Kansas 31-14 season opening victory over South Dakota won't warrant the release of any DVDs or special written sections, but it was vital to get off to a positive start after an 11-game losing streak. The team has worked hard throughout the offseason to get better and they believe that they will surprise some people when it's all set and done.
Now, the Jayhawks can turn their attention to getting into a routine as head coach Charlie Weis noted and start preparing for a solid Rice team next week. Here are five things that stood out in the Jayhawks season opening win.
1. Jake Heaps
Heaps' number weren't flashy, but he looks good in the pocket and throwing the football. Then, when you have the opportunity to listen to him speak after, you see why Weis and coaches gush about him and why he's a great team leader. He's just a good dude and is an easy one to root for.
Against the Coyotes, Heaps went 10-20 for just 110 yards and a touchdown, but a few of his throw were throw that pro quarterbacks make, like a corner route to tight end Jimmay Mundine in the third quarter. Overall, Kansas kept it simple and turned to a vaunted ground game in the third quarter. Look for Heaps to get better as he gets more comfortable after not throwing a pass in two years. Kansas is lucky to have him as their QB this year and it'll show in the days to come.
2. James Sims Is Good At Football
That's all. It always has to be noted, Sims is special and as Weis said after the game, he is the top dog of the running backs and will be. His 16 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns included some speed and power. He's complete back and as good of one in the Big 12.
3. Kansas' Running Back Depth
Sims only had 16 carries for 94 yards, but that's because Weis has arguably the best running back depth in the country to work with and with Heaps' progression, that's only to make his job more fun in the play calling department. As a team, the Jayhawks rushed 50 times for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
Darrian Miller added 14 carries for 86 yards, while Tony Pierson moved from receiver at times to take the ball for five carries and 47 yards. Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon got in on the action later, as well, rushing eight times between them for 44 and 32 yards respectively. They also do it in different ways with different formation. It was fun to watch how they got everyone involved.
4. The Defense Was Very Active
Weis said last spring that defensive lineman Keon Stowers was ruining practice. On Saturday night, he was running the Coyotes offense. He even scored on an interception return in the second quarter. Unfortunately, it was called back because of a penalty.
Still, he played a solid ballgame. The linebackers were a lot of fun to watch as expected. Starters Ben Heeney and Samson Faifilli worked well together and when they went out Schuyler Miles and Jake Love were really good as well. The group is very humble and down to earth and they play with a mean streak, reminding some of the Kansas linebacking corps of the mid 2000s.
5. Special Teams Was Special
It was nice to see. Place kicker Matthew Wyman drilled a 45-yard field goal and together with punter Trevor Pardula's kickoff that sailed out of the endzone, it drew the loudest ovation of the night.
Punt returner Connor Embree was the biggest player of the night on special teams, with good returns and good decisions. He's going to be a big time player for the Jayhawks this season and will help the offense get going with good field position. He definitely deserved a game ball afterwards.