Posts tagged with Tcu
I've spent a lot of time these past three or four weeks asking various members of the Kansas University football team to explain what exactly is causing so many problems for the Jayhawks' offense.
From the head coach and quarterback to the pass catchers and starting and back-up offensive linemen, nearly a dozen different players have had an opportunity to pinpoint why the KU offense has struggled so badly.
Small problem: It doesn't seem like any of them can do it.
OK, so maybe that's actually more like a HUGE problem, but the one thing that keeps coming up no matter who I talk to is the word execution.
“We need to do a better job of executing,” one player will say.
“We're just not executing,” another will say in a somber tone.
“We have to execute the small things so we can get on a roll,” says yet another.
Yes, yes and yes.
So do it. I know that's a simple way of looking at things, but it's really the only thing you can say at this point. If it truly is just a matter of taking the right step here, picking up the right block there or making the right read at the right time elsewhere, do that. Don't just say you need to and then continue to go out there and misfire.
I'm not trying to make light of the situation, nor do I think going out there and executing while the defensive players are trying to kill you is easy. But it's time for KU's offensive players, many of whom have talent and ability, to get on the same page and stay there. Think about it. For two games, the quarterback was sharp, made good throws and ran the offense the way it's supposed to be run. And his receivers dropped balls. And here lately, just when the receivers (a few of them, at least) have figured out how to hang onto the ball, the quarterback has started to lose a little of his accuracy, which was supposed to be by far his biggest strength.
Trying to figure out plays that work with an offensive line that's struggling is hard enough. But doing it without knowing whether your quarterback and receivers will be on the same page from play to play is a nightmare. And that's a huge reason for the Jayhawks' offensive struggles of late.
To demonstrate this, let's look at back-to-back plays in the third quarter of Saturday's game.
On first-and-10 from the TCU 27 yard line, one play after the Horned Frogs gave KU life by muffing a punt, the Jayhawks, who trailed 24-10, took to the air for one of the day's few throws that traveled down the field and looked bad in doing it. As tight end Jimmay Mundine cut to the inside down the seam, quarterback Jake Heaps threw behind him, low and to the outside.
When I asked Heaps about the throw after the game, he said it was 100 percent on him and then went on to talk about working as hard as he could to make every play succeed and get this offense going. On the very next play, he proved that was possible, as he lobbed a nice ball to Mundine on a corner route near the 5 yard line and Mundine rose up, snatched it out of the air like a man possessed and then stomped into the end zone. It was as good a ball as Heaps had thrown all day and maybe as good as the Jayhawks had looked in their down-the-field passing game all year.
The point is this: On one play, they looked awful, out of sync and in complete disarray. On the very next, they looked like a competent offense, like the Jake Heaps and Jimmay Mundine many expected to see all season.
So, what gives?
The players and coaches have said that inexperience is not an excuse. By now, they say, these guys have all been out there enough to be able to step up when their numbers are called. In addition, they insist that they do execute all the time during practice and they believe if they can do it in practice they should be able to and expected to do it during games on Saturdays. They're right.
Frustrated fans have tossed out all kinds of solutions for this offensive mess, some of which make sense and some of which are just not possible, at least not during the middle of the season.
I've spent my fair share of time trying to analyze what's happening here, too, and the only thing I can think of that can actually happen is that these guys can step up and become gamers.
Sounds easy, but it's really not. Either you are or you aren't. James Sims is a gamer. Justin McCay may not be. The rest are probably somewhere in between. But it's time to find out who falls where.
With seven games left and the defense and special teams playing at a high level, this season is not a lost cause. KU's not going bowling, but only a small percentage of KU fans actually thought that was a possibility before the season began anyway, so that's not breaking news. There is time, though, to win a couple more games, pick up some momentum heading into Year 3 of the Charlie Weis era and give these fans something worth watching when the KU offense is on the field. Todd Reesing to Dezmon Briscoe it will not be. But it doesn't have to be the 2005 KU offense either. Remember them? The group that struggled to score and sustain drives week after week while the defense played out of its mind and plenty well enough to win. (I'm specifically thinking of that 19-3 loss to Oklahoma at Arrowhead Stadium right now). That's kind of what we have going right now and the only guys that can do anything about it know who they are.
This is the roster for 2013. There is no free agency, there are no out-of-work veterans waiting for a phone call at home. This is it. So this is the group that has to get it done.
If that means they need to execute more or better or more consistently, then do it.
Before we look back at what went right and what went wrong during last Saturday’s 20-6 loss to TCU, let’s get one thing out of the way right up front: The 15-yard, personal foul penalty for “hitting a defenseless receiver” called on KU safety Bradley McDougald midway through the fourth quarter was quite possibly the worst call I’ve ever seen in my football-viewing life.
The blown call did nothing to impact the outcome of the game and was rather harmless in the big picture, but I don’t think it’s right for that kind of blip to slide by without so much as a mention. Credit the Jayhawks and head coach Charlie Weis for not publicly griping about it after the game. That wouldn’t have accomplished anything and, worse, would’ve made them look like whiners.
Weis made it very clear that his is not a team of whiners when he talked about his displeasure with the way quarterback Dayne Crist came to the sideline with his palms up after some confusion in the passing game. “We don’t do that here,” Weis said simply. And they don’t whine about officiating either.
Their restraint is part of the reason I chose to bring it up here. That official should at least be forced to miss some Big 12 games and work at a lower level for the next couple of weeks. Inexcusable. I’m not sure what McDougald is supposed to do there. Let the guy land before he hits him? That’s not football.
OK, moving on...
Prior to the TCU game I heard a lot of people say they felt like this would or could be the “Georgia Tech game” like KU had in 2010 after losing at home to North Dakota State.
It wasn’t, of course, but even if the Jayhawks had pulled off the upset, I don’t think it would’ve been like the Georgia Tech game at all. For starters, that one came after one of the most embarrassing losses in program and Big 12 history. Losing to Rice was a tough beat, but it was nothing like losing to an FCS team, 6-3, in a coach’s debut. Beyond that, the Georgia Tech game was the peak of the Turner Gill era at Kansas. Things only got worse — nearly every week — from then on out, and I don’t get the sense that the peak of the Weis era will come at any point during the 2012 season, let alone three weeks into it.
To me, it seems as if this team will continue to improve dramatically — week to week, game to game, year to year — and that this year’s loss to TCU, many months from now, will be looked back on as the one where everything started to click.
After the game, the players and coaches who were made available for interviews clearly were upset that they had lost the game. But it wasn’t the kind of anger that comes out of embarrassment, frustration or failure. It was the kind of anger that comes from believing you should’ve won and these guys most certainly believed that. Had the offense just been a little sharper, they might have pulled it off.
That mentality is as good a sign as any that Weis truly has changed the losing culture that existed here. The results might not be showing it yet, but seeing that these guys genuinely believe they can and should win games might mean more to the big picture than a couple of early victories.
So now the Jayhawks move on to Northern Illinois. They’re a 1-2 team and they’re headed on the road this week, but their confidence is back and they’re starting to look like many of us expected a Charlie Weis team to look. If they can just get the offense to reach that point, too, it should be fun to watch this group play the rest of the way — win or lose.
As Weis said Sunday night: "So, now we've got 'em playing hard the whole game, now we just gotta play better."
Quickly, here were three things I really liked about the TCU game, all of which I think will pay off big-time for the Jayhawks down the road:
It was good to see Tony Pierson involved in the passing game. The guy’s a weapon and finding creative ways to maximize his play-making ability should be a priority for the Jayhawks. Here’s guessing we’ll see new wrinkles involving Pierson just about every week from here on out.
It also was nice to see Andrew Turzilli really be a factor out there. The kid has some serious skills and now, with his first start and a 100-yard game fresh in his mind, maybe he’ll have the confidence to take his game up a notch or two.
Former Notre Dame linebacker Anthony McDonald made a difference. Sure, he was a little rusty to start out, and, yeah, he might not be the fastest guy on the field, but he’ll hit you and his experience really is an upgrade for this young group of linebackers. McDonald played more than most expected and finished with six tackles, one fumble recovery and a huge smile. More importantly, he finished relatively healthy and should be ready for an even bigger game this Saturday.
• Kansas Jayhawks (1-1) vs. No. 16 TCU Horned Frogs (1-0) •
11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
Opening Las Vegas Line: TCU -26.5
Current Las Vegas Line: TCU -21
Three and out, with TCU...
The Horned Frogs own the nation’s longest current winning streak at nine in a row. TCU also has won 24 consecutive conference games (albeit in a different conference), which also is tops in the country.
The Frogs have won 17 of their last 19 road games and won their last 12 road contests in the Mountain West, including a 36-35 victory at Boise State last season which snapped the Broncos’ 35-game home winning streak.
TCU is the only school in the nation to win at least 11 games in six of the last seven seasons, one of just four programs (Alabama, Boise State and Oregon) to finish in the top 15 of both the Associated Press and USA Today polls during the last four seasons, and one of just three schools (Florida and Utah) to win at least six bowl games in the last seven seasons.
TCU is 3-1-1 when playing its first game in a new conference.
According to the school’s records, TCU defeated Oklahoma A&M, 7-6, on Oct. 6, 1923, in its first game as a member of the Southwest Conference, knocked off Houston, 34-17, on Sept. 29, 2001 in its first ever Conference-USA game and upended Utah, 23-20 in overtime, in its first game in the Mountain West on Sept. 15, 2005.
TCU’s only loss in a conference debut came in 1996, when New Mexico spoiled TCU’s WAC debut, 27-7. As for the tie, TCU and Texas A&M played a scoreless game during the Frogs first TIAA conference contest.
During its season-opening victory against Grambling State last week, TCU played 13 true freshman and several other red-shirt freshmen and sophomores. Although it’s clear that Patterson trusts them enough to put them out there, the TCU coach acknowledges that it’s still an uneasy feeling.
“Freshmen in their first game are always scared to death and it’s hard for them to focus on the task at hand,” Patterson said. “When you play (13) true freshmen, every day’s a new experience right now. Most people don’t want to play three of them. So we’ve just really gotta keep working on attention to detail and keep getting better at what we do.”
Patterson conjured up an old quote from legendary hoops coach John Wooden, of all people, to express how he thought his young guys played in the opener.
“There’s an old saying in the John Wooden book that says, ‘You need to be quick but you don’t need to look like you’re in a hurry,’” Patterson said. “And a lot of our younger players looked like they were in a hurry.”
One of TCU’s most impressive freshman was punt returner Deante’ Gray, who was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week. Gray set a TCU single-game punt return record with 160 yards on five attempts. He ripped off a 70-yard touchdown on his first collegiate touch and also had a 61-yard punt return in the second half.
TCU holds a 16-8-4 all-time advantage in the series vs. Kansas, which dates back to 1942. The Frogs are 9-6 all-time in Lawrence and 7-2-2 against the Jayhawks in Fort Worth, Texas.
TCU and Kansas are meeting for the first time on the gridiron since a 17-10 KU victory in Lawrence in 1997, the year before Gary Patterson arrived at TCU as defensive coordinator.