Hawk Talk: Southern Mississippi the Morning After

 

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A look at News and Notes from Saturday's Game...

Denver's Take...

Honestly, this is exactly what Kansas needed.  A tough non conference tune up where we would have to step up in some areas of weakness, expose some of our weaknesses and give us a good two weeks of something to work on before the Cyclones come to town.

Southern Mississippi is a good team.  They are a very good team, with an offensive minded coach who comes straight from the Big 12.  They're defense had been very solid through 3 games this season and in it's final 5 contests of 2008, and just in case you didn't catch it they did come in with the second longest winning streak in division one yesterday.

Sure there were struggles.  The offensive line broke down at times and it always seemed to be in a major loss, drive killing kind of way.  On the other hand they also looked very good at times, forming a pocket, picking up there blocks and giving Todd room to work.  Not to mention Kansas ended up with 102 yards rushing against Southern Mississippi and Toben Opurum became the first 100 yard rusher they've allowed in some time. 

On defense it looked ominous and as Kansas fans we're almost trained at this point to blame the defense anytime things aren't going well.  When it mattered in the end though the Jayhawk defense stopped 3 consecutive drives to secure the win.  What does that mean?  Well, it means the offense had 2 chances to put the game away but failed to do so.  It means our defense was the difference today.  No, this isn't a great defense and they'll give up their share of yards, but I feel comfortable saying it's an improvement over last years group through four games. 

There are two stats I like in this one.  The first is the Southern Mississippi offense manages only 64 yards rushing and is held below their overall average on the season.  Not bad when facing the number 18 offense in the country to date. 

The second one is time of possession.  I harped on this in the open thread and I absolutely think it will pay huge dividends in conference play if we are able to control the clock and run a balanced attack as we did yet again yesterday.  Kansas finished this one with 36.21 in the TOP column while Southern Mississippi finished with 23.39.  That's nearly a full extra quarter that their defense had to be on the field versus ours, and I'm not sure our defense has the gas in the tank to make three consecutive stops down the stretch if this is reversed. 

35-28 is a win.  Sure we'd like them to all be easy, but it's fun to face a challenge and see how your team responds.  Kansas did what they had to do and came out with a win.  Time to rest up, make some final improvements and head into two conference opponents where Kansas should be favored in Iowa State and Colorado.

Postgame Quotes and Notes after the jump...

Kansas Head Coach Mark Mangino

On Southern Miss:

"Offensively they did a good job of trying to keep us off balance today. They were a formidable offensive team to compete against. That's good for us because we're right up to conference play. The defense, when they had to in the fourth quarter, shut them down and made plays. That's the key. They gave us a lot of looks that we had not seen before. We had to adjust on the run, but our coaches on defense stayed with it and did a good job of getting our kids settled down and made the proper adjustments so that we could stop them in the fourth quarter."

On the play of senior receiver Kerry Meier who set a career high with 141 yards receiving:

"They both had great days no question. Kerry (Meier) just quietly does that stuff. He makes play after play. He's a tremendous playmaker for us. He gets open when a lot of receivers would struggle. He finds a way to get open and get the ball. He gets yard after the catch."

On the play of true freshman running back Toben Opurum in his first start:

There was a lot of pressure on Toben (Opurum) today. We down played that with him all week. He had to go in there and start as a true freshman and it's a difficult duty. He did a marvelous job. The only glitch all day was when he turned the ball over. He ran hard and ran smart. He got some good yardage after first contact. He pass protected well. We're really excited about his play today as a true freshman."

On how he feels the team has performed so far:

"I really feel good about our team in terms of attitude and fight they have in them, the competitive spirit that they have. Today for three quarters on defense it didn't look like it, but you have to understand when the game was on the line our kids fought for the ball on defense. We're far from a finished product. We have a lot of work to do. This off week will be very important. We have to get better in a lot of areas, but I like where we are right now and I like the direction of our ball club."

 

Kansas players

 

Junior Defensive End Jake Laptad

On the overall play of the defense:

"We knew we weren't playing our best game to start off. I feel like we stepped up in the fourth quarter and made plays when it counted."

On the emotional toll a game takes:

"We know that we're tired, but we know they are tired, too, so we always condition after practice. I feel like that was a helpful step to get the win today. I feel they were a little more tired than us."

On KU's only sack:

"The quarterback was getting rid of the ball really quickly and I was getting frustrated with not being able to get him down. But to step up at the end and get that was rewarding."

Senior Cornerback Chris Harris

On KU's defensive play:

"We had to try to make the stops. Some games, we'll be struggling and the offense will have to win for us, so we knew today we had to win for them."

On stopping Southern Mississippi's DeAndre Brown:

"It was a big challenge. You can see by today that he's a future first round draft pick. I give him credit for coming out today and playing really well."

On Southern Mississippi's Damion Fletcher:

"Our main goal was to stop him because he holds all of their records. We knew he would come in and try to run, so we felt that if we stopped the run and made them one-dimensional, we could come out with a win."

Senior Quarterback Todd Reesing

On his personal foul:

"I will make sure I hand the ball to the referee, so I don't get any unsportsman-like penalties. That was a rough one. I've never seen that one before."

On if he was surprised that it was a close game:

"Not at all. We knew coming in that they were a very good team. Looking back, we didn't really know how good they were. I have to give a lot of credit to them because they are a really good football team. They played hard and gave us some new looks that we weren't familiar with. I wouldn't be surprised if they are contending for their conference championship."

On the defense in the fourth quarter:

"They were huge. They had never gotten a team in all four quarters of the game, and that's what this was. They played hard from the first play to the last in the game. The defense came up huge at the end, and that's big for them. It's a confidence booster going into conference play."

Freshman Running Back Toben Opurum

On whether or not he expected Jake to play:

"They're looking at him everyday to see how he's doing. They just wanted to hold him out and let him get some rest. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was ready to play."

On Southern Miss:

"They are definitely by far the best team we've played so far. I feel like they'll do really well in their conference and it was definitely a test to see where we are. I think we handled it well."

On what he takes from this game:

"Basically we don't want to be satisfied. This game here came down to the last minute and you can't be satisfied with what you've done either in the first half or the first three quarters. You've got to play the entire game"

Sophomore Cornerback Ryan Murphy

On the progress that he's made:

"I know that I'm making progress. The coaches tell me I've been doing a great job and they've been trying to get me more action. The first couple of games I really didn't get a whole lot of playing time, but these last couple of games I've been trying to make the most of it."

On the improvement of the defense in the fourth quarter:

"Well we felt like we played well in the first half. We came out there in the second half and we knew we had to shut them down. In the fourth quarter it felt like we got stop after stop and it was just huge. One person after another was making plays and that's what we need to be successful."

Senior Wide Receiver Kerry Meier

On the game as a whole:

"Southern Miss came out and did everything we thought they were going to do. They did it well for four quarters and we found ourselves in a tough situation. We found just enough plays to seal the victory and we are happy to be 4-0 right now."

On his career day (141 receiving yards):

"If you push yourself and work hard throughout the week, Saturdays will be a lot easier. If you're pushing yourself hard and pushing your teammates, stuff comes easier on game day. It's a testament to our coaching staff, to our players and to myself for pushing each other."

On the feud with the basketball team:

"With all the stuff that went down, people could look at that stuff as a distraction. But I think we came out today and performed like nothing happened last week. What happened with the basketball team happened and we've moved on. We turned our attention and focus to Southern Miss. The basketball team turned their focus toward what they've got to do to get ready for their upcoming season. What's happened is in the past, it's behind us now and we are moving on to bigger things."

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