Jayhawks to Turn the Page

The Turner Gill era at Kansas officially begins today at 6 p.m. (CT) when the Jayhawk open the season at Memorial Stadium against North Dakota State.

After nine months since leaving his job as Buffalo head coach to replace Mark Mangino at KU, Gill can't wait for Saturday's showdown.
   
"I think in some ways it has been a long time and in some ways it's been a short time," Gill said. "I think it's a short time because I am excited. When you get ready to play a football game, even as a coach, I still probably have that same excitement I did as a player. I still have those little butterflies as you first go out as far as the warm-ups and right before the first snap. Once the first snap goes, then you are kind of ready to go, even though I'm not going to go out there and get hit and all those types of things. But I get excited and I get passionate about the game, and get focused on the job that needs to get done."
   
Gill said the season opener is "extra special" since his oldest daughter Jordan will be there as a KU student and that his parents will also attend the game. Gill's folks, who live in Fort Worth, Texas, have never seen him as a head football coach, or even assistant coach. In fact, 1983 was the last time his parents saw him play with Nebraska
   
Gill's two sisters will also be at the game.
   
He believes his family and all KU fans will see a hungry KU team.
   
"We're excited to know what our team is going to be like, but I do know our team is going to be competitive, they are going to be physical and we are going to play fast," Gill said. "Those are the things that we demanded of our football team as we went on through preseason camp and as we go on to game week at this point now. (We want) to get things started in the right way."
   
Especially after losing seven straight games to finish last season, the Jayhawks are eager to start anew in 2010.
   
"Wow, that's a long time ago," senior receiver Jonathan Wilson said about KU's last victory against Iowa State on Oct. 10, 2009. "I'm really excited to get back out there and hopefully get another win."
   
So is senior linebacker Drew Dudley. He wants to erase last season's losing streak from his mind.
   
"That was pretty devastating," Dudley said. "Every week, you're like, ‘next week we got it.' Then after the Missouri game (season finale), you got to wait for this season, so there's a lot of anticipation for this game and to get that bad taste out of our mouth."
   
KU will be facing a Bison team which went 3-8 (2-6 Valley Football) last season. While NDSU competes in the FCS, Gill has great respect for the team and its coach, Craig Bohl. Gill (1980-83) and Bohl (1977-79) both played at Nebraska, and also coached together at NU in the 1990s.
   
"The one thing that jumps out at me is I have noticed they have beaten three FBS schools," Gill said of North Dakota State's victories over Minnesota, Ball State and Central Michigan since 2006. "That gets your attention right off the bat when you have someone in the FCS division and where they have defeated some people. (Bohl) has done an outstanding job. I know that his team will play hard, I know that they have been coached well. I know he is a very good defensive-minded coach and I know he gets his guys to play well in a great way. 
   
"They are really a downhill running type team," Gill added. "They have a good running back (junior D.J. McNorton), they finally, I think, found a really good quarterback (sophomore Jose Mohler). ... They have a good receiver also (junior Warren Holloway). They do a bit of a balanced offense."
   
Defensively, the Bison are led by senior defensive tackle Matthew Gratzek and junior linebacker Preston Evans.
   
"They make plays," Gill said. "Those two guys stand out."
   
The Jayhawks are ready to makes some big plays Saturday themselves in their season debut. Some of the lingering questions to be answered are: How will sophomore Kale Pick perform in his first start at quarterback? How will Angus Quigley and Deshaun Sands do at running back? Who will start opposite Jake Laptad at defensive end — Kevin Young, Quintin Woods, or Tyrone Sellers? How will the defense respond after a disappointing season last year? And how will last season's leading rusher Toben Opurum adjust to his new position at linebacker?
   
Gill and KU fans will watch these storylines and more unfold Saturday. The first-year Kansas coach is certainly looking forward to the game-day experience.
   
"The first thing that jumps out is that we have a lot of students come," Gill said. "I think that's exciting. I also know that our fans are passionate about the game; we have a great tradition with the KU chants and all the things of that nature.

"I think that we are going to have a great product.  People want to come to see football games when you have a good product out there. I think they are going to see the first ball game and throughout the season, they are going to see our team improve, and we have people to be excited about on our football team."
   
While the fans cheer on the Jayhawks, the KU players will be taking care of business in their first game of the Gill era. Senior offensive lineman Brad Thorsen knows what he wants to see on Saturday.
   
"Consistency," Thorsen said. "I think we need to prove to ourselves we can run the ball, that we can pass the ball and we feel comfortable with everything in our playbook. We need to be able to do everything in our offense. They (coaching staff) put a lot in front of us and they expect a lot out of us.
   
"I really want to see us rise to the challenge and prove to our coaches that we can really handle what they're expecting of us."
   
Despite some early jitters, KU rises to the challenge and wins 34-7. Pick rushes for 76 yards, while junior receiver Daymond Patterson catches seven passes for 112 yards.

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