Kansas coach Charlie Weis talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 31-17 victory over South Dakota State on Sept. 1, 2012.
KU players talk following their 31-17 win over SDSU on Sept. 1, 2012.
For Kansas University safety Bradley McDougald, Saturday’s 31-17 victory against South Dakota State was much more than a feel-good way to kick off his final season of college football.
It was a comeback.
Having spent the past couple of seasons transitioning from wide receiver to safety, McDougald at times found the road tough to travel. Sure, he has had plenty of big moments, like his first half in the finale against Missouri a season ago. But he’s had plenty of bad ones, too. After the way he played Saturday, none of those mattered any longer.
Six tackles, one for a loss. Two interceptions and another pass break-up.
It was exactly the kind of game one would expect from a senior starter and exactly the kind of game Charlie Weis has been telling people was coming.
“I’ve been tooting his horn for a while now,” Weis said. “This is not a news flash about my feelings toward Bradley McDougald. I think that he’s as good a player as we have on the team, maybe the best.”
McDougald was far more modest about his game than his head coach was, but it’s possible the stellar performance was the result of a pregame talk from his new coaches.
“Coach (Dave) Campo and (Clint) Bowen have been working with me since they got here,” McDougald said. “They approached me today and told me about the impression I made when they first got here. They coach with urgency and the amount of details has really helped me add to my game. Simple things like getting to the ball, playing fiercely and making plays.”
Opurum back to RB
No, Toben Opurum has not switched back to his original position at running back full time. But he did line up there for a few snaps Saturday.
Throughout the offseason, Weis had hinted that he might use Opurum in short-yardage situations near the goal line. He did just that late in the first quarter when Opurum went in to play fullback and actually cleared a pretty nice path on tailback Tony Pierson’s three-yard TD run.
“I just do what I can with the couple plays they asked me to help out with,” Opurum said with a laugh. “I always watch the running backs, just from being over there. Part of me, I feel like I’m still over there a little bit. I think they did a good job. I wouldn’t give myself too much credit for what they did, though.”
Notre Dame connection
A lot has been made in the offseason about the former Notre Dame guys that Weis has brought to town with him. And while linebacker Anthony McDonald did not play because of injury, the other two guys shined. Late in the third quarter, on a fourth-and-one play from the SDSU two-yard line, quarterback Dayne Crist lobbed a high pass to the back of the end zone that was caught by tight end Mike Ragone.
Asked after the game about the grab from his old buddy, Ragone seemed pleased for multiple reasons.
“It felt great,” Ragone said. “It felt even better to win the game and celebrate with my teammates.”
After misfiring on a 35-yard field goal at the end of its first offensive drive of the game, KU became more inclined to go for it on fourth down from then on.
Although the Jayhawks finished just 1-of-3 on fourth down, they lined up to go for it a couple of other times but backed out after penalties or timeouts. It got to the point where it seemed, as long as the Jayhawks were on the other side of the 50, going for it on fourth was automatic.
As for KU’s third-down efficiency, the Jayhawks finished 5-of-17.
This and that
The Jackrabbits won Saturday’s opening coin toss and elected to defer their choice to the second half. Kansas chose to receive the opening kickoff... Kansas is now 2-0 all-time against SDS ... Senior wide receiver Kale Pick’s 81 receiving yards were a career-high. Pick tied for the team lead with five receptions... Crist’s connection with Pick on the game’s opening play was the 200th completion of his college career... Temperature at kickoff was 84 degrees, under partly cloudy skies with winds of 17 mph out of the northeast.
Faces in crowd
Former KU guard Xavier Henry of the New Orleans Hornets attended the game. He and most of his Hornets teammates left New Orleans this past week before Hurricane Isaac struck the area. The Jayhawk basketball players signed autographs before the game in the Hy-Vee Hawk Zone on the football practice field outside Memorial Stadium.