I have to admit it: I nearly fell off my chair when KU went for it on 4th-and-1 at the CMU 41 yard line just about five minutes into a scoreless game. I’m not sure Kansas punter Kyle Tucker even bothered to put on his helmet.
After watching the Jayhawks play not to lose rather than to win with leads throughout the 2006 season, I was very excited that head coach Mark Mangino – with a huge assist from new offensive coordinator Ed Warriner – showed more of a gambler’s mentality last night. He rolled the dice two times on fourth down and converted pass plays on both.
Coincidentally, both drives ended in Jayhawk touchdowns.
“We’ve taken on a whole new mentality on offense,” Mangino said. “I told (offensive coordinator) Ed Warriner earlier in the week, ‘You’d better have some 4th-and-shorts and 4th-and-mediums ready because we’re going to go for them.”
He continued, “We’re going all out. We’re not holding anything back at any time. We can’t tell our kids to go all out if we’re not going to go all out.”
So Mangino and Warriner have sent a simple but tremendously positive message to his offense that was sorely lacking last season: that the coaches have confidence in them.
“Coach Warriner has brought a whole new confidence to our team and to our offense, more of an attack attitude,” Fine explained. “That boosts our confidence as players, and it helps in our overall game. If we have the opportunity to do certain things, we’re not holding anything back.”
Marcus Henry added, “That 4th-and-1 was just showing everybody that we’re going to take chances this year and that we have the confidence to go for it on 4th-and-whatever. We’re more on the attack this year than last year by a whole lot.”
First-time starter Reesing wasn’t at all surprised at the green light on 4th down. “The coaches told us before the game, if there’s a 4th-down situation, if coach Mangino were to ask coach Warriner should we go for it, his the answer was automatically going to be yes.”
I also can’t help but think Mangino and Warriner also sent a nice message to their fans, as well.
After a season of watching the Jayhawks nurse tenuous leads by diving off-tackle three straight times, it was fun to see the coaching staff say, “Let’s punch our opponent in the mouth – get a play in there.” After all, that’s what college football is all about: let’s line up and see who the better team is.
Granted, this was Central Michigan. I Mangino and Warriner are truly committed to this new attack mindset, though, it’s not going to change, whether KU is playing Directional Michigan or Nebraska.
Watch for this more aggressive attitude to continue throughout the nonconference portion of the schedule. Players like Reesing, Fine and Henry seem to carry it well. If KU continues to enjoy this kind of success over the next three weeks, look for plenty more of the attacking mindset when KU rolls into Manhattan for the conference opener with a 4-0 record.
It’s the kind of message that’s sent by a coach who really feels good about the players he’s got on the field. He knows they can execute and get the job done.
It’s also the message that’s sent by a head coach who’s confident in his offensive coordinator. I’m can’t say with 100 percent certainty that that confidence was always there last season.