Jimmay Mundine was due for a breakout game. After all, the Kansas senior tight end ranked third on the team in receptions last year with 20 but had only caught three passes in KU’s first two games (all three versus Duke on Sept. 13) in 2014.
Mundine put it all together and shined in KU’s 24-10 victory over Central Michigan Saturday at Memorial Stadium, posting team highs and career bests in receptions (six) and yards (67).
“This is what I expect out of myself,” Mundine said. “Hopefully, I can start performing this way on a weekly basis and not let myself and other people down.
“... It helps my confidence a lot,” he added. “Obviously, I know that I’ve struggled in the past, but today was a good day for me. I feel like I had a lot of good, easy catches. Montell (Cozart, quarterback) made it easy for me. I just had to catch the ball and turn around and run.”
Mundine got rolling early, catching four of his passes for 41 yards in the first half.
“There were really a lot of short routes I caught that I turned into 10 or 11 yards,” he said. “We really didn’t practice all of those as much as we practiced other things, but they were wide open in the flats. It was just cool for me to catch the ball and turn around and have five yards to work with and run up and get tackled and go to the next play.”
KU coach Charlie Weis said Mundine took advantage of what the defense gave him.
“When they started playing the way they did, the way they played in coverage, where they were dropping their weak safety down to try to take away the run to the weak side and then widening their nickel outside and dropping their safety, having their safety over the top, where the natural hole was, was where Jimmay was. So it was important for Montell and Jimmay to make a few plays in there, and they did,” Weis said.
Mundine was happy how KU’s offense made plays on Saturday. KU converted 9 of 19 third downs and was perfect on its one fourth-down conversion.
“We just made plays when we needed to,” Mundine said. “We went for it on fourth down once, we made it. We converted a lot on third down to keep drives going. Montell made plays with his feet. It was a game we actually finally made plays as an offense and we didn’t have to fully rely on our defense to win the game for us.”
Mundine called the game a “must-win” after last week’s embarrassing 41-3 loss to Duke.
“We did, mostly because of our performance (against Duke), not so much as any other outside things going on, because we know the performance we put out last week, we were disappointed in ourselves," Mundine said. "We can play a lot better than that.”
While it wasn’t a great game for KU, the Jayhawks proved they could close out a contest after Central Michigan tied the game at 10-all with 6:11 left in the third quarter. Cozart found senior wide receiver Justin McCay for a pivotal 60-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter before hitting freshman running back Corey Avery with a 30-yard TD pass with 1:58 remaining in the game.
And then the defense made some key stops in the fourth quarter as the Jayhawks moved to 2-1.
All this made for a jubilant locker room.
“It was a pretty good time in the locker room, a lot of energy, a lot of juice,” Mundine said. “It was just a big win for us. We knew everyone counted us out after last week and we needed to respond this week with a good win.”
The win was definitely a momentum builder with Texas (1-2) coming to Lawrence next Saturday on Homecoming weekend.
“Coming out of here with a loss would have been devastating,” Mundine said. “It was good to get a win and have some confidence and see that we can do it. ... I think the main positive was the way we approached this whole week from Tuesday until today. We really had a totally different mentality from the guys on our team saying, ‘We got to get this going right now, we don’t have any time to waste.” It was a good week of work before this good day. I’m looking forward to going back to work Tuesday so we can enjoy like this again next week.”
Mundine will have no trouble getting up for the Longhorns, the school that didn’t offer this Texas native a scholarship out of high school.
“I want to beat them just so I could put it in their face that they should have got me,” Mundine said during his sophomore season at Kansas. “Every high school athlete feels like they should be able to go wherever they want. But I understand how everything works. If I would have put more into it, you never know.”
But Mundine loves being a Jayhawk.
“I’m here now,” Mundine said with a smile that day in 2012. “I’m working as hard as I can and I’m trying to make this program better.”
McCay, Mundine’s roommate, knows his buddy is a winner.
“Every day I see the same guy,” McCay said. “He doesn’t have a bad day. I like him as a teammate, a roommate, a player in general. He just makes plays.’
And Mundine was never better than against Central Michigan.
“It feels good,” McCay said, “because we talk about it all the time. ‘You better catch every ball that comes your way and I better catch every ball that comes my way.’ It was really good to see him out there.”