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KU likes to stay on the ground

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There's really no telling what West Virginia is going to see from the Kansas offense when the two teams meet today in their Big 12 regular-season finale.

Even logic and conventional wisdom aren't good barometers where the Jayhawks are concerned.

Logic would seem to indicate that Kansas will once again try to run the football, which it has done rather consistently for the last eight games. But even then, the Jayhawks are constantly tinkering with the way they run do it.

Conventional wisdom, though, would point toward throwing the ball more. That's something coach Charlie Weis pretty much gave up on early in the season, but now he's facing the nation's worst pass defense.

The bottom line is that Kansas (1-10, 0-8 Big 12) could go in a lot of different directions in today's 2:30 p.m. game against West Virginia (6-5, 3-5) at Mountaineer Field. If history is any indication, it could be a direction the Jayhawks have not gone before.

That's just how all-over-the-map Kansas is under Weis.

"These guys do a lot of different things,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said of the Jayhawks. "We don't, and a lot of teams in our conference don't.''

Indeed, while West Virginia and most other teams will make subtle, strategic changes in how they operate offensively, most don't try to reinvent themselves the way Kansas does. If a team begins the season stressing one sort of passing game or another, one running style or a good balance, that's generally what they stay with unless it is just forced by circumstance to change.

Kansas has gone from a balanced offense with a veteran quarterback (Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist) throwing the football to a run-first-and-almost-always style with redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Cummings. And if that drastic change in styles wasn't enough, the Jayhawks seem to change how they run each week - sometimes option and zone read, at other times single backs, I-formation power or a mix.

Weis refers to the changes as mere window dressing, giving opposing defenses more to think about as he tries to find something that works while his team struggles through the nation's second-longest losing streak of 10 games.

"I like to be a 50-50 play caller, but we were very inefficient in our passing game, in all facets,'' Weis said. "And the best players on our team are our running backs. So we've kind of morphed away from being a 50-50 team to being clearly a run-first team. And what that's forced me to do is spend more time with the offensive staff trying to figure out ways to stay one step ahead of the posse so that you're not just dialing up the same runs every week.''

For his part, Holgorsen wonders how anyone can do that. Of course, he also rather sarcastically referred this week to Weis's long-held belief that as a former NFL coach he can create "a schematic advantage'' for his team.

"We only get 20 hours a week with them. It's our philosophy to keep things consistent throughout the week,'' Holgorsen said. "Do we tweak things? Yes. But at this time of the year, who you are is who you are.

"With Kansas, they do a variety of things on special teams and on offense. We have 11 games [of tape] to look at and we have to figure out what their approach is going to be. If we fail to recognize that, then we will have to do a great job of that in game.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 

 


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