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A Closer Look at KU Football: Bring Back the Trick Plays

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To help pass the time of the college sports offseason (for those of us who don't follow college baseball), I plan on doing a weekly post taking a look at something that has to do with KU football. How vague is that description? Week one, we are getting tricky...

When I was growing up, I absolutely LOVED Tecmo Superbowl III (the final edition) for SNES. I would play constantly after school, and I would dominate the computer. Why? I called a flea flicker almost every other play. The thing was unstoppable. The wide receiver (in my case, Robert Brooks) would be wide open every single time, and the QB (pre-evil Brett Favre) would hit him for a touchdown. Championship. I fell in love with the trick play ever since. It represents what I love about football - the scheming, the creativity, the plays that leave people scratching their heads wondering what just happened.

It can be a deadly weapon for coaches that use it correctly, and it can sway games in which your team might not be as talented as your opponent. Boise State's upset over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl was the result of two monster trick plays - a hook and ladder (or lateral, however you say it) to tie the game and a gorgeous statue of liberty play  to give them the win. To this day, that game is my favorite non-KU college game of all time, mostly because two awesome trick plays delivered a huge upset.

Mark Mangino, amongst many, many other things, was a very bright offensive coach. He enjoyed trick plays as well, and most were successful (except that botched fake field goal attempt against OU in 2005, that was terrible). Mangino, in my opinion, bought into the trick play early in his coaching career to achieve what Boise State sought against Oklahoma - an opportunity to even the playing field. KU used a trick play to gain an upper hand in its win against K-State and its epic collapse against Texas Tech in 2004. A fake punt against Texas A&M in 2006 ended up being half of our yards that day. Basically, ol' Mark knew that he had to get creative when his offenses were struggling (and I use that term lightly). An offense struggling... where have we seen that lately?

After Mangino had already fallen in love with the trick play, QB Kerry Meier switched to WR and soon became a standout at the position. Now Mangino had a guy who could throw at WR on the field almost every play, and the trick plays kept coming. The Meier pass was used frequently, and with great success - see his pass against Minnesota in the insight bowl or his deep ball to Briscoe in the UTEP game in 2009 for examples. Then we lost Mark the Shark and his tricky ways, last seasoned happened, and here we are. It seemingly happened as fast as I typed that sentence.

Let me tell you something you might not have heard before - KU's offense last season was record-setting bad. I broke two remotes during the year just from watching our "offense" on TV and now spend games in front of the television handcuffed (you think I'm kidding). So I started thinking... why not get tricky? I mean, Mangino's teams struggled on offense a lot in 2004, 2005 and even 2006. Sometimes a trick play was the only long gain of the game. At least he recognized he needed to try something different and creative to give us a chance.

Which brings us to 2011, and what do we have? TWO former QBs playing WR, including one that was our opening day starting QB last year (where have I seen this before... right, that Kerry Meier guy). What else do we have? Oh right, an offense that was downright horrifying last season. Look, I'm not saying we need to start calling plays like a fourth grade KU Grad 08 gunning for 100 points in Tecmo Super Bowl III (the final edition), but we have the personnel. Why not give it a shot?

In our disaster against Fetch's Homeland State last year, our offense was non-existent. What was the best play of the day? A simple reverse. This accounted for more yards than the fitting a square peg into a round hole rushing of all our RBs combined that night... and that is scary.

With struggles at QB and an offense that often gave up more points than it scored, it's time for outside the box thinking. It is time to go Boise on people. It is time to bring back the Mangino trickeration. Even in small doses, it may be the difference between another disaster and some rays of hope.