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An ACTUAL Q&A With Rock Chalk Talk

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Kansas v Texas Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The witty and urbane Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk reached out this week for a frank exchange of views around the crucial, high-stakes matchup between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks this Saturday in Lawrence. It swiftly devolved into a massive snark-fest, which is the kind of thing that happens when a pair of guys from basketball schools get together and talk football.

Carnival Questions:

David Beaty appears to be missing a “t” from his last name and a lot of TDs on the season. He was viewed as a smart guy with recruiting chops heading into a nigh-impossible situation last year. Are KU fans encouraged by the signs of life that the team has shown against TCU and Iowa State this year, or is the bloom starting to come off of that rose? Or was there ever a rose? Or do long-suffering Jayhawk supporters simply sigh and realize that every rose has its thorn?

With all this talk about roses, you’d think Beaty was auditioning for The Bachelor, not coaching a football team. Seriously though, the “signs of life” you talk about are really much more like those nightmares in the movies where the guy is running a race and trips on his shoelaces right before crossing the finish line.

Beaty is probably doing just about what was expected. Having no experience even as a coordinator prior to becoming a head coach, there was a lot of concern about his in-game coaching ability and decision making. The Air Raid he installed isn’t diverse enough to keep opposing defenses honest, especially in late game situations. But the recruiting difference he has made has been great at this point. We are actually competing for big name transfers, and there is a new Louisiana pipeline of recruits that should help restock the shelves. Hopefully he can lean on his staff to help him develop some management ability over the next couple of years, because we are stuck with him either way. No way we pay yet another coach to not coach for us anymore.

Third-string QB Carter Stanley may require more pluck than a jazz bassist to make things happen against Texas on Saturday - how do you rate his prospects against Puma Forward and Company?

Probably about as much chance as that jazz bassist has of singing on Broadway. Carter Stanley showed a few things in the game last week against Iowa State that gives you hope, but he was definitely still pretty raw. With only 2 games left in the season, it’s hard to imagine him getting the seasoning he needs to develop into something this year. Add in the fact that our offensive line is at times swiss cheese and it pretty much seems impossible for me to see him getting into any sort of rhythm.

Laquivonte Gonzalez is:

  1. A speedy receiver who could give Texas some trouble if they give him room to operate underneath
  2. The highest possible score in Big XII Player Scrabble
  3. Algonquin for “Lake Wevontay,” a popular fishing spot in the Northeast
  4. An even more panicked attempt by Michael Vick to come up with an on-the-spot pseudonym at the STD clinic

I think the correct answer is E) All of the Above. There is the big “if” on option A, because I don’t think a film study of the Jayhawks will show enough of a deep threat for Texas to play back and give him the room he would need to operate in a short or medium passing game. If Beaty would call some deep passes to either Quiv himself or to receiver Steven Sims Jr, then we might see Texas laying off a bit and giving him some chances. But our offense consists mainly of short passes with a few runs sprinkled in for fun. That’s not really something that plays to the strengths of this group.

DE Dorance Armstrong could be a double digit-sack standout on an otherwise moribund Jayhawk D. Would you liken his performance this season to Natalie Portman in The Phantom Menace, Michael Caine in Jaws IV or Samuel L. Jackson in...just about everything?

I’m thinking more like Steve Carrell in Evan Almighty. I mean, sure Bruce Almighty was somewhat successful, but to grab an obscure character from that movie and make him the star in a plot that is obviously doomed to be ridiculous pretty much sums up the experience of a few guys on this Kansas defense. The analogy doesn’t quite fit, since both DT Daniel Wise and S Fish Smithson have been standout guys as well this year. Both have been recognized multiple times by Pro Football Focus as some of the best at their position nationally, but the lack of depth on this defense is horrible. If any of those top three guys go out, it opens up a hole big enough to drive an ark through.

Unless you lump the Longhorns’ blocked-XP troika into a single play, the Jayhawks managed the Big XII’s most loltastic special teams moment of the season when a kick returner laid down in the end zone to camouflage himself against Iowa State. What surprises might Kansas have in store for Texas’ much-maligned third phase on Saturday? Punji traps? Tripwires? Guys popping up from spider holes like in Red Dawn? Enquiring minds want to know.

I’m expecting at least one play where a guy flies in on the back of a lab-created Jayhawk to intercept a deep pass. The referees will be in such awe of the amazing spectacle that they will throw a flag on the Texas QB for trying to harm such a magnificent creature with his football, and the KU Defense will be awarded 3 TDs for the display. It’s a project that was started way back when Mark Mangino was here as a way to make KU Football interesting again. After all, that’s why this game is going to be on national television in the middle of the day: Dollar Signs.

If the musket ball that felled Crispus Attucks in 1770 had been a few inches to the left and struck Perry Ellis instead, how do you think it would have impacted the last seventeen seasons of Kansas Basketball?

Not much at all. A little known fact is that Perry Ellis is actually an experimental government project, a cyborg that can be aged at will. He was created in 1942 to help with the war effort, and to keep his existence under wraps, we made up some story about “nuclear weapons”. I have it on good authority that after he is done terrorizing the NBA, the next plan is to increase his abilities, one of which is to include time travel. My guess is that this is successful some time in the future and the Perry Ellis you are talking about is actually from the future.

Is there any truth to the rumor that influential KU alums made a burnt offering of the last of Mark Mangino’s old wiping sticks to a pagan Heartland diety (presumed in these circles to be some combination of He Who Walks Behind The Rows, an anthropomorphic blue crow and Jobu from Major League) to assure a .510 record over the next eight seasons of Jayhawk football?

Seriously? Everyone knows that there are still plenty of those sticks laying around in some basement somewhere. Another stash was unearthed when the track was removed in the stadium renovation. What they also found was the entrance to an underground shrine to said pagan Heartland deity, but the awesome power being exuded caused it to be sealed away to prevent it from interfering with Bill Self’s voodoo rituals. Unfortunately, everyone who tries to describe the visage of that deity is immediately struck dead, so I can’t confirm what it actually looks like.

Rock Chalk Questions:

This season has been quite the roller coaster for Texas, hasn’t it? From looking phenomenal out of the gate to falling apart surrounding the Oklahoma game to suddenly jumping up to upset Baylor to a disappointing loss to West Virginia. What is your overall assessment of the season so far?

It’s kinda been a tale of two seasons for Texas. The first half was marked by a largely high-flying offense and a defense that was baffled by the simplest assignments, particularly among the cornerback corps. The second half has seen a major decrease in defensive disorganization (though fundamental linebacking against Read Option looks and other run schemes can still be vexing) while the offense has hit some snags against a few of the conference’s more accomplished defenses. If the whole season had looked like the second half, Charlie Strong would probably be in solid shape even if the team only sported a 6-4 record. But the outright defensive disaster that Texas rolled out against Cal, Oklahoma State and OU was a tremendously bitter pill to swallow for fans expecting a step forward in that department thanks to the Longhorns’ (very young but still substantial) talent on that side of the ball with Strong’s defensive pedigree.

On a related note, there has been a lot of chatter about Charlie Strong being on the hot seat. He seemed on his way out the door until the Baylor game. What does he need to do in order to assure himself another season in Austin? Do you actually want to see him back?

Any real assurance probably went out the window with the Longhorns’ loss to West Virginia last week. The two biggest pay sites on the Longhorn Interwebz are hyping up conflicting rumormendo because they don’t have writers capable of delivering substantive and engaging football conversation, but the fact is that no one really knows anything about Strong’s fate at the end of the season aside from Texas’ President and AD - and even they may still be in evaluation mode. Anything short of winning out almost certainly seals Strong’s fate, but even a 7-5 finish has him standing on the edge of a knife. Some of Texas’ defensive struggles this season were explicable by youth and the installation of a HUNH offense (which almost always brings corresponding defensive decline in its inaugural season,) but watching the Longhorns bottom out at 99th in Defensive S&P at one point did tremendous damage to the notion that Charlie can be the guy to take Texas all the way to the mountaintop.

As for me, I absolutely love Strong as a person and an exemplar of much that’s right with college athletics - and these days there ain’t much right with college athletics. With that said, I share the same concerns that anyone would have given the depth of this year’s defensive disaster and continued wilderness-wandering on special teams. I’d personally need at least a two-hour sitdown with Strong and get a LOT of good answers before I’d be comfortable on signing off on him as Texas’ coach for the forseeable future, and as I’m unlikely to be granted such an audience I find myself sitting on the fence but with one-and-a-half cheeks on the “time to make a change” side.

Which player(s) has been the biggest surprise for the Longhorns this season? The biggest disappointment(s)?

D’Onta Foreman would be an easy choice for biggest surprise, but everyone who saw him in limited action last season expected him to be really good - not likely Heisman Finalist good, but really good. I’m actually going to go with a guy who hasn’t seen a ton of snaps but who has definitely maximized them in sophomore guard Jake McMillon. A converted DT, McMillon was thought to be an attrition candidate in the Spring but immediately exhibited power, poise and face-ripping meanness to earn a starting guard spot midway through the season. Naturally he’s out on Saturday and his loss probably played a significant role in Texas’ defeat against WVU last week, once again proving the popular aphorism that “Some coaches are snakebit - Charlie Strong is crushed by the snake, swallowed alive by the snake and then regurgitated from the snake like Jon Voight in Anaconda.” OK, maybe that’s not all that popular an aphorism, but it’s been a long season - cut me some slack.

I’ve got a three-way tie for biggest disappointment between sophomore defenders Davante Davis, Holton Hill and Malik Jefferson. Davis and Hill were supposed to be this season’s lockdown cornerback duo, but instead they played like they’d been locked out of the film room all Spring and Summer and Hill has found himself locked in the doghouse for much of the season to boot. Jefferson has turned in a remarkably meek season for the Big XII’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year - he finally started exhibiting more physicality, aggression and some stirrings of actual inside linebacking instinct over the past few games, though. Of course, he promptly got concussed in the first quarter against West Virginia which also played a major role in that crucial defeat...because snake aphorism.

Which Longhorn player should we expect to hear a lot about on each side of the ball on Saturday?

Again D’Onta Foreman would be the obvious choice on offense, but I’m going to go with true freshman wideout Collin Johnson. A 6’5” AJ Green clone, Johnson has been beating defenders at all three levels over the past few games and Texas finally seemed to realize that he can get about two feet higher than most of the players trying to cover him when he’s at full extension.

On defense I’m going to go with DT Poona Ford aka Puma Forward aka The Poonatrator. Ford went from an undersized occasional gap shooter in 2015 to a frequent one-man wrecking crew this season to lead an unexpected resurgence from the Longhorn defensive front.

Prediction Time! How do you see the game playing out? Does Kansas take advantage of the home environment and make the game a lot closer than it should be?

It’ll be up to Texas’ mindset as much as anything - there’s no denying the significant talent gulf between these two squads, but coming off a dispiriting loss with rumors swirling around Strong’s future may sap the team’s focus (which has seldom been laser-sharp on the road to begin with). I think a semi-squalid first half gives way to a reasonably comfortable 38-14 victory for Texas.

What is the longest scoring play and who gets it?

76-yard TD run from D’Onta Foreman - I had to get him in there somewhere.

BONUS - Which would you prefer, a personal chef or personal assistant?

I figure the personal assistant could go pick up gourmet meals and/or Torchy’s Tacos for me whenever I pleased while also being able to knock out a lot of other tasks, whereas a personal chef would probably spend his downtime just sitting around and sullenly muttering in French. So I’m gonna go with personal assistant.

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Many thanks to Andy and the fine folks at Rock Chalk Talk - I invite all Longhorn fans to go check them out and briefly lord your superiority over them before their basketball team once again lays waste to all in its path.