Mark Mangino (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Mark Mangino and the Kansas Jayhawks hope to make a strong statement in their home opener on Saturday vs. Northern Colorado. Phog.net's David Garfield with a preview, inside.
Kansas football closed out last season with a bang by beating Missouri
in a thrilling game and then whipping Minnesota in the
Insight Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
The Jayhawks have spent many tireless hours since then in off-season
conditioning, spring ball, and fall practices.
Now, they’re ready to roll into the 2009 season.
It all starts Saturday when KU hosts Northern Colorado. Kickoff is 6
p.m. (CT) at Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised on Fox
College Sports Central.
This innovative broadcast will connect the FCS broadcast team with
Phog.net and it's users throughout the game. The FCS broadcast team
will be following Phog.net during the game to pull the most interesting
posts and questions for discussion during the broadcast. Phog users
will be able to twitter questions or comments directly to sideline
reporter, Samantha Steele, during the game.
KU coach Mark Mangino and his players are hyped about the season
"We have been looking at this since August 6 (when fall practices
began),” Mangino said. “We haven’t seen a different color jersey for a
month. You take a look at 15 practices in the spring, 15 practices for
a bowl game and 29 practices leading up to the first game. That’s a lot
of practices to have only seen one opponent, so our players are anxious
to get on the field and compete.”
Any statement KU hopes to make in its season debut?
“We just want to play well,” Mangino replied. “We want to play smart
football, aggressive football in the way we always do. Good, tough
hard-nosed ball is what we’re looking forward to doing.”
KU, which has won five straight season and home openers, faces a
Northern Colorado team transitioning into its fourth year of moving
from Division II to Division I. The Bears, who went 1-10 last year (1-7
in Big Sky Conference), return 16 starters— six on offense and seven on
defense. They feature some quality players, including talented junior
college transfer running back Andre Harris and standout senior
quarterback Bryan Waggener. He passed for 2,546 yards last season, the
sixth highest total in school history.
“They are a team that can give you some problems because they use a lot
of different looks on offense,” Mangino said. “You can see them in one
back, in two backs, two tight-ends. They also do a good job with their
package of empty backfield. They’ve given some teams problems with
that, including last year when they played Purdue."
“This is a big game for UNC," Mangino added. "It’s an opportunity for
them to come to a Big 12 stadium and compete, and it’s our job to not
only be concerned with them, but also be in competition with ourselves.
We must use this game as a measuring stick to see where we are in
various positions on the field and to get better.”
Mangino has liked what he’s seen from his team in practices thus far,
and hopes those positives translates into the game. The Jayhawks are
certainly hungry to get started.
“We’re looking to be consistent through four quarters,” said senior
receiver Kerry Meier. “Hopefully, we get ourselves up by quite a few
touchdowns and we can get those younger guys in and get (them)
experience and see what college football is all about.”
But Meier and the Jayhawks aren’t taking the Bears lightly. They know
upsets can happen like two years ago when unknown Appalachian State
knocked off No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor. From watching tape, Meier said
the Bears look like a “bunch of guys who give a lot of great effort.”
“I know their head coach (Scott Downing) is telling them, ‘If we can go
to KU and beat those guys, it would probably make (our) season,” Meier
said. “They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you let
those teams hang around for a little bit, they get confident. Teams
that get confident, they start playing well.”
Freshman receiver Bradley McDougald certainly isn’t overlooking the
Bears, a program which had gone just 3-31 the last three years.
“Coach said this is like their Super Bowl,” McDougald said.
Kansas will be ready.
“If we just execute and do the things we’re taught to do, I think we’ll
be fine,” Meier said.
“We’re trying to start the season off with a bang.”