If Saturday night’s game had ended after one quarter and perhaps a quarter and a half, Kansas players and fans would be impressed by what they saw. Southeast Missouri was jumped and beaten up early, falling behind 24-0 and halfway through quarter number two, had only one first down to their name.
From there, the Jayhawks had numerous chances to crush their weaker opponent and still led 34-7 going into the fourth quarter. However, three touchdowns from the Redhawks before a crowd that had dwindled significantly in the second half to perhaps around 10,000 fans tops, cut the score to 34-28, which would be the final score. Within all of it lies the enigma that is Kansas football as of now and it’ll be back to work for next week tough road match up at Duke to see which Kansas team is the real Jayhawks, if any of them are.
“Hats off to them, they played great down the stretch,” linebacker Ben Heeney said. “We just have to stop playing down to our opponent. We come out on fire in the first half and we just, I don’t want to say play down to our opponent because they played a good game down the stretch, it’s just something we have to fix.”
The players on both sides of the ball had tremendous energy in the first half, but in the second it was tough to get it going again, as the atmosphere in Memorial Stadium began to resemble that of seventh grade “B” team affair. The combination more the likely awakened the visitors and got them going.
“During the first quarter, out on the field, the way our team was playing was a completely different team than it had been,” Heeney said. “To come out in the second half you know, no juice, the stadium empty at halftime like it always is, fans leaving at halftime, there’s no juice in the stadium. I think that’s part of it and us just playing down to the level of our competition.”
Heeney was his usual self, as he was in on seemingly every play early and finished as the leading tackler with 11 total tackles. The defense as a whole played with more fire and showed glimpses of what could be. Cornerback Dexter McDonald had two interceptions and gave opponents reason to stray away from him this season.
“This is hard work. If this was easy then I feel that everybody would do this. I definitely work hard every day to potentially make it to the next level,” McDonald said “I feel like right now I’m just focused on trying to do the best I can do in the game and just help my teammates win as much as we possibly can and prove to the nation that we’ve been working hard this offseason and we are going to be a better team than they think we are going to be.”
Next week’s matchup with the Blue Devils (2-0) will be tough in that no Kansas team has won a road game since 2009 and they’ll face a Duke team that appeared in the ACC Championship game a year ago. Nevertheless, it’ll be a huge opportunity from a very eager group.