LUBBOCK, Texas — There’s a longstanding view in football that run-heavy offense must equal vanilla offense, that the most complex and intricate schemes must include five wide receivers and offensive line splits big enough to drive a semi-truck through.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
It's not always true, of course.
Here's some evidence: Kansas’ rushing attack piled up 390 yards on Saturday in a 41-34 loss to Texas Tech in double overtime. This happened despite the fact KU has one of the worst passing attacks in the nation; despite the fact that everyone inside Jones AT&T Stadium — from Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, to KU junior James Sims, to the horse that carried Tech’s Masked Rider — knew that KU was going to run ... a lot.
“Everyone knows,” Weis says.
It helped, of course, that Tony Pierson was finally close to full strength after battling an elbow injury that limited his ability to cut and shift gears. And with Pierson in the fold, Weis devised a scheme that kept Sims and Pierson in the game together for most of the day.
“I felt that we weren’t getting our best players on the field,” Weis said Sunday. “We were just getting into (the two-back set) when Tony hurt his elbow. So it kind of put a hindrance on us at the time.”
Maybe it wasn't mad scientist stuff. But Kansas was able to mix up the packages enough to keep Texas Tech from containing KU's rushers. Pierson finished with 202 yards on 16 carries, while Sims added 127 on 30 rushing attempts. On Saturday, Sims was mostly used on inside-zone runs, while Pierson gashed Texas Tech on the outside. Weis, though, would like to think of the duo as more than your usual "Thunder and Lightning" combo.
“They both can run inside and outside,” Weis said.
For most of the last month, Weis has been honest about the state of his passing game. It’s unproductive, lacking, anemic, etc. The quarterback play has been suspect. The receivers have been mediocre. It is, perhaps, one of the most definitive reasons Kansas has started 1-9 and 0-7 in the Big 12.
“Our passing game has been inefficient,” Weis said, “in all aspects.”
If it's not Job 1 in the offseason, fixing the passing game will certainly be a major emphasis in the offseason. BYU transfer quarterback Jake Heaps will be eligible next year. So that adds some hope. But Weis says Kansas needs both “development” and “personnel substitutions” to find the right mix in the passing game.
In short: It could take some time.
But if nothing else, Weis can drive his flag into the Jayhawks’ rushing attack. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Sims and Pierson will be back next year. And in year one of Weis, the ground game has provided a firm foundation.
“I think this has established kind of a physical identity,” Weis said, “that’s gonna make us a much better team down the road.”
The scheme of things
It’s no secret that Charlie Weis likes to talk offense. So here was his answer Sunday after he was asked about devising offensive schemes when the opposing staff knows KU will almost certainly be run-dominant on offense.
“It used to be you put your core runs in there, and you put some formations down, and that’s about how it went,” Weis said. “You’d build your play-action off of those core runs, and then you went to your drop-backs, and by the time you finished that and added your screens and gadget plays, you had yourself a game plan.
“Now we spend a lot more time together as an entire offensive staff, figuring out what can we do to build off last week’s game — to not throw away the good stuff that we did last week, but at the same time, to stay one step ahead of the team you’re going against.”
Weis spent a few minutes Sunday sending out a tweet about the Jayhawks’ upcoming senior day matchup with Iowa State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“All the trials and tribulations that went on with the team,” Weis added Sunday night. “I think it’s really, really important that the coaching staff and all the non-seniors do every thing they can to send these guys out with a good taste in their mouth.”