A rare Friday post about something other than music promoted by the beginning of college football and an interesting night at a high school game earlier this week.
I was thinking last night that there have been very few falls in my life when KU fans were genuinely excited about the coming football season. I’m talking about the excitement that comes with the chance for a really good season, not just “Hey, if everything breaks right, we might win six games this year!” excitement.
As best as I can recall, 1992, 2007, 2008, and 2009 were the only years that the Jayhawk faithful could great the coming season with honest-to-goodness optimism.
After last year’s 6–7 season, with almost the entire offense back, the 2023 season has joined that list.
And then this morning I woke up at 5:15 to take L to basketball, opened up Twitter while she was getting ready, and the first message I see says that Jalon Daniels’ back injury continues to bother him and a few “insiders” do not expect him to play in tonight’s season opener.
Just freaking great.
I guess we’ll find out later today whether those rumors are true, but nothing about them is good. Daniels has labored all month in practice with some kind of back issue. If he can’t play next week against Illinois, and beyond that, or can’t be close to 100%, all those fun expectations for this season get tossed aside.
I was reluctant to be too optimistic about this season simply because of Daniels’ health. He has been injured every season he’s been at KU. It seemed to be asking a lot for him to get through the next 12–13 games unscathed. If you told me he would play this entire season, I think KU has a realistic chance to win eight games, perhaps more if the defense can find a way to be even halfway decent.
But if he’s already battling a lingering injury before the season starts? Throw out any hopes for an upper-division Big 12 finish and second-consecutive bowl game. Jason Bean is a nice backup, and KU fans should be very thankful he changed his mind and decided to return. He’s not a quarterback that will get you through the non-con at 3–0 and then find a way to win 3–5 games in the Big 12, though.
Once again the Football Gods decide to kick KU fans in the shins. It’s not fair to Daniels that so much of the program’s success will be determined by his health. It is our truth, though. Lance Leipold and his staff are excellent at developing talent. Maybe they have the program far enough along where they can still be in just about every game whether JD plays or not. A lifetime of mediocre-to-bad football has me conditioned to expect the worst.
I’m reluctant to make a call on wins with JD’s status unclear. I listened to a KU pod this week where they threw out a few hypotheticals that were kind of fun.
Would you rather KU win nine games and play in a legit bowl game but lose Leipold at the end of this season, or win just four games and keep Lance? I’m 100% take the wins.
Would you rather beat Kansas State or Texas? This one is tricky. K-State is the smart answer. Texas is leaving the Big 12 and we’ve never really thought we could play on their level. K-State has proven that you can create a winner in the state of Kansas and are the model KU should follow: smart recruiting with great coaching. Plus a loss to KU might knock KSU out of the Big 12 title chase.
But…I’m going to Austin for the Texas game. It would be pretty dope to see KU get its second-straight win in Austin as the Longhorns depart for the SEC.
Mind says K-State, heart says Texas.
The third hypothetical was the most unrealistic: would you rather Jalon Daniels be a Heisman finalist (they may have even said win it) or KU make it to the college football playoff? Both seem extremely far-fetched, and that’s even before we knew of Daniels’ status for tonight. I would lean towards the CFP. But one of the hosts pointed out how Robert Griffin winning the Heisman was a massive moment in the growth of Baylor football. I get that, but I still would take the team success with a super cool QB who just missed making the trip to New York as a Heisman finalist.
Monday L asked me to take her to the Cathedral freshman B game against Carmel so she could stand on the sideline and take pictures. She had fun and got some good shots. Find her on Instagram if you’d like to see some samples.
Since this was a B game and both teams had played on Saturday, I believe they rested most of their freshmen starters, or rotated them into positions they don’t normally play. As you would expect, the game was rather ragged, with Carmel grabbing a 13–12 win, the difference being they were 1–2 on PATs while the Irish were 0–2.
My big takeaway was that you have to be a very patient person to coach freshmen. I reached out to a friend of mine who coached for a few years after he got out of college and his response was, “I am a very patient person. But coaching freshmen almost killed me.”
There were kids standing around on the sideline when they’re supposed to be in the game. Guys lining up in the wrong spots. Running the wrong plays. Players just flat fumbling the ball when no defender is within ten feet of them. Holding on every play. So many false starts or offsides calls.
Here’s a sequence that summed up the game: Cathedral had a beautiful drive that got them into the red zone late in the first half, fueled by about 65 yards of rushing by the quarterback. Then they had holding on four straight plays, a false start, and a personal foul. Next thing you know they are punting from their own side of the field and the punter lets the snap go right through his hands. Carmel covered, scored about four plays later, and hit what became the game-winning extra point.
Again, these were freshmen, mostly playing out of position or who don’t normally get into games, so I give them lots of leeway.
Since there weren’t a lot of people in the stands it was easy to hear the coaches. In warmups I heard one of them scream at one of L’s middle school classmates, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BEN RICHARDS?!?!”
While the offense was running through their warm up sequence the head coach screamed at the quarterback who was indecisive on an option-read play “ACT LIKE A QUARTERBACK AND MAKE A PLAY!” Same kid who ran the play to perfection three times on that doomed drive in the game, so I guess he was paying attention.
My favorite coaching moment came in the fourth quarter. All the kids who are usually starters but being held out were acting like your normal, bored 14–15 year old kid. They were dancing, talking to people in the stands, and throwing balls on the sideline. In general not paying attention to the game.
The Irish forced a turnover with 4:00 left and were trying to drive down to take the lead and these kids were still throwing a ball around. It whizzed by a coach’s head. He turned around, intercepted the next toss, heaved it into the stands, and screamed at them, “THIS ISN’T FREAKING MIDDLE SCHOOL. KNOCK IT OFF AND PAY ATTENTION!”
I laughed out loud.
My other favorite part of the game was the mom who was sitting near me. Her kid was the quarterback. She was intense and involved, but I’m not sure she knew much about football. Every time he got tackled she would yell at the refs, “Hey! Get them off him!”
The very best moment, though, was when Cathedral got the ball down to the one yard line. Her son is probably 5’7”. She yelled down to him, “JUST JUMP OVER THEM!!”
I liked her enthusiasm but that seemed misguided. Fortunately he didn’t listen to her and snuck it in under the linemen. She made several other very unorthodox suggestions.
She also thought a PAT that was five yards short and wide was good. I just realized that she may have been drinking.
Anyway, I’m glad I was just there to watch casually and could laugh at all the silliness rather than get worked up by it.