TCU game shows off Pierson’s adaptability
- Sep. 18, 2012
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Tony Pierson hadn’t caught a football since high school, but heading into a game against Texas Christian University last Saturday, he knew that would change — he just didn’t know when.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, an anxious Pierson got his answer. TCU scored its first touchdown of the day and coach Charlie Weis responded by calling his X-factor play for Kansas.
Pierson lined up in the backfield, but moved swiftly across the line once the ball was snapped. Quickly, quarterback Dayne Crist had an open receiver just past the Horned Frog’s defensive line, and when he tossed the ball Pierson’s seldom-used hands were there to meet it. With the ball cradled safely in his arm and two blockers ahead of him, Pierson darted up the field for a 16-yard gain.
It was the first of six catches the sophomore would have against TCU, and while he missed out on a third consecutive hundred-yard rushing game, he managed to pick up 99 yards receiving.
It was the last thing TCU coach Gary Patterson was expecting.
“They changed their whole game plan,” Patterson said. “They didn’t run one route progression that they ran the last two ballgames.”
Weis rejoiced in his sneakily effective scheme after the defeat, but nixed any thought of Pierson making more catches down the road.
Or perhaps he just needed a day or two to think about it.
On Tuesday, the Kansas offensive coordinator wasn’t taking any options off the table — especially with the return of running back James Sims from a three-game DUI suspension.
“He’s got good ball skills and good route running ability for a running back,” Weis said of Pierson. “I’ve shifted him out into the slot and he’s run corner routes that he’s got open and caught. He’s come out of the backfield and run a wheel route for about another 25 yards. I kind of like that.”
It surely won’t catch Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren off guard this Saturday, but Pierson’s catching ability opens up options for another backfield threat — the returning Sims.
Last season against NIU, Sims sparked a 14-point Jayhawk comeback with 159 total yards and two touchdowns. With the Huskies defense returning nearly all of its starters from last season, there couldn’t have been a more favorable opponent for Sims to make his 2012 debut against.
“He knows how well he did against them last year,” running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said. “James is very confident.”
That isn’t to say Pierson will be losing any touches. Weis and Mitchell had planned on giving Pierson about 15 touches a game since fall camp, and Mitchell said that’s still the plan — but that didn’t include catches.
As long as he gets a chance to make plays, Pierson could care less if he’s getting the ball in the backfield or the open field.
“It doesn’t matter,” Pierson said. “I played wide out in high school so it’s natural. As long as the ball comes to me.”
— Edited by Christy Khamphilay