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Kansas defeats McNeese State, 42-24

  • 6 p.m., Sept. 3, 2011
  • Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS

Sunday, September 4, 2011

KU celebrates season-opening win

Kansas receivers Kale Pick (7) and JaCorey Shepherd bump chests after Shepherd's second touchdown of the game against McNeese State during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas receivers Kale Pick (7) and JaCorey Shepherd bump chests after Shepherd's second touchdown of the game against McNeese State during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 at Kivisto Field.

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Sights and sounds from KU vs. McNeese State

The Jayhawks took down McNeese State on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 at Memorial Stadium.

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger comments on the uncertain future of the Big 12

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger comments on the uncertain future of the Big 12 during halftime of KU's game against McNeese State on Sept. 3, 2011, at Memorial Stadium.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Turner Gill

Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 42-24 victory over McNeese State on Sept. 3, 2011.

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The perfect opening-game scenario for Kansas University’s true freshmen must have looked something like this: Darrian Miller runs hard all night and has every carry but one go for positive yardage; Tony Pierson picks up a touchdown and delivers a few electrifying runs; and JaCorey Shepherd, the wide receiver teammates said all summer was nearly unguardable, picks up a TD in his first game.

Bing, bang, boom.

Led by three stellar showings from three of the Jayhawks’ youngest players, KU ran past McNeese State, 42-24, Saturday at Memorial Stadium. In doing so, head coach Turner Gill’s squad not only exorcised the demons from last year’s nightmare loss to North Dakota State, but also served notice that all the talk about how the team was improving was not lip service.

“I knew they had talent,” Gill said. “But (I didn’t) know if it was gonna come to fruition in this ballgame. But it was great to see it. When they got their touches, they produced. They didn’t get scared about the bright lights or playing on the big stage and all those things, and it was good to see those guys produce for us.”

“Produce” is putting it mildly. Running hard inside all night, Miller gained 63 yards on 13 carries. In eight fewer carries Pierson finished with 73 yards and a touchdown, including a 47-yard sprint in which he made two moves near the line of scrimmage that might have been missed if not for the replay on the video board.

And then there was Shepherd. All he did was catch three passes for 107 yards and two TDs. His 56-yarder in the first half was the longest by a KU receiver since Dezmon Briscoe in 2009, and his 100-yard receiving night was the first by a KU freshman since 1997.

“I actually thought it was gonna take me a little while to adjust to the speed of the game,” a humble Shepherd said after the win. “But I actually came out and played pretty well.”

So well, in fact, that he actually stole passes from his own teammates. Shepherd’s 56-yard TD pass from Jordan Webb, which put KU (1-0) comfortably ahead, 28-10, looked more like an interception at the time.

“It was actually for Kale,” confirmed Webb, who finished 7-of-10 for 146 yards and three TDs. “JaCorey kind of took it from him.”

Pick was the first to let Shepherd know about it, but not in the way that many of the diva wide receivers who litter the NFL might have.

“I just said that that was my ball and he lucked out and got that one,” Pick said with a smile. “I thought I was gonna catch it, but he made a great play, and he got the ball. If it’s a score for our team, I can’t get mad at the kid.”

Asked what happened on the wild play, Shepherd happily admitted his was acting on instincts.

“I was running my route, and my instincts were just to go get it,” he said. “If he wasn’t behind me and I didn’t catch it, it would’ve been incomplete, so I just went up and got the ball.”

Shepherd’s second TD catch of the game, a 48-yarder with 6:30 to play that fell into his waiting arms, came with the nearest McNeese State defender still 15 yards away. It also sealed KU’s victory.

While Shepherd and his fellow freshmen delivered highlights in bunches, the rest of the KU offense quietly pounded away on the ground. The Jayhawks rumbled for 301 yards rushing on 55 attempts, the most for a Kansas squad since racking up 334 in a victory against Northern Colorado in 2008. Lost in all the excitement from the freshmen was the fact that sophomore starter James Sims ripped off another 100-yard night, the fourth in his young career. Sims finished with 104 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

The Jayhawks, with four players with five or more carries, ran the ball on 85 percent of their offensive plays. The reason?

“When things are working, there’s no need to go away from it,” Gill said.

Added senior center Jeremiah Hatch, a man who took particular pride in the success of the ground game: “We’ve been under coach Gill’s offense for a year now, adjusting, learning. We still have to learn from this game, but running the ball is gonna define this team.”

For now, their record will. After starting 2010 with a 6-3 home loss to North Dakota State and struggling all season to escape the shadows of such an embarrassment, the Jayhawks went home in a much better mood Saturday night.

“It definitely feels good,” Webb said. “We knew people were talking about last year, and we just wanted to come out and prove that we’re a completely different team. It’s a complete 180 from last year. It’s 2011 now, and we’re gonna have a great year.”

Comments

Ben Kliewer 2 years, 7 months ago

By Tuesday we'll know that the Pac16 is happening and we'll be in the BEast.

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Randy Bombardier 2 years, 7 months ago

I would like to make a comment if it is possible on behalf of the players and coaches. "I told you so." They told us they were faster. They were. They told us we would see some real play makers in our freshmen. We did. They told us we would run the ball. Boy did we. They told us we would control the ball. Did that too. No turnovers. No miscues. Defense was just vanilla getting down the basics, but the outcome of the game was never in doubt. I think that next week if we win the toss, we receive the first half (this was a good call) and this time we score on the first drive and it is catch up from there on out. We imposed our will this week. We will gradually get more sophisticated, more complex and our defense will get more aggressive and take risk when they need to. This game, we didn't need to. As for Steven Johnson, he even had the temerity to tell us that he wanted to lead the nation in tackles. As of week one, he does. They told us. Many did not believe and are still not impressed. I am.

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greenworld 2 years, 7 months ago

Despite all the negative BS...doesnt it feel damn good to wave the wheat!!!!!!!! I saw what are teams to the east and west did and feel damn good to be a Jayhawk!!!! Scoreboards dont lie and yes Kstate and Mizzou won but didnt see 30 plus put up on their teams that they played like they werent suppose to do. HAHA

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okiedave 2 years, 7 months ago

Congradulations to HCTG and all the players. One down and one at a time.

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Ethan Berger 2 years, 7 months ago

Alot of Good and alot of bad. Our o line looked much better. Who cares about the talent, their d line barley got anything. Our frosh look good. Had good vision, good cuts, great speed. Webb, when he threw was very accurate.

The bad, our defense. Can't think of what our defense did good. Needs major improvement.

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kufanman88 2 years, 7 months ago

I am sorry if I don't find the same optimism in a three touchdown win over an FCS team that doesnt even count towards our bowl eligibility. This was at home as well. The competition gets much tougher here on out. I wouldn't be surprised if this were the only win Coach Gill gets in his last season.

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greenworld 2 years, 7 months ago

One thing I did notice is our safetys looked like under 6 foot 150 pd dudes. can we not recruit some size at that posistion. I notice other teams safetys are about 6-6'4 and are 180 plus. It just seemed like the pass over the middle deep beat us everytime and it was because our players couldnt jump up and break up the pass or werent tall enough to defend. I think if they would have went down the middle passing long they might have beat us. Anyway a good team will see this on the game films and go to town on us. Take note and watch what happens to us against OU and the TX schools.

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greenworld 2 years, 7 months ago

All the talk and blogs are irrelevant until we dont play a cupcake team. If we knock off Georgia Tech on the road or a conference team that is definately better than we our then we can talk the talk.

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greenworld 2 years, 7 months ago

Our QB Webb was injured in the game but later returned and Patterson suffered a groin injury and may be out next game or a gametime decision.

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mikehawk 2 years, 7 months ago

I didn't hear anything about serious injuries. That's good. Got to get better each week and the defense has got to find a way. I like what is going on with the offense. While old school, running the ball successfully keeps your turnovers down and your defense off of the field by eating clock, keeping liaibilities to a minimum. It gets tougher from here on out, but it is a start. Hate to bring this up but recruiting has already started for next year and few recruits, especially those from out of state, are hot to go to a school that has no idea what conference it will be playing in next year. This thing has to get settled, and soon, and hopefully with a good outcome.

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fromthatstandpoint 2 years, 7 months ago

Some other stats courtesy of the NCAA
Category, raw number, NCAA rank Tackles for loss 10 Tied for 8th Rushing def 95 39 Sacks 3 Tied for 22nd Rushing off 301 7 total off 447 39 scoring off 42 27 pass efficiency 291.6 2 net punting 45 11

Obviously plenty to fix as well, but some positives even on defense

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Kevin Kelly 2 years, 7 months ago

There were a lot of 3 and longs that were missed. That was a huge improvment. Most teams we played didn't need that 3rd down last year. Sad but a sure sign things are going right. We'll give some FG's but we are not even close to being in the same positions as last year.

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esque 2 years, 7 months ago

baldjedi

Bourbon did run the ball later in the game and looked just as strong as the others. He tore off runs at 5-9 yards per clip just like the others. Many of you guys missed the link someone posted where I watched the game online free. Feed was a bit choppy but easier to deal with gratis.

While the performance wasn't perfect, I think we all should feel encouraged. If you look around the CFB world today, you'll see that many Div. 1 teams struggled with their FCS opponents yesterday with the KU score being toward the upper end among the D-1 teams. If you're not convinced, take a look at K-State and Iowa State's box score.

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Dan Harris 2 years, 7 months ago

them-us 24-42 checkmate puddy cat!

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 7 months ago

                  them       us

1st Downs 22 23 Total Yards 420 447 Passing 325 146 Comp-Att 31-41 7-10 Yards per pass 7.9 14.6 Rushing 95 301 Rushing Attempts 34 55
Penalties 9-60 4-35 Turnovers 0 0 Fumbles lost 0 0 Interceptions thrown 0 0 Possession 34:47 25:13

you can see why i'm not as impressed as you are. 41 passes and no interceptions and i think we only had 1 or 2 sacks. i know they were mostly buble screens but could we not have figured out a way to stop them.

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rob4lb 2 years, 7 months ago

I saw the first half of the game on the Jayhawk network. KU does have more speed and more weapons. The defense was frustrating to watch and they gave up alot of 3rd down and plays. But maybe some of that is related to players being new in their position with this being the first real game for some of the players in their position. Hopefully, there will be improvement.

It was McNeese State, but McNeese State is a better team than NDSU was last year so you have to say there is progress. I guess the team is trying to develop a run mentality and that is good, but the offense needs more versatility. I would have liked to see a few more passes because as the opponents get tougher, running the football will be tougher.

I like the way the schedule is set up. NIU will be a tough opponent next week, and a road game the following week at Georgia Tech.

Another measure of progress is that as writers throughout the league come up with their power rankings next week, KU will not be unanimous 10th place. Some will have the Hawks ahead of ISU and KSU.

Obviously this is just the first game against an overmatched opponent, but the outlook is much brighter than it was after the first game last year. We have to give this coaching staff a chance.

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Mike Bratisax 2 years, 7 months ago

Hate to bring the bad news after the great start... Schools have called Pac-12; Big 12 days numbered? http://dennis-dodd.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/6270202/31722896 And that is that.

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Randy Bombardier 2 years, 7 months ago

Great game. We planned on running, we did run, they knew we were going to run, we didn't fumble and they couldn't stop us. This is solid. And after Shephard was on display I don't think too many teams are going to be putting 8 in the box. Showed just enough pass game to keep our opponents guessing. We difinitely would have been Misery last night. Just need some work on kick coverage and some on D.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 7 months ago

Wow! Sorry to disappoint so many. We beat mcneese state.

Newsflash!

We are supposed to beat McNeese State!!!!!! From what I saw we are still struggling. Our d looked like they couldn't take down a body pillow. Our qb threw 10, yes 10 passes. And my favorite offensive sequence went like this:

Ball around the 10 yard line Play is sent in Timeout Delay of game Timeout Finally snapped the ball Yes we did end up scoring. But it's McNeese State!

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greenworld 2 years, 7 months ago

Pass defense-F They threw the screen pass against us all night and we still were chasing it and acting like we still didnt know it was going to happen. Run defense-A- Defended pretty darn good against the run. We will see how we do against a good team to determine how good that is going to remain. Run offense- A/B Ran at will against them and made it look relatively easy at times. Both Simms and Miller looked impressive as ever and were getting 5-8 yrds at ease. Great Job!! Pass Offense-C Didnt pass much in the first half but did open it up quite a bit in the second half with a couple of TD passes. The good thing about this is when we did throw the ball it was for a couple of TD's so gotta like that. Overall grade for the game-A/B Still ended up blowing them out in the end and putting up 42 on them. Nice start to a great season.

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1951jayhawks 2 years, 7 months ago

Maybe we could have Pat Forde put out an "APB" for Ahper? I know its only the first game but I hope KU keeps winning just for the fact that Ahper seems to disappears...

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Funhawk 2 years, 7 months ago

The last E in the word Believe means "enjoy the college football experience." These players believe. Wasn't last night's game fun?

Believe in each other and things not yet seen Empower people by encouragement Learn and press on towards the goal Influence others by being a positive role model Expect great effort all the time Visualize excellence Enjoy the college football experience

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Ryan Shelton 2 years, 7 months ago

Cue Ben Stein: "Ahper? Ahper? Ahper?"

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tah 2 years, 7 months ago

Definitely enjoyed listening to the game!! Very impressed with offense and freshmen performance. Awesome speed! Defense Toben and Johnson had great individual games. I Echo sentiments from Chriz's post frustrated with McNeese third down conversions. Being undersized maybe more blitzing might be in order! Look forward to following to watching KU Build for the future. Hope they can get a couple d-lineman for next recruiting class. Vontrell Williams 4.9 40 would be a great start! Demonte Hood another HS possibility. Also 2 good size Juco lineman in Chaquil Reed from Butler Co. and Laudermill from a CA Juco. Good Luck Hawks! Keep up the good work!

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eastcoasthawk 2 years, 7 months ago

Plenty of the good, bad and ugly in this game for the Jayhawks. With the win we highlight the good and work to fix the bad and ugly. Biggest things that need fixing are the LB's and DB's getting off blocks and taking good angles to the ball. Then they need to learn to wrap up the ball carrier. Also, the offensive coach needs to get the plays in much faster. How many times were we called for delay of game or had to call a timeout because the play came in too late? Definitely shades of last year.

Webb and Pick shouldn't be talking about how Shepard kinda stole the ball. If he didn't Pick might be out for the season after being completely exposed coming back to a ball that was terribly underthrown. Pick had completely beaten his man and Webb should have hit him in stride.

Also, didn't see or hear of Greg "Lockdown" Brown much. Were they not throwing to his side of the field or was he not making tackles?

Lastly, have to say that the camera coverage on the internet feed was horrid. When you have fans paying for this we should have professionals instead of students manning the cameras and producing it.

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stanleys 2 years, 7 months ago

I wonder where the troll Aherpes J@ck@$$ is this morning? Probably scratching his head over the offensive explosion K-state put on!!!!

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chriz 2 years, 7 months ago

Decent showing. Well be curious to see how they do against whomever they're playing next week. Defense was frustrating to watch, but I know they have a new DC. Hopefully they shape up before they play next week.

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skwahjayog 2 years, 7 months ago

OK, I'm getting old. I was watching another game and trying to see the KU score, and the half-time score flashed across the screen. I thought it was 3-2 in favor of McNeese. (I didn't see the 1 behind the 2.) All I could think of was how Apherwhatevershecallsherself must be partying herself into oblivion--maybe high on "speed"? Thank goodness my eyes are failing me!

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chodechadsby 2 years, 7 months ago

hey guys, I just bought an atlas of the united states. I just checked every page and could not find the state of McNeese. Has anyone else seen it? Is it a state in another country?

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Ryan Lee 2 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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johnnyhrdwd 2 years, 7 months ago

When's that one guy gonna post and mock how KU has improved speed? Looked like improved speed to me. Coach Gill can recruit, everybody needs to be supportive of their team and be patient. KU looked well coached and didn't make any stupid mistakes. We looked more talented than last year because we had no talent when Gill tookover.

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gardenjay 2 years, 7 months ago

I knew it! Great job guys - loved the spectacular plays, but obviously the team as a whole has grown trememdously, and that's saying something with signif. contrib's from such young players. Get some sleep - you're going to need to recover for NI, they made some sick tackles in that game against Army. RC

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