For a week, members of the Kansas football team had to do their best to avoid the negativity and doubts that clouded campus. After a humbling loss the week before at Duke, it was time to get down to business and lock in preparation for Saturday’s contest with Central Michigan.
The music was turned off in practice and the physicality was ramped up and when it was set and done, the Jayhawks saw their hard work pay off, as they turned a close game into a runaway with a strong fourth quarter and in turn won going away, defeating the Chippewas 24-10 at Memorial Stadium. The result was the knowledge that they could deal with adversity and get stronger and use that mental toughness to push them forward.
“There was a lot more excitement,” senior BUCK Michael Reynolds said. “There was way more excitement because we knew we needed this game and we made plays in the fourth quarter that gave us that two touchdown lead that put the game away. There was so much emotion, so much excitement, and we’re just ready for Texas.”
The tone was set early, on the first play in fact, as Tony Pierson took a handoff and raced 74 yards for a career long touchdown to put KU up 7-0 18 seconds into the game. As a team, Kansas (2-1) would end the day with 371 yards on offense.
Quarterback Montell Cozart, who had the spotlight on him throughout week following a bad day at the office against Duke, responded with a career high 226 yards passing on 23-33 passing. His two touchdowns both came in the fourth quarter and helped seal the deal, after entering locked in a 10-10 slugfest. First, he hit Justin McCay for a 60-yard score that put Kansas up 17-10 with 13:23 to play. Then, he found freshman running back Corey Avery on a 30-yard pass to put the game away with 1:58 to play and when senior cornerback JaCory Shepherd intercepted a Central Michigan (2-2) pass on the ensuing possession, the Jayhawks could rejoice and feel good about the work they had put in.
“We are ready to go back to work tomorrow,” senior tight end Jimmay Mundine said. “That’s what we said after we were jumping around and partying down there in the locker room, first thing we said was: it was great to get this win today, but this all started Tuesday.”
Kansas now prepares to enter the Big 12 gauntlet, first with a Homecoming visit from Texas (1-2) and new coach Charlie Strong, who enjoyed a bye week and consecutive losses to BYU and UCLA, the latter being a heartbreaker. The hope around the Jayhawks is that Saturday’s win will have them in right frame of mind to dig in and look for the upset.
“Our team, we feel good about the win,” Cozart said. “We have Texas coming in here 1-2, but can’t look at their record, it is a Big 12 team. It is homecoming for us, so it will be personal.”