ROUNDTABLE: UCLA-Missouri State Interregnum

In the wake of K-State's biggest season-opening win in almost a decade (as well as one of the most embarrassing losses in KU football history), there's plenty to discuss before Saturday's contest against FCS stalwart Missouri State.

Don't sneer at the Bears, though, even if they are coached by one of the worst coaches in KU football history. After all, they were picked to finish one spot higher than North Dakota State...

Follow the jump for our thoughts on the week that was and the season that will be.

1. Carson Coffman struggled at times Saturday, but took command of the offense down the stretch to score a critical touchdown. How, if any, did your opinion change of him after watching the game? Are you still expecting another QB to emerge later in the season and take the starting job?

BracketCat: By the end of the second quarter, I will admit that I was thinking "same old Carson" and dreading what might happen this season. Of course, we were losing a at the time, so that didn't help my outlook.

But Coffman showed a lot of grit by fighting through dehydration, cramps and vomiting to return in the second half and lead the team on a critical scoring drive, one in which he completed every pass and secured a key first down with a wise decision not to pitch on the option, and instead keep it Grant Gregory-style.

And of course, he capped it off with a nifty fake hand-off/bootleg roll-out TD pass to Brodrick Smith.

For all that, he should be commended. Carson grew up a lot in this game, but he needs to continue his growth, especially in decision-making regarding the passing game.

But the truth is, if you take away the fumble and if Carson throws it away on two of the sacks instead of eating the ball, most people probably would come away from the game thinking he played fairly well and managed the game effectively, despite the lack of a vertical passing game.

Well, he didn't quite do that, but he did dig deep and find a way to win, and that's what this team needs as long as Daniel Thomas is this unstoppable.

Collin Klein looked terrible in limited action and I think most people will admit they were hoping for Coffman's return, knowing that was the only way the offense would get moving again. Sometimes you don't appreciate what you do have until it's gone. And Sammuel Lamur didn't even see the field, so who the hell knows what's up with him?

We need to see both backups for extended time Saturday before I even can begin to judge whether one of them can supplant Coffman.

TB: Not a lot of change overall. I'm still skeptical that he will be the quarterback to get the job done game in and game out, but he did lead K-State to a win over at least a decent opponent in the opener. Credit where credit is due for that.

Further, he really did show some toughness to fight through his physical problems, come back and lead the game-changing drive. When we start to see consistent performances over a series of games, I'll feel more comfortable grading Coffman.

Panjandrum: After giving myself a couple of days to reflect, Carson's performance wasn't as bad as it could have been when you look at the game as a whole. He did a good job of managing the game, getting KSU into the right play calls at the right time, and in the second half, they really moved the ball well.

When he wasn't forced to read post-snap coverage, his passes were decisive and crisp. If the receiver had ample separation, he put the ball on the money. In all, that's what you can expect out of a quarterback with his particular skill set.

I'm done pining for Ell Roberson, Michael Bishop, Jon Beasley, Josh Freeman, etc. This is where we're at, and I'm resigning myself to that fact.

At this point in time, after watching Snyder send Klein out there with the play-calling equivalent to a knife in a gun fight, he doesn't have much confidence in his second string QB(s) to lead the offense when it matters. Therefore, if Carson has his confidence, we're going to have to just hitch our wagon to him and hope for the best.

And in all honesty, if he wouldn't have fumbled the snap and not misfired on the stop-and-go route to Smith, we all would have thought, "Hey, he didn't really play badly at all."

Now, if K-State goes down early by two touchdowns in any game this season, they're absolutely screwed because he's not going to be able to throw them back into a game, but the odds of that happening in the majority of the games is pretty slim given how they play (run heavy offense/bend-but-don't-break defense).

I guess I'm not expecting Klein or Lamur to be the guy later on. If KSU can get through the first four games with wins, I don't see Snyder changing it up. If they're 2-2 or something, maybe, but last year, Coffman couldn't do anything against Louisiana and UCLA, so that's why the change was made.

They were able to put up 31 on a good UCLA defense, so I think Snyder will take that and run with it the rest of the year. Unless Coffman becomes a turnover machine, and then, yeah, we'll see someone else.

 

2. Daniel Thomas delivered an extremely impressive effort Saturday, rushing for the fifth-most yards in a K-State game ever, as well as personal career highs in yards and carries. A good portion of the nation watched the performance on ABC. Do you think DT's breakout performance was enough to jump-start a dark-horse Heisman campaign?

BracketCat: Judging by the lack of highlights on SportsCenter and the probability that Kendall Hunter will come away with Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week (it should be a co-award, at a minimum), probably not. (Note: This was written before DT was named Co-Offensive Player of the Week.)

But the fine writers at Rivals.com already are realizing their summer mistakes in overvaluing KU and undervaluing K-State, and Mike Huguenin issued a pretty big mea culpa Monday.

If DT can continue the carnage against the "vaunted, five times better" Nebraska defense that let the worst team in the Football Bowl Subdivision run for 150 yards on them last week, he might start getting serious run as a candidate. Right now, though, the Doak Walker Award probably is the ceiling.

TB: Unfortunately, I doubt it. We've seen that the Heisman now is an award for the best quarterback or running back on one of the best five teams in the nation. Ndamukong Suh would have won the Heisman going away last year if there was any justice in this world, but he didn't. Unless DT carries us to a 10-2 season, he doesn't have a prayer.

Panjandrum: I'm not going to spend much time analyzing this because of what's already been said. I doubt KSU will win enough games to garner consideration.

Maybe if he tears up the Big 12 and rushes for something like 1,800-2,000 yards, we'll see him invited to New York and be a serious candidate for the Doak Walker and/or All-American status, but the Heisman just ain't happening this year.

 

3. The defense performed better than many of us were expecting, although there still were some breakdowns from time to time. Which position group impressed you the most? Which group disappointed the most? Also, name your defensive player of the game.

BracketCat: I was most impressed with cornerbacks, who exceeded my wildest hopes with their coverage ability and aggressiveness. The immediate impact of Keith Burns appears obvious.

I'm including in this group both David Garrett (who recorded an interception) and Troy Butler (who recorded a blitzing sack), who seemed to alternate between Cat safety and cornerback with ease.

But the true revelation was Terrance Sweeney, who recorded an interception, currently leads the nation in passes broken up with four and more than lived up to the offseason hype. The only way he could have made more of an impact is in the return game, but that will have wait until this week, perhaps.

The linebackers were about what I was expecting and although the defensive line failed to get a consistent push, we've already recorded more sacks than we had at this point last year (which was zero), and the combination of Brandon Harold, Prizell Brown and Raphael Guidry appears capable of generating pressure, so I'll let them off the hook for a while.

No, the most disappointing group was the safeties. Tysyn Hartman allowed an atrocious and way-too-easy TD pass that could have killed us had UCLA scored the 2-point conversion and taken the game to overtime.

Yes, he's still recovering from a knee injury, but come on — you can't give that up. Ty Zimmerman is waiting in the wings if such mistakes continue. And although Emmanuel Lamur made some great hits and pass disruptions, I frankly expected more from him.

We need much better play from our superstars in the defensive backfield while the front seven slowly grow into their roles.

TB: The linebackers were somewhat pleasant surprises for me. They weren't great, but I don't remember any horrible breakdowns. If they can perform like that all season, then they will at least hold their own.

I'd have to say the defensive backfield, with a couple notable exceptions, was the biggest disappointment. They had a horrible breakdown on UCLA's two-play touchdown drive that could have cost K-State the game. I'll be boring, and agree with BracketCat and name Terrance Sweeney as my defensive player of the game.

Panjandrum: Well, I wasn't expecting the corners to be as good as they were, so I'll have to give them major props for their efforts. I was really scared going into the season, but Garrett and Sweeney were fantastic. I still wish Joshua Moore and Darious Thomas were here, but hey, these guys, if they stay healthy, can do the job.

I'd say, as a whole, I was disappointed in the linebackers. I think you have a strange juxtaposition between being assignment sound and smart (Hrebec), and athletic and inexperienced (Childs). Hrebec, God love him, hurts my eyes when I watch him run. The only guy he can chase down is a lineman. That's not going to fly going forward.

And Childs, while really making some nice plays Saturday, has a long way to go. My main disappointment isn't necessarily how they played (They did fine, all things considered...), but the fact that this is what we have to work with.

With a full roster of linebackers, the best two are a former walk-on and a converted running back? Yikes.

My defensive player of the game was Brandon Harold. It's good to have the beast man back. He pretty much was the only pass rush threat out there and his forced fumble in the fourth quarter was critical. I will still maintain that in a year or two, he'll be a first-round draft pick. He's that good.

 

4. The offensive line isn't quite what we thought it would be, with Clyde Aufner still out and Ethan Douglas suffering a knee injury on the third play of the game. What does Charlie Dickey need to do to shore up the right tackle position?

BracketCat: I think once Zach Hanson gets more reps at the position this week, we'll be OK. He can't have taken that many in fall camp, even though I'm sure all the linemen cross-train at other positions for situations just like these.

But Hanson was battling with Manase Foketi for at least three weeks, which means the reps were coming predominantly on the left side. Now everything is flipped, and linemen will tell you that it slows them down to reverse their footwork and their technique.

Most of the gap issues seemed to be combination of miscommunication/lack of chemistry with right guard Kenneth Mayfield and the unusual situation of facing a pass rusher from the right side, not the blind side. Besides, most linemen would have trouble with Akeem Ayers, who looks like a possible first-round draft pick.

But when push came to shove and we really needed a first down, the coaches ran option to Hanson's side, so they clearly trust him.

I think Hanson will grow into the position and Aufner should return at some point this year to at least provide depth. I'm slightly more worried about Foketi, who as the blind-side protector will be facing the pass rush much more frequently.

His footwork needs improvement, he still doesn't know all the plays and he needs to pack on more weight. I'm sure Dickey will get him there and Foketi earned the position the hard way, but it's still an open-ended question mark for now.

TB: Sounds like he'll be moving Zach Hanson over to right tackle. I don't know if that will be the answer or not, and I'm sure Hanson will face an adjustment period moving from the left side to the right side, but I think the line play was serviceable.

Thomas didn't make all 234 yards on his own, and a lot of the sacks were more Carson Coffman holding the ball too long than serious breakdowns in protection.

Panjandrum: I guess find someone that won't get hurt there? Seems like Hanson will do well, so I'm not concerned, but it looks like some of the younger guys (i.e. Cornelius Lucas) might need to get in the game soon, for the sake of depth. Hopefully, Aufner gets back soon so there are some experienced backups available.

 

5. In the spirit of Mark May and Dr. Lou, which five K-State players would you award helmet stickers for Saturday's game?

BracketCat: Daniel Thomas (Duh!), Terrance Sweeney (Also duh!), Brandon Harold (Welcome back!), Anthony Cantele (Great debut! Josh who?) and Carson Coffman (He did what he needed to do and I don't think we could have won without him.)

TB: Daniel Thomas, Terrance Sweeney, Anthony Cantele, Carson Coffman and Brodrick Smith

Panjandrum: Daniel Thomas, David Garrett, Terrance Sweeney, Brandon Harold and Brodrick Smith

 

6. BONUS: How damaging do you think KU's loss is to the school and to the Big 12 as a whole?

BracketCat: For KU, it has the potential to be devastating. This eight-game losing streak conceivably could balloon to 17. If that happens, Turner Gill's on the hot seat with the AD that hired him on his way out and prominent boosters already pissed at the athletic department for a multitude of sins.

In other words, it's right back to the days of "Terrible" Terry Allen (who, by the way, is Missouri State's coach now).

Giving will decline, optimism will disappear and seats will empty. It would be a major setback for a program that had a small taste of success in 2007, and Lew Perkins' legacy would be shattered permanently.

For the Big 12, I'm not sure there's much impact because KU usually isn't that good in football, but it certainly does not help the cause of the Forlorn Five if realignment comes rolling down the pike once more. We don't need KU to be a world-beater, but we do at least need them not to choke on their cupcakes. (Insert mandatory Mangino joke here.)

TB: Hurts the school bad. They're well on their way to killing all the momentum they had from 2007. If Turner Gill goes 1-11 or 2-10 this year, they're almost immediately right back to the dark days of Terry Allen, only with one of their best recruiting classes ever still on campus.

I don't know that it hurts the Big 12 as a whole that much — they're still known around the country for basketball.

Panjandrum: Is it damaging to the Big 12? No, not really. No one is going to look down on Texas because Kansas is bad this year. They'll get a bit of a pass because Gill is new, but if things don't improve quickly, KU looks to be a pretty easy out for everyone in the conference.

How KU fares against Georgia Tech is going to speak volumes about where they're going the rest of the year. If KU gets run, and I mean really, really run, I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of tent folding in Lawrence.

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