KU Opener Shows Plenty of Positives

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Don't let the past remind us of what we are not now." Or maybe it was Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Kansas' 40-10 rout of Florida International was not a big surprise, but it was a welcome sight to Jayhawk football fans who (a) were chomping at the bit to see their favorite team for the first time since January 3rd, and (b) wanted to see them beat somebody – anybody – soundly.

You can't blame KU fans. Kansas has never been to back-to-back bowl games. In fact, success one year usually means a lack of it the next. For example, the 2005 Fort Worth Bowl squad was followed by a team that barely managed 6-6 and stayed home for the holidays.

KU went 6-7 in 2003 but that seventh loss was to North Carolina State in the Tangerine Bowl. They went 4-7 in '04.

Glen Mason's 1995 Jayhawk group went 10-2, culminating with a 51-30 Aloha Bowl win over UCLA. The following year, they went 4-7.

You get the idea.

True, the Golden Panthers aren't exactly the Georgia Bulldogs or even the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Saturday's win wasn't perfect, but it did give fans something to feel good about and provided plenty of evidence that this year's edition of the Jayhawks will follow-up on last year's 12-1 Orange Bowl championship season in winning fashion.

The offense looked solid if not sharp once they got over opening night jitters. QB Todd Reesing completed 37 of 52 passes for 256 yards. He had an interception but completed three TD passes, all to Dezmon Briscoe.

KU running backs combined for 128 yards rushing on 36 carries and no fumbles. Angus Quigley used late game mop-up time to gain 47 team-leading yards on just six carries and caught three passes for 24 yards.

WR Dezmon Briscoe caught nine passes, including scoring passes of three, four and three yards each, and Kerry Meier added nine catches of his own. Johnathan Wilson stepped in very capably in his first KU start, making five catches, including a 24-yarder that led to KU's second TD.

KU's defense was impressive even if one accounts for the defense always being ahead of offense this early in the season. Florida International struggled to gain yards the entire first half until KU went into a prevent defense near the end of a first half and allowed a 43-yard field goal. Things didn't get any easier in the second half. KU held the Panthers to two-of-14 on third down conversions and one-of-four on fourth for the game. FIU managed just 139 yards of total offense and seven first downs. Their lone touchdown came on a 74-yard punt return in the second quarter.

KU clearly addressed perhaps their only weakness in the off-season. The Jayhawks racked up four sacks with Jake Laptad picking up two. They narrowly missed three more over the course of the game, and they didn't need to bring pressure from the linebacker or corner position all the time to get pressure on the opposing quarterback.

In the defensive backfield, Phillip Strozier has earned time as the number one nickelback and used his playing time very wisely. He picked off two Panther passes, the second of which snuffed out a late FIU scoring threat.

Despite the breakdown that gave FIU their only touchdown, Kansas fans should feel good about special teams. Return specialist Daymond Patterson made his Jayhawk debut memorable, fielding four punts – cleanly, I might add – and returned them for 135 yards, including a 75-yarder for a touchdown. Patterson also saw action at wide receiver and made three catches, including a nice leaping 14-yard reception on third-and-four to keep KU's final first-half scoring drive alive. If you look in the dictionary next to “impact freshman,” you'll find Daymond Patterson's picture.

P/K Alonso Rojas was serviceable on kickoffs but punted three times for an average of 46 yards per and kicked FGs of 47 and 37 yards. His kicking mate, Grady Fowler, was four of five on PATs, missing one due to a bad hold.

Off the Fieldturf, a loud Memorial Stadium record crowd of 52,122 showed up to watch. On a hot August day. Over Labor Day weekend. Times have changed for Kansas football.

It wasn't always pretty, but the 2008 season opener resulted in a win and clearly showed that the Jayhawks have talent and can make plays, big and small.

No 5-7 season for the Jayhawks. They're going to be good again this year.

Other notes

  • KU lost a fumble on their first possession of the game. Last year, KU didn't have a turnover until game three against Toledo.
  • Newcomer Jocques Crawford scored a touchdown on a seven-yard run in the first quarter, his first as a Jayhawk.
  • Dez Briscoe's three TD catches match a career high. He had three scoring catches last year in a 76-39 win over Nebraska (then again, who didn't?). His nine catches are a new career best.
  • Todd Reesing's three TD catches give him 39 for his career – a new Kansas record. He also moved into fourth place on the all-time completions list and he set single-game personal highs with 37 completions and 52 attempts.
  • Phillip Strozier's two interceptions make him the first Jayhawk since Anthony Webb grabbed two against Kansas State in 2006.
  • KU's 40 points marked the eight straight game in Memorial Stadium where the Jayhawks have scored 40 or more. All eight have been wins.

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