Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Eephus pitch

November 21, 2007

I'm a KU fan.

It's my alma mater and I've spent five years living and working in the Lawrence community.

That being said, I'm not a Mark Mangino fan. He has put together a complete team that heads into this weekend's showdown at Arrowhead Stadium undefeated and aspiring to be Big 12 champions and, just maybe, national champions.

If these two things happen it will be impossible to defend the position that he's not worthy of Liberty Mutual's Coach of the Year award.

But a couple of in-game errors tell me he is undeserving, and I hope it won't be future coaching errors that keep this team from realizing its dream season.

With less than four minutes to play in the K-State game, Mangino elected to go for the first down on a fourth-and-one inside the K-State 20-yard line. At the time, KU clung to a four-point lead.

In that situation, you kick the field goal and take the points. Going up by a touchdown late in the game means that you're probably not going to lose in regulation. At least if the other team scores they will not have the lead unless the coach pulls a Tom Osborne and goes for the win.

Even worse was Mangino's call on that play. His team lined up in the shotgun, five yards deep in the backfield and ran the option.

Now I'm sure Mangino's thinking was to put the game away, run it right at the K-State defense and keep the drive going.

But the best way to do that, if you must do that, is to run the ball right at them. You line up in the I-formation or something similar, give it to Brandon McAnderson and take it to them.

The KU defense luckily bailed him out of the situation -- Todd Reesing was tackled in the backfield on the play, but KU got the ball back with an interception.

Another big error the huge man made was taking a year of eligibility from Reesing for one half of football.

Against Colorado last year, sitting on a 3-5 record, the coach lifted Reesing's redshirt.

That wasn't so bad, as Reesing brought the Jayhawks back from a nine-point deficit to beat the Buffaloes and keep their bowl hopes alive.

What was bad was Reesing sitting on the bench for the remainder of the season as Kerry Meier struggled to score points for the offense. This may be last year's mistake, but pulling the redshirt for a second half is a mistake that will haunt KU for three more years.

If Reesing would have started for the remainder of the season, he might be even more dominating right now.

So who is the coach of the year? I look to close games for an indication. Coach Al Groh has won more close games this year than any other team. Seven games on the Virginia schedule were decided by less than a touchdown. The surprising Cavaliers are ranked No. 16 after dropping an early season game to Wyoming.

Winning close games and big games is the ultimate yardstick by which coaches are measured. Just ask Marty Schottenheimer.

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