Turner Gill (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Turner Gill’s debut game as head coach at Kansas didn’t exactly go the way he had planned last year against North Dakota State on Sept. 4. The Jayhawks struggled mightily in the season opener and fell to the Bison, 6-3.
Now, a year later, Turner Gill and his Jayhawks are ready to open the
season on a much better note against another FCS foe, McNeese State, at
6 p.m. (CT) Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“They know what has happened in the past,” Gill said. “We talk about
what you can learn from last year and how you are going to change that.
More importantly, we're talking about how we already have changed it.
Going back to the spring and start of fall camp and pointing out
certain things to our players. Here's why and how we've put ourselves
in a position to win a ball game.”
Gill is excited to see the new and improved Jayhawks on Saturday. He
believes fans will see a faster and more explosive team with lots of
playmakers on both offense and defense. KU fans will also see some new
faces with at least six true freshmen likely playing against McNeese
Gill and the Jayhawks certainly aren’t taken McNeese State lightly. The
Cowboys, who have been ranked in the top 20 in FCS preseason polls,
went 6-5 last season and placed second in the conference at 5-2.
McNeese State, which is located in Lake Charles, La., has won six of
the 11 Southland Conference titles since 2000 and have 13 titles
overall — more than the combined total of other schools in the
conference since 1972.
Coach Matt Viator has coached his teams to three Southland Conference
titles (2006, 2007 and 2009) and to two runner-up finishes, while
leading the Cowboys to five straight winning seasons since he took over
the head coaching job in 2006.
Viator is the most successful active coach in the Southland Conference
and one of the winningest in the NCAA’s FCS Division with a 39-15
record and 27-7 league mark.
“They have definitely been known nationally as a very good program over
many years,” Gill said. “Coach Viator has done a great job in his five
Gill is impressed with their speed in the secondary and defensive end
Desmund Lighten. And he likes their running backs as well, which
include the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year and team MVP last
season, Andre Anderson, who rushed for 855 yards and was the league’s
top rusher in conference games.
“They have two or three guys that do some good things as far as running
the football and can make plays there," Gill said. "They're a good
football team and we're going to have to play well and I anticipate us
to play well.”
The Jayhawks are hyped for their season debut and look to wipe out the
bad memories of last season’s loss to North Dakota State.
“We've worked harder than we ever really have to make sure that doesn’t
happen again," sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb said.
Kansas is also looking to make some bone-crushing hits after hitting
each other in spring and fall camp, while also making a statement in
the season opener.
“Coming off a disappointing season last year (3-9), we're just ready to
go out there and get the pads on and popping on the field against
somebody else instead of spring practice and two-a-days versus
ourselves,” senior receiver Daymond Patterson said.
“We're just ready to show that we're a different team this year.”
If KU indeed fulfills Gill’s mission of playing fast, physical, and
with great execution, Kansas fans wearing blue on Saturday should go
home happy and optimistic about the season.
Unlike a year ago against North Dakota State when KU opened the season
on a somber note.
“I think the first game is going to set the tempo for the rest of the
year,” senior tight end Tim Biere said. “If we come out and play, we
can carry the momentum. Last year, we came out and played terrible. I
played terrible, and it was hard to get over that one. We won the next
week (over No. 15 Georgia Tech), but kind of in the back of our mind
that first game was there for a couple more weeks.
“So getting off to a good start is important.”
KU wins this one, 31-10.
- Kansas is opening its 122nd season of college football. KU has an
an all-time record of 570-559-58 (.505 winning percentage) and is
67-47-7 (.583) in season openers. The Jayhawks have won six of their
last seven season openers dating back to 2004.
- Redshirt freshman tight end Jimmay Mundine and sophomore receiver
Erick McGriff have been suspended for the first two games for violating
team policies, while sophomore defensive end Tyrone Sellers has been
suspended for Saturday’s game. Other players who will miss Saturday’s
game with injuries are senior defensive tackle Patrick Dorsey,
sophomore receiver Chris Omigie, and redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Farley.
- NBA Hall of Famer and current Detroit Pistons president Joe
Dumars was a former standout at McNeese State in the early-to-mid
1980s. He averaged 22.5 points during his four-year career, including
25.8 ppg as a senior (sixth in the nation). He finished his memorable
college career as the 11th leading scorer in NBA history.