Virginia Tech scratched their way into a bowl game by scheduling an emergency 12th game at the end of the regular season, and the Hokies made sure to take advantage of their bowl eligibility right at the start of the Military Bowl in Annapolis this afternoon. Virginia Tech marched right down the field on the game’s opening possession against Cincinnati, and the Hokies and Bearcats are knotted at 14-14 at halftime in Annapolis, Maryland.
Ryan Willis completed a 21-yard pass to Eric Kumah on Virginia Tech’s opening possession for a touchdown at the end of a 10-play drive. The instant replay booth had to take a look at the catch to verify the result on the field before the Hokies could officially enjoy their early lead. The lead did not last for long, however, as Cincinnati responded with a touchdown drive of their own on their first offensive series. On 3rd & 8 from the Virginia Tech 38-yard line, Desmond Ridder dumped off a screen pass to Charles McClelland who followed some key blocks down the field as he found an open path for a long touchdown to even the score at 7-7.
Cincinnati lost Ridder at quarterback to a right leg injury late in the first quarter, with Hayden Moore stepping in to guide the offense. Ridder returned to the Cincinnati sideline later in the second quarter but was seen with a boot on his leg, thus ruling his return out of the question for the Bearcats.
Despite playing with Moore at QB and after some initial rhythm issues as he first entered the game, Cincinnati would take the lead early in the second quarter in somewhat bizarre fashion. Virginia Tech forced a fumble by Cincinnati running back Michael Warren II. The loose ball was recovered in the end zone by Kahlil Lewis of Cincinnati for a Bearcats touchdown.
Virginia Tech tied the game with a goal-line push of their own, without the aide of a fumble recovery, when Steven Peoples pushed across the goal line on a second down play. The Hokies had a chance to take a lead just before halftime, but a long field goal try by Brian Johnson slipped just wide of the goal post despite having the distance.
Kansas head coach David Beaty is shaking things up on his staff this season by declaring he will take on the responsibility for calling offensive plays and coaching the quarterbacks. That essentially strips offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rob Likens of any defined responsibility on the staff, although he remains a member of Beaty’s assistant coaching staff.
“Rob is still going to carry the same title,” Beaty said earlier this week, according to KUSports.com. “But I’m gonna call the offense, and I’m gonna coach the quarterbacks this year. And that doesn’t have anything to do with Rob. It has to do with me. I want to be more actively involved with the QBs and what we do offensively.”
Beaty last called plays for an offense in 2011 as a co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. He also called the shots at Rice as offensive coordinator in 2010. The last time Beaty coached quarterbacks was 2006 and 2007 as a passing game coordinator with Rice. With Beaty taking on the lead role of calling the offense, Likens will be used as an extra coach where needed despite holding the same title, officially.
“He’s a little bit more of a walk-around guy right now,” Beaty said. “It allows him to help me a little bit. Rob can go address some of the running-back stuff, some of the O-line stuff, and we get a chance to come back and make sure we’re really doing everything efficient.”
Kansas ranked 10th in the 10-team Big 12 in total offense with an average of 331.5 ypg (115th nationally). Kansas quarterbacks (led by freshman Ryan Willis with junior Montell Cozart appearing in five games) completed 53.8 percent of their passes with 12 touchdowns thrown and 14 intercepted passes. Part of the problem for Kansas was simply a lack of talent to produce much with the offense, but Beaty is looking to set a tone and that was never satisfied last season with the anemic Kansas offense. How much that will change in 2016 is probably minimal, but taking authoritative control just put more of the bulk of the responsibility on Beaty for better or worse.
It is also worth mentioning Willis is continuing to recover from an injured right wrist, which will leave more reps in spring for Cozart, Deondre Ford, Keaton Perry and Carter Stanley.
Kansas head coach David Beaty simply cannot catch a break with his quarterbacks since being named the head coach of the Jayhawks. Quarterback Montell Cozart is out indefinitely with a shoulder strain. His backup, Deondre Ford, is also out for the year with a thumb injury. That means Kansas will have almost no other choice than to move forward with Ryan Willis.
Cozart had completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 752 yards and two touchdowns in four games this season. Ford appeared in just two games, as has Willis. Willis, a freshman, has attempted 18 passes and completed eight of them for 100 yards in his brief time on the field this season. He will now be given the first team snaps and have a chance to show what he can do running the offense. He is not exactly taking over at a good time, as if there is one for Kansas. Kansas takes on Baylor this weekend, followed by Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma before getting to Texas.
The Kansas quarterback instability started in the spring when Michael Cummings was taken out at the knee by one of his teammates in the spring game. That injury led to knee surgery that put him on the shelf.