You can't say it wasn't exciting. If you're a Jayhawks fan, you could say it was gross. At least the first 17 minutes were.
South Dakota State was the better team from start to finish. In the games' opening quarter and change... Man, the Jackrabbits were running the Jayhawks right off their home field.
Any Jayhawk fan being honest with themselves knew 2015 was gonna be bad, but 31-7 with seemingly no indication the defense was able to stop the bleeding was like watching a puppy stumble out into traffic.
It's a process. Gotta be patient. No matter how painful this could get.
In this 'Hawk Raid offense, the quarterback is so important. So how did the quarterback do in game one?
After a ghastly pick killed the Jayhawks' promising first drive, and then a fumble coughed up possession deep in Jayhawk territory, freshman Ryan Willis trotted onto the field and looked like he was throwing medicine balls out there the way his passes were dying a foot in front of the intended receivers. Fans in the stands were actually cheering when Willis, not starter Montell Cozart, came off the field to short arm those passes.
Not quite sure if Cozart was a little banged up, or if the coaching staff just wanted to see if Willis could kick start the offense, but the Jayhawks could not afford to go three and out down 31-7. Cozart came back onto the field for third down and proceeded to scramble for 12 yards to move the chains. He then lead the 'Hawks down the field on a 16 play scoring drive. It was clear Cozart came out of that humbling a more focused player.
Before that drive Cozart looked shaky, going 4-8 for 57 yards with 14 yards on the ground and 1 pick and 1 fumble. As a result KU was down 31-7. After reclaiming his spot as QB, Cozart was 21-30 for 234 yards, 1 TD, 0 turnovers with another 80 yards on the ground. As a result KU went on to outscore SDSU 31-10.
Montell, This. Is how. We do it.
Honestly, the kid played pretty damn well down the stretch. Really had the offense moving as they finished the day with 576 yards. Unfortunately, all his great play will be overshadowed by his fumbling of a snap before he had a chance to spike the ball and kill the clock. That ended the game. I guess spending all that time in the shotgun makes snaps with the quarterback's hands under a center's taint a tricky endeavor.
After the game I kept hearing the sound of my old high school coach yelling at me to get the back of my right, "Hand up under the center's cup, boy. You oughta be able to tell how big his balls are. He's snapping to a spot. If your hands aren't right in that spot, then the muffed snap is on you!"
It was disappointing, yes, but at least this game was fun. That was the most coherent and functional the Kansas offense has looked since the Mangino and Warinner days. I don't know if Kansas has a single win in them this season. This was supposed to be the one. So with nothing to lose from here on out, any surprising successes will be gravy.
Ke'aun Kinner - 27 carries for 157 yards (5.8 ypc) and 2 TDs. Kinner ripped off some spectacular runs Saturday. He ran through arm tackles, spinning, showing good balance and an even better burst of speed in the open field. He's a little guy at 5'9", so we'll see how Kinner holds up against bigger and stronger FBS level defenses, but you can easily see why he was the 2014 National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year.
Tre Parmalee - For three years Charlie Weis and his staff raved about Parmalee's speed, and yet for three years that same staff seemed to have no clue as to how to utilize him. Parmalee got the start Saturday and caught 3 passes for 82 yards, including a 35 yard reception, to go along with a nice 19 yard touchdown run on an end around. Parmalee also brought back SDSU's punt 26 yards, with a sweet hurdle of a would be tackler, that gave the 'Hawks some hope by getting the ball to the 41 yard line with 39 seconds left in the game.
Ryan Schadler - When Kansas found itself down 10-0 in what seemed like the blink of an eye, Schadler gave the crowd something to cheer about when he went 91 yards on a kickoff to finally put the 'Hawks on the board.
The Offensive Line - Again, we'll see what this line really is against FBS talent, but Saturday they cleared the way for 285 rushing yards and 29 first downs. They also kept heat out of Cozart's face, and when no one was open created lanes for their quarterback to escape through.
Whoever Put Together KU's Pregame Video- A few weeks ago I wrote a piece complaining about the atmosphere, or lack thereof, at Memorial Stadium. One of the things I pointed to was the lame pregame video. Consider that issue remedied. The new video Saturday was fantastic. Heart pounding. Reminding Jayhawk fans that there is a past pride in KU football worth celebrating. Probably the best part of Saturday's game, to be honest.
The Fans - At least the ones who stuck around through the 95 degree heat until the end. I can't blame anyone for leaving when the 'Hawks were down 31-7. Not sure what the total attendance was, but people were leaving faster than water slips down a drain. So for those who stayed hoping to see the Jayhawks steal a win, congrats on your sunburns!
Due for Some Drill Work
The Defense - Summed up best by a friend who texted me during the game. "Looks like they couldn't stop a lacrosse team today."
The D-Line especially. Could not get pressure with the front four at any point during the game. D-Coordinator, Clint Bowen, had to send extra pressure as his only chance to disrupt a passing game that was shredding the Jayhawks. Blitzing worked for a while, but eventually South Dakota State adjusted. In the run game, the Jackrabbits gashed the Jayhawks with no resistance up front. Jackrabbit runners seemingly got to the second level at will. In fact, I felt the game tightened up because South Dakota State went away from the run too early more so than anything Kansas did. They went back to it to seal the victory, essentially, when the defense couldn't get SDSU off the field on their first touchdown drive since the second quarter.
Tyrone Miller - I think this kid will be a good player in his time here at Kansas, but Saturday he looked like a lost freshman missing tackles and getting owned by Jackrabbits' star wide out, Jake Wieneke (Wieneke finished with 8 catches for 160 yards and 2 TDs - not all against Miller). I single Miller out because he dropped a sure interception that could have changed the entire complexion of the game early on. His missed pick came on the same drive in which he eventually got torched by Wieneke for a 29 yard TD that took the score to 17-7.
TV Scheduling - Now that you can watch every game on television, schools have lost kick time scheduling control. Which is why, instead of a comfortable evening at Memorial Stadium, Jayhawk fans had to bake for three hours on aluminum bleachers in mid-day Kansas summer heat. I saw so many red faced white people walking out of the stadium that I was convinced filming was about to begin on an old school John Wayne western.