KCAC to open conference play this week

By Steve Sell
September 15, 2015

Tuesday’s tidbits...

• ROUGH START FOR THE KCAC — Thank goodness it’s the start of conference football play for the KCAC this week.

The non-conference portion of the schedule was none too kind.

The KCAC did little to polish its image nationally as it went just 3-13 in the first three weeks.

After a 2-2 start, the conference was 1-9 in Week 2 and lost its only two games last week.

Take away Kansas Wesleyan and its 2-0 start and we’re looking at an ugly 1-13.

In fairness, the conference had four games in the KCAC-GPAC Challenge that it could have won. Ottawa, Tabor and Bethel lost by a combined seven points and Friends lost by 10. Southwestern was tied with Concordia after three quarters, then was blown out.

Eight of the 10 KCAC schools had an open date last week in preparation for this week’s conference openers. McPherson College, Bethel, Ottawa and Sterling all have played just one game so far. Ottawa typically has played Baker in the past, but is playing only a 10-game schedule this year. McPherson College, perhaps knowing it was going to have a painfully young team under first-year coach Paul Mierkiewicz, also elected not to fill its open date with an 11th game.

Easily the headline game of the opening week of conference play finds Tabor at Ottawa, which may be the two best teams. I’m curious to see how the Sterling at Kansas Wesleyan game plays out, since the Coyotes have raised eyebrows with their start. They have replenished their roster with some standout players from other KCAC schools, which really hasn’t set well with other conference members from what I’ve been told. In fact it’s my understanding that a new rule will go into effect Jan. 1 that says if a player transfers within the conference, they have to sit out a year.

Other games find McPherson College at Southwestern, Bethany at Bethel and Saint Mary hosting Friends. For the Bulldogs, who started 11 freshmen in their first game, this could be their best chance to win a game this season.

• ROYALS TANKING — The Royals aren’t just losing, they’re looking bad in doing it. They are now 2-8 in their last 10 games and their normal strengths have been weaknesses during the slump.

Perhaps the best example of where their heads are at occurred Monday night when Alex Rios watched a ball hit off the wall in Cleveland that he thought was a home run and didn’t go after it with any urgency. Teammate Ben Zobrist realized the ball was still in play and ran all the way to right field from second base to retrieve it, with the end result a triple.

Don’t be surprised if Rios, the id="mce_marker"1 million bust who seems to go half-speed on more than a few occasions, is left off the playoff roster. The Royals thought his last season with Texas was an aberration, but it’s clear his skills have eroded and he’s a shell of his former self.

The Royals need for somebody to step up and deliver a quality start. The staff has given up 36 runs in the last four games, but the bullpen has been just as horrendous — especially Kelvin Herrera. The offense, sans the 14-8 win over Baltimore, hasn’t exactly been lighting it up.

It’s time for one of the veterans – say the normally low-key Alex Gordon or even Zobrist — to step up and address the malaise that has hit the team. Kansas City perhaps started its home-run trot to the division title a bit early, as Minnesota won’t go away. I know a nine-game deficit with only 19 left to play is supposedly insurmountable, but right now the Royals are resembling those 100-loss teams that used to stink up Kauffman Stadium on a yearly basis.

• DEFENSELESS JAYHAWKS — Being an alum of the University of Kansas, it’s painful to watch what the Jayhawks are going through under first-year head coach David Baty, who can hardly be faulted as he inherited nothing but the bare scraps.

The Jayhawks are staring right down the barrel of an 0-12 season. They messed up their most legitimate chance at a victory when they came out against South Dakota State and dropped a first-half egg, trailing by 24 points. They did rally within a field goal, but lost 41-38.

Last week against Memphis, a bowl team from last year, they sprinted to a 10-0 lead, but all that did was raise false hope as they wound up being blown out, 55-23.

KU’s defense may go down statistically as the worst in college football history when the year is over. Its tackling is atrocious, and it’s small and slow. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is working with a group that would probably have a hard time holding a team like Pittsburg State under 28 points. There’s no Ben Heeney this year, or even JaCory Sheperd, both drafted by the NFL.

Just think what teams like Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma are going to do. I really believe all three could put up 100 points on KU or go over 1,000 yards of offense. But I’m sure Art Briles, Gary Patterson and Bob Stoops will show some compassion when their teams are in the 50s before halftime even arrives. They also know at some point Beaty might get it turned around and running up the score could come back to haunt them.

I don’t know what it’s going to take for the Jayhawks to even be competitive with the ninth-place team in the Big 12. It’s going to be years for that to happen, as Turner Gill and especially Charlie Weis destroyed the program with questionable recruiting. How you can convince kids to play in a program that has been so beaten down is beyond me, you need a true miracle worker and he’s already coaching at nearby Kansas State. I really feel for Beaty, who puts on such a positive face even though he knows he has a 2-7 off-suit of a hand to play while everybody else has pocket aces.