McCay Relishes Moment

Justin McCay had waited two years to play in a football game while dreaming of playing well and helping Kansas to a win.

Justin McCay had waited two years to play in a football game while dreaming of playing well and helping Kansas to a win.

That all happened Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in KU's 31-14 victory over South Dakota. McCay even caught his first collegiate pass and first career touchdown.

After transferring from Oklahoma and sitting out last season, McCay's first reception came late in the second quarter on a seven-yard pass from quarterback Jake Heaps.

And then with 1:28 remaining before halftime, McCay caught a five-yard touchdown pass as Kansas went ahead 14-7. The Kansas City native and former Bishop Miege High star smiled as he recalled the play.

"I just remember running," he said. "I was in the end zone and didn't want to go too far back so I could catch it in the end zone and just ran across and caught it when it came my way. Jake trusted me, and threw me the ball and I caught it. It was just like, ‘Touchdown. We scored.'"

While McCay was obviously elated with his first collegiate touchdown, this wasn't a time for theatrics.

"It felt weird at first because I hadn't been in the end zone in a while, but like coaches and everybody says, act like you've been there before," McCay said. "So I just threw the ball (to the official) and went to the sideline."

McCay's touchdown reception was actually the first time a Jayhawk receiver caught a TD pass since Oct. 22, 2011, a span of 17 games. Entering the game, McCay said "we were very aware of it. We hear it from students, fans, everybody. They tell us, but we got (it) off the board so it's nothing to worry about anymore."

At the time he scored, though, McCay said he wasn't thinking about the streak.

"We all kind of wanted it, but I didn't have it as a goal or anything," McCay said. "If it happens, it happens."

After "it happen(ed)," the fans waved the wheat and cheered wildly. Assistant coach Tim Grunhard, McCay's coach at Bishop Miege, and other Miege grads Tre' Parmalee and Montell Cozart also got in on the act and celebrated with the redshirt junior on the sideline.

"It was definitely fun," McCay said. "It's like a family. We're all brothers within a family of KU people, too. It was fun just coming from the same place (Miege) and all."

McCay, who caught those two passes for 12 yards, was understandably nervous entering his first game in two years.

"It was early-game jitters for me," said McCay, who couldn't handle Heaps' first pass to him. "I haven't been in (a game) in a while."

But he "settled in" quickly and helped KU to the school's first victory since beating South Dakota State, 31-17, in last year's season opener on Sept. 1, 2012. McCay was busy blocking much of the night as the Jayhawks' running backs dominated the game. KU amassed 280 yards rushing with James Sims leading the way with 94 yards, followed by Darrian Miller (72), Tony Pierson (47), Taylor Cox (44) and Brandon Bourbon (32). Sims also rushed for two touchdowns while Bourbon rushed for another.

"We have great running backs," McCay said. "They run the ball hard. I don't mind blocking for them. You don't have to throw me the ball. I'll block all day if I have to. It's whatever gets us the win, obviously."

For KU to beat Rice next Saturday and win several more games this season, the passing game will need to open up. (Heaps completed 10-of-20 passes for 110 yards.) That should mean more touchdowns for McCay, whose first career TD is now in the books.

"The coaches trust me to put me out there," said McCay, who caught 15 touchdowns his senior season at Bishop Miege. "And Jake trusts me to catch the ball. It's a good feeling (first TD), all the things that go into catching the ball. Everyone trusts me and we're putting the pieces together."

While he savored his performance and KU's win over South Dakota, McCay was also looking ahead.

"There's always room for improvement," he said. "We got to improve game by game, week by week."


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