball

Weis on WR Rodriguez Coleman: We've been waiting for him to break out. Made a couple plays last wk & he'll get more opps this wk... ‪#KUfball

Weis: Jake (Heaps) has a very high ceiling and I don't think we've come close to tapping the ceiling on how good he can be… ‪#KUfball

Weis said Heaps was much improved vs. Baylor. The reason the 2 QB deal can work is b/c of Heaps' character… ‪#KUfball

Weis: The sky's the limit for Montell. Said he'd like to have Cozart be as big as Holsopple says he can be w/o losing quickness... ‪#KUfball

Weis on Cozart & snaps: He saved us a couple times because a couple of those snaps were high and to the right… ‪#KUfball

Looking over Texas game notes: Big reason for UT's recent turnaround is the O-Line. Horns haven't given up a sack in 9 quarters. ‪#KUfball

Weis said the ideal scenario, unless a guy clearly separates, is that playing them both is the way to go, via the hot hand method… ‪#KUfball

Weis on juggling QBs: We intended to play 'em about half and half in the game. Cozart played a few more than Heaps. ‪#KUfball

Weis opens tonight's Hawk Talk radio show with serious compliments for Baylor, which he says has as dynamic an offense as there is ‪#KUfball

‪#KUfball at Oklahoma State, Nov. 9 will kick off at 3 pm on Fox Sports 1... KU at Texas set for 2:30 this Saturday.

Weis asked about expectations for this team: We had 2 games get away from us, the rest of the games have been games into the 4th Q. ‪#KUfball

Weis said Texas is rarely out of position and their defensive philosophy is to just let their athletes be athletes… ‪#KUfball

Weis said this year's UT team is a lot better in a lot of areas, even over the beginning of this year. Added it's rather dramatic. ‪#KUfball

Lot of questions about last year's ‪#KUfball-Texas game for Weis this morning…

Weis was asked if he's still counting the days since KU's last Big 12 win. He said once B12 play starts, it's a week-by-week thing. ‪#KUfball

Mack Brown said "Charlie's a great football coach, not a good football coach. And Kansas is really lucky to have him." ‪#KUfball


Monday Rewind - Baylor: Bears did what Bears do; time to move on

Kansas linebacker Schyler Miles is slung out of bounds while trying to bring down Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013.

Kansas linebacker Schyler Miles is slung out of bounds while trying to bring down Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. by Nick Krug

Typically, these Monday Rewinds are spent looking back at a certain aspect of KU's most recent game that either impacted the outcome, added to a trend or simply was eye-opening enough — good or bad — to merit further discussion.

And while last week's loss to Baylor certainly included a few of those things, I thought I'd take a break from examining the Jayhawks' struggling offense or trying to pinpoint how or why things unfolded the way they did against the Bears. The reason? I want to talk about the Bears themselves.

It's not every day you watch one of the best offenses in college football history. It's not every day that you think the team on the other side of the field might be the best in the country. It's not every day (even if it may be every year in the ultra-tough Big 12) that you walk away from a game thinking to yourself that you might have just watched the national champions play.

But I thought all of those things when I watched Baylor and, to be honest, I'll quietly be rooting for it to happen. The Bears are a great story and are a team full of confident and talented individuals who come together to create one heck of a unit. Sure, running back Lache Seastrunk may be a little outspoken and may have caught people off guard when he said last summer that he was going after the Heisman Trophy. But I like it. And can you blame him? He can clearly back it up. The only problem with Seastrunk's bid to win the Heisman is that Baylor has been up so big so often this entire season that he hasn't logged enough snaps to put up truly ridiculous numbers. If that weren't the case, and if the Bears needed him for four quarters each night, I think he'd have a great shot.

Another guy who should have a great shot but isn't getting talked about much in the conversation is quarterback Bryce Petty. I'm not sure what more you want a guy to do to warrant Heisman chatter. He's deadly accurate, throws for a ton of yards and touchdowns and even can run it a little bit himself. Heck, his 12 incompletions vs. Kansas over the weekend were a season high and even with that his completion percentage still hovered around 65%.

It's not like Baylor isn't getting respect nationally. The Bears are ranked 6th in the latest BCS standings and are finding their way onto all kinds of highlight shows for their insanely entertaining offensive performances week in and week out. But because they've played most of their games at home and have yet to do what they do against a ranked opponent, they're not getting the same kind of love as the Florida States, Oregons and Alabamas.

They should be. And I know that now after seeing them at Memorial Stadium with my own eyes.

The reason for saying all of that — aside from sharing my enormous respect for Baylor's program? I think it's important to remember exactly who Kansas faced last weekend when talking about the Jayhawks and their continued quest toward improvement and that elusive conference victory.

There certainly are areas of this KU team that can and should be criticized, and we've covered those plenty so far throughout this season. But if you're looking to pile on because of the Baylor game, I think you're misguided.

I have no doubts that the Jayhawks worked their butts off all week to get ready and entered Saturday with a solid game plan. Sometimes, the other team is just that good. I mean, did you see the socks that Seastrunk wore? They had lightning on them! And, hey, Baylor's done this to everybody, and likely will continue to do it to everybody the rest of the way.

Rather than dwell on it and use it as more fire for the anti-KU football movement that's out there, I think it's best to burn the film, leave it in the past and move on to the next challenge.

Vegas had the Bears as 35-point favors for a reason, and, outside of KU's locker room, where I'm sure they truly believed they had a shot, last Saturday's outcome was not a huge surprise to anybody.

But I think it's more because Baylor's that good, not because KU is that bad.

With five games remaining in 2013 and a schedule that softens just a little, we'll find out.


A couple of quick hitters from today’s Charlie Weis press conference (10/22)

Updated depth chart:

Full Charlie Weis audio:

Good afternoon, everyone. Busy day in land. Hope you're enjoying all of the items from today's Big 12 basketball media days in Kansas City as well as our regular coverage of KU football.

Next up, the Jayhawks (2-4 overall, 0-3 Big 12) play host to Baylor at 6 p.m. on Saturday and, today, KU coach Charlie Weis talked plenty about the Bears' incredible offense.

We'll have all kinds of coverage on that throughout the week, but for now here are a few nuggets of information that came from the news conference.

Montell Cozart is listed as the lone back-up to Jake Heaps at Quarterback. Last week, Cozart was listed along with sophomore Michael Cummings as the co-back-up, but this week Cummings dropped off the depth chart. To that end, Weis said the entire game plan would be available to Cozart this week and the young guy from Bishop Miege High likely would play more and do more.

No concrete injury updates but it sounds like KU could get a couple of guys back. Ben Heeney, Tony Pierson, Andrew Turzilli, Tedarian Johnson and Trent Smiley all were listed as day-to-day on the latest depth chart. Weis said Pierson and Heeney were both much better but would not divulge whether they would play.

Baylor is a run-first team, running 65 percent of the time, and linebackers coach Clint Bowen said he thought Baylor's first choice would be to run the ball. Makes sense considering they've got two guys averaging more than 7 yards per carry.

Weis said the thing that makes Baylor's defense so nasty is the defensive ends. Baylor has played from in front so often this season that the Bears' defense has seen almost exclusively passing from opponents trying to play catch up. That allows the D-Ends to pin their ears back and go get the quarterback. And they're good, Weis said.

Weis said one thing that could help KU was a loud crowd. The louder the better because that could disrupt Baylor's verbal calls and make it so the Bears have to slow down a little bit on offense. Weis was asked when the crowd should start yelling and he said, "When they get there." Then he said: As soon as our defense goes on the field until the time they go off would be good.

Weis said the transition to Ron Powlus and Jeff Blasko doing more of the offensive game planning has gone well. In fact, he noted that he did not even have a call sheet during last week's game against OU and that he was "advising" on offense and not calling plays. Blasko is the run-game coordinator and Powlus is the pass-game coordinator and, together, they appear to be running the offense with heavy input from Weis.

We'll have much more from Weis' news conference and on this match-up later and throughout the week, so stay logged on to for all your KU football needs.


Monday Rewind - Oklahoma: Return of the running game a good step, but can KU keep it going?

Kansas running back Darrian Miller makes a cut against Oklahoma during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Darrian Miller makes a cut against Oklahoma during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

It's hard to know if it can be trusted given the inconsistency of the offensive line, but it appears that the Kansas University football team has found its running game again.

During last Saturday's loss to 18th-ranked Oklahoma the Jayhawks came out on fire in the first quarter, with senior James Sims leading the way with 11 carries for 85 yards. Those numbers included Sims carrying the ball on seven of KU's first eight plays from scrimmage and eight of the first 10 en route to the 13th 100-yard rushing day of his career.

One of the great parts about getting Sims going again — sophomore Darrian Miller also looked sharp with 67 yards on 9 carries — is that this latest effort came against a legitimate defense. The 6-1 Sooners rank at or near the top of the Big 12 in almost every major defensive category and, for a quarter, the Jayhawks had their way with them, opening up huge holes, getting a great push from the offensive line and picking up double-digit clips of yardage over and over on the ground.

While that was beneficial for this team's chances in that game, the best part overall is that it likely restored this team's confidence in itself and its ability to run the ball again. You know the old theory, 'Hey, if we can do it against a team like OU, we can do it against anybody.'

While that may be true and certainly was the case in 2012, the key from here on out will be to keep the hunger and desperation that delivered the performance in the first place. This is no time to get complacent or feel too good about the job they did on the ground vs. Oklahoma. It still came in a losing effort and it was slowed down significantly from the first quarter on.

A couple of people I talked to about the game said that OU's coaches were very impressed with how KU came out and ran the ball. For one, they did not expect the Jayhawks' to be able to dominate up front like they did and, for two, a lot of the looks the Jayhawks showed in that first quarter rushing attack were new to the OU coaches and players. Credit KU coach Charlie Weis and his staff, once again, for coming up with clever ways to disguise the basics of what they do. Now, the key is to either figure out a way to do it for longer periods of time or make the necessary adjustments to prevent the offense from hitting the wall.

While last Saturday's effort was encouraging, it was much more about heart and being questioned as football players, men and competitors than anything else.

After Saturday's loss to the Sooners, which, like the Texas Tech loss before it, started out in such promising fashion, Weis was asked to determine how fragile his locker room was at this point in the season. It's one thing to lose games and have no chance in them, but it's another to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders and feeling sky high only to see that hot start turn into a sluggish finish and another loss. Such an up-and-down pattern can really mess with the mind, and these guys deserve credit for hanging in there, whether that includes this year, last year or their entire careers.

Weis has said time and time again that there are enough quality leaders and people who care in that locker room to keep the fragile mindset out of the equation. But the Jayhawks are not in this to keep from being too fragile; they're in it to win games and, even if it does make for a good soundbite, they really don't care about moral victories.

“That was the whole conversation I had after the game,” Weis said. “That was my whole message, about how you really have one of two ways to go when things don't go well. Especially half way through the year, you're sitting at 2-4, you could say, 'Ah, the hell with it, we're 2-4, that's just the way it's gonna go.' Or you could fight to do everything you can to be part of the answer.”

“That was basically the challenge to them,” he continued. “And this was an individual challenge, not a team challenge. It wasn't, 'What's the team gonna do?' it was, 'What are you gonna do?' Because, really the only one that you can control is you. So that was the question I posed to all of them.”

With high-powered Baylor on deck, things may get worse before they get better. But if the Jayhawks can hang in there in that one and continue to put forth the Oklahoma- and TCU-type efforts, things could start to look up down the stretch, when the schedule softens just a bit, believe it or not.


Keegan vs. Tait: Week 6

Despite having three games different last week, there was no real separation gained in our challenge.

I mean, yes, I did out-pick Tom once again, but it was only by one game and I have higher standards than that. Still, it's nice to be back in front, even if it is only by a game.

We've only got one game different this week — Tom picked Notre Dame and I picked USC — so any serious separation will have to wait another week or two.

As for the Kansas-Oklahoma game, our predictions were remarkably similar and seemed to be based around the idea that the KU offense has not proven it can score. Having said that, neither of us picked an OKlahoma blowout.

We'll see what happens. Here's a look at our picks:

Tait: 8-2 in Week 5; 40-10 overall

Keegan: 7-3 in Week 5; 39-11 overall

Kansas vs. Oklahoma
TCU at Oklahoma State
Texas Tech at West Virginia
Iowa State at Baylor
Florida State at Clemson
Auburn at Texas A&M
UCLA at Stanford
Florida at Missouri
USC at Notre Dame
Minnesota at Northwestern

Question: What is the coolest golf hole you ever have played?

Oklahoma 30, Kansas 13
Oklahoma State 24, TCU 21
Texas Tech 41, West Virginia 21
Baylor 63, Iowa State 20
Florida State 27, Clemson 25
Texas A&M 33, Auburn 23
UCLA 35, Stanford 31
Florida 27, Missouri 20
USC 30, Notre Dame 24
Northwestern 28, Minnesota 16

Answer: I can't remember the name of the course, but it was in Vail, Colorado, and, really, I could use every hole on the course as the answer here. Particularly on the front nine, which started at one point and descended a couple thousand feet down the mountain. Each tee shot was incredible. It was like you were landing each shot on top of a cloud. The only down side was the back nine, which climbed back up the couple thousand feet you just climbed down. I don't remember what I shot, but the score was definitely irrelevant. Incredible experience.

Oklahoma 31, Kansas 10
Oklahoma State 35, TCU 17
Texas Tech 31, West Virginia 28
Baylor 70, Iowa State 21
Florida State 31, Clemson 28
Texas A&M 35, Auburn 24
UCLA 31, Stanford 30
Florida 28, Missouri 27
Notre Dame 21, USC 17
Northwestern 31, Minnesota 17

Answer: No. 13 at Shadow Glen Golf Club in Olathe. It demands a good drive that avoids the trees on the right. A creek with an oxbow bend — hence the name of the hole, which is Oxbow — butts up against the left front of the green. The hole has sort of a Gilligan's Island feel to it, which brings back great memories of childhood TV viewing. Why were those guys always trying to get off the island? I'll never figure that one out.


Steele honors 6 Jayhawks at season’s midway point

There is no official all-Big 12 half season squad, so it's left up to college football's analysts to track which players have stood out the most through the first half of each season.

Well-known college football guru Phil Steele is one such guy and earlier this week he released his all-Big 12 teams at the midway point of 2013.

Two Jayhawks made the first team and six total made Steele's list.

Here's a quick look at who Steele thinks stood out so far:

1st Team LB: Ben Heeney — Heeney, a junior, leads KU and ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 43 tackles. He also has a team-best 7.0 tackles-for-loss, which ranks fourth in the conference, including 2.0 sacks. Additionally, Heeney has intercepted two passes and tallied three pass breakups through five games.

1st Team P: Trevor Pardula — Pardula, a junior, tops the Big 12 and ranks second nationally in punting, averaging 47.1 yards per punt. He set a Kansas record for punting average in a game after averaging 57.6 yards on five punts in KU's win over Louisiana Tech. He recorded a career-long 78-yard punt in the third quarter versus the Bulldogs, which tied for eighth-longest in school history. Pardula has dropped eight punts inside the 20 and recorded 13 punts of 50 yards or more through five games.

2nd Team TE: Jimmay Mundine — Mundine ranks fourth on the Kansas roster with 10 receptions, including three touchdown grabs. He is averaging 13.6 yards per reception on the season.

3rd Team RB: James Sims — Sims, a senior, tops KU with 390 yards rushing on 87 carries. He has rushed for two scores, while also hauling in 12 catches for 82 yards. Sims currently ranks seventh in the Big 12 with 78.0 yards per game on the ground.

3rd Team WR: Tony Pierson — Pierson is the top Kansas pass catcher with 21 receptions for 327 yards and one touchdown in 2013. A junior from East St. Louis, Pierson's 77-yard receiving TD is KU's longest play from scrimmage this year.

3rd Team PR: Connor Embree — Embree, a junior, is averaging 14.1 yards per punt return through the first five games of the year. Embree's top game as a returner came in KU's win over South Dakota as he tallied four punt returns for 92 yards. He returned a punt for 42 yards in the fourth quarter, the longest punt return by a Jayhawk since 2009.

For the most part, these seem fair. KU certainly has not gotten off to a stellar start, but both Heeney and Pardula have been fantastic.

I think Pierson may have been placed a little low, but, as long as he bounces back from his injury, he'll have plenty of time to prove that he belongs on the 1st or 2nd team.

Mundine's inclusion shows that he responded nicely to a rough start that saw him struggle with drops during the first two games of the season. I thought Mundine had first-team all-Big 12 potential at the start of the season, and, if the offense can get going, he should be able to hold onto this spot.

If there's one thing that surprises me it's that cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald were both left off the list. Both are at the top of the list of Big 12 leaders in pass break-ups and both have been a huge part of the resurgence of the KU defense. I'd put them both on there somewhere, but at least one of them should have made it.

With seven games to play, there's still a ton of time for moving and shaking here, so we'll see what happens the rest of the way.


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