Friday, September 9, 2011

Underdog mentality: KU, NIU players approach matchup with similar mind-sets

Kansas head coach Turner Gill watches as the defense works out on the sleds during football practice on Monday, April 18, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill watches as the defense works out on the sleds during football practice on Monday, April 18, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.


More times than not, when a Big 12 football school takes on a team from the MAC, the Big 12 team is favored, especially when that game takes place in Big 12 country.

That’s not the case this week, though, as Kansas University (1-0) enters Saturday’s game as a 51⁄2-point underdog to Northern Illinois (1-0) despite playing host to the Huskies at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

While the actual numbers make for an odd situation, the way the teams are reacting to it is even stranger. Is it possible to have two underdogs in the same game? It is if you ask players from KU and NIU.

“We don’t pay attention to the point spreads and all that,” NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish said. “Because, in our hearts, we’re still the underdog going into that game. I’m pretty sure everyone in that stadium is going to expect Kansas to win. They can’t lose to a MAC team. That’s what they’re thinking. So all the pressure’s really on them.”

Except that it isn’t.

“This is a good football team,” said KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long of NIU, which pounded Army, 49-26 during Week 1. “They’ve had winning handed down to them over a number of years now. That makes them a good football team. This is a big challenge for us.”

Added KU linebacker Steven Johnson: “It’s going to be a fight, because NIU is a really respected team. I’m pretty sure they could be a team that could play in the Big 12. Even though they’re in a small conference, they pack a lot of power.”

So there you have it. Both sides talking the other one-up. Hardly sounds like a nonconference game during the second week of the season. It sounds a little more like the postseason. Regardless of what they believe about the game — KU opened as a seven-point underdog — the Jayhawks admit that they use every slight as motivation.

“We take it in,” junior linebacker Malcolm Walker said. “We know we’re the last team that everybody picks to win, so it makes you work even harder. I think this will set the tempo for the season. After this game, this will really just show guys what Kansas is all about.”

Daniel joins KU

Freshman Javonte Daniel, a defensive end from LaGrange, Ga., was on campus Thursday and had joined the Kansas University football team after waiting to be cleared academically from the NCAA Clearinghouse.

KU coach Turner Gill said Daniel, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, would stay at defensive end but that he didn’t expect him to hit the field anytime soon due to the delay.

“He’s not gonna be able to do anything this year, as far as playing,” Gill said. “He hasn’t been here for a whole month and is trying to learn what we’re trying to do. But we’ll see what works out in the future.”

Doeren returns

When Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren walks into Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, he expects a flood of memories to fill his mind. Doeren, who spent four years on Mark Mangino’s staff at Kansas (2002-05) will be coaching his first game against KU since leaving for Wisconsin following the 2005 season.

“That was my first I-A job,” Doeren said. “I came from Montana to Kansas and was on the staff for four years and part of the turnaround process that coach Mangino did there. We were 119th in the nation in defense when they hired us and I think we were fourth in the nation when I left.”

It’s not just what he accomplished here that has KU occupying a special place in his heart. Doeren, 39, grew up in Kansas City, graduated from Bishop Miege High in 1990 and spent a lot of time in Lawrence and around KU as a child.

“I went to their basketball camps as a little kid,” Doeren said. “It’s gonna be very special coming home. It was a place I was very proud to be a part of. One of my children was born there. One of them went to preschool right there on campus. So it’s a place that I consider very special. I grew up 40 minutes away from there in Kansas City, and Lawrence is a home away from home for me. Growing up, I spent a lot of time up there.”

Mays coming home

Saturday also will mark a homecoming for NIU freshman Boomer Mays, a former Eudora High standout who calls Lawrence home and is listed as a long snapper on the Huskies’ roster.

Mays, 6-foot-1, 233 pounds, was a three-sport star at Eudora.

In addition to Mays and Doeren, Northern Illinois tight ends and fullbacks coach Kevin Kane also will be coming home.

Kane, a Kansas City, Mo., native, played linebacker at KU from 2002-05.


ahpersecoachingexperience 9 years, 7 months ago

Finally! Turner's MAC experience is going to pay off!

100 9 years, 7 months ago

Without Turner Gill really caring about a MAC player named James Starks who played at Buffalo, Green Bay doesn't even make it to the Super Bowl last year, much less win it:

Matt Bowers 9 years, 7 months ago

Need a video link for 2morrow...please. In Carolina & it's not televised.

Rock Chalk

johnnyhrdwd 9 years, 7 months ago

What are you experienced in? Besides living in your mom's basement.

gardenjay 9 years, 7 months ago

KU has had teams that were formidable because they had heart. It's a factor, and it beats teams like NU and OU. Really excited about Saturday's game - Rock Chalk

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 7 months ago

Oh...and we all had flashbacks of the movie the replacements.

Joseph Kuebel 9 years, 7 months ago

C'Mon HAWKS!! We need this one! NIU isn't a joke program. Rock Chalk smack em in the mouth, run it down their throat!

KGphoto 9 years, 7 months ago

I dunno. I actually think it may be a scoring contest whether we like it or not. This game could easily be decided by a couple of big plays on defense or special teams. Maybe a blocked kick or a turnover.

We can win a scoring contest. Especially at home with the dynamic playmakers Gill has assembled on offense.

clevelandjayhawker 9 years, 7 months ago

To who ever posted the link for the game, can you please do that in big10 country even though the game is on FSN, they put a different more local game on.

Hawks lets go do this. If our D can improve and we can pound the rock on them we will be feeling good. Lets stop the screen plays and use some corner back blitz


Christopher Hauser 9 years, 7 months ago

The game is actually on Fox College Sports Central (FCS) not Fox Sports Network (FSN), so you may still get it on television, don't know who your cable or sat. provider is though.

okjhok 9 years, 7 months ago

The game is actually on Fox College Sports Central, totally different than FSN. It will be the only game on this network, regardless of where you live. Most providers have this station as part of their sports pack. Pay the extra $10, get the sports pack, and enjoy on your TV instead of your computer. I'll be watching in the heart of SEC ignorance.

JayHawkFanToo 9 years, 7 months ago

FCSC is CH 486 on Surewest in the Kansas City area and the game is on at 6:00 PM.

justinryman 9 years, 7 months ago

Is it Saturday yet? I'm ready.

Get Some!!!!!!!!!!!

RIP Big12

Michael Maris 9 years, 7 months ago

''Added KU linebacker Steven Johnson: “It’s going to be a fight, because NIU is a really respected team. I’m pretty sure they could be a team that could play in the Big 12. Even though they’re in a small conference, they pack a lot of power.”

So, if Steven Johnson thinks that NIU is good enough to be in the Big XII (football wise). Then, extend them an offer to join. You gain access to Chicagoland TV sets. NIU is about 1.5 drive from downtown Chicago. And, even closer to the western Chicagoland suburbs. Iowa State would have a new rival to compete with (as well).

I personally know a few NIU Graduates, and they say that NIU has plenty of room to add the needed seating to their stadium facilities.

jayhawkintx73 9 years, 7 months ago

NIU isn't a joke program. Kansas isn't either, despite last year. Remember in 2007, the "experts" rated Kansas 80 something in the country. KU should have an underdog chip on their shoulder, because they really are better than the experts think they are.

My prediction, Kansas 38 NIU 28

jayhawkintx73 9 years, 7 months ago

4 running backs<<< that are pretty good. Jordan Webb did look much improved, and this week the full arsenal of receivers will be available, save for Patterson who is doubtful.

Kansas will have match up advantages, and they can get the ball to the running backs in open space on screen plays off play action fakes, and the Line backers will not be able to cheat up.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 7 months ago

Just curious for those who run the Gill Hate-O-Meter to comment on what in their eyes would be considered a respectable seasonal record for the Jayhawks.

Also, what seasonal record would have you fall under the "I'll eat crow" umbrella??

100 9 years, 7 months ago

From what I understand, Ahperse plans to eat his phone if we keep getting AP stories written about our amazing....


Tony Bandle 9 years, 7 months ago

P.S. just a hint, but those who wish to remain anonymous...don't respond. :)

hawksince51 9 years, 7 months ago

Not worried about the O as I predict we will score in the 30s. Game will hinge on the D. Still, I predict a win. And the game will be a welcome distraction from the conference fiasco. Rock Chalk!!

kellerman411 9 years, 7 months ago

Dear KU shot-callers,

  1. Stop the cutsie bull****. No more screens on 1rst and 2nd down.
  2. Throw the football downfield to keep them out of the box.
  3. Play the run, our corners can man up with MAC receivers.
  4. Keep it simple on offense, minimize mistakes and WIN.

Joseph Kuebel 9 years, 7 months ago

Minimize our mistakes will be huge, hopefully we can keep that theme throughout this year.... Iif we do limit the mistakes we should be able to do this (given the yardage Army put up... But if we make several mistakes (TOs, bad penalties) the yardage will go by the wayside like it did for Army did last week.

This game has shootout written all over it looking at last weeks stats, and considering that NIUs QB, Chandler Harnish is no bum. Given these factors, I will be surprised if we can keep this low scoring... which is why I also wrote 8 timea about mistakes (I agree w "Kellerman 411", I hear and write down that info).

Jayhawks 41, Huskies 31 (Given we don't kill ourselves in the turnover dept I'm thinking we can pull it out) - one game at a time, Hawks!

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