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Saturday, November 16, 2013

KU football notebook: Celebration returns to Memorial Stadium

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney is mobbed by fans following the Jayhawks' 31-19 win over West Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney is mobbed by fans following the Jayhawks' 31-19 win over West Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Charlie Weis post-game vs. West Virginia

Charlie Weis post-game vs. West Virginia

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KU 31, W. Va. 19

Box score

The scene on the Memorial Stadium turf following Saturday's 31-19 victory for Kansas University over West Virginia provided the kind of joy and excitement for which KU fans, coaches and players have been waiting a long time.

Strangers embraced, coaches smiled, players passed out gear to appreciative classmates and sounds of happiness filled the air as the south goal post came crashing down and was given the customary escort to Potter Lake at the base of Campanile Hill.

Inside the Kansas locker room following the Jayhawks' first victory over a Big 12 opponent in its last 28 tries, things were turned up a notch and the players were happy to share a few of the details.

“A big party,” said fifth-year senior Kevin Young, who recorded one of KU's two sacks. “That's the best way I could put it.”

“It was crazy,” said freshman quarterback Montell Cozart. “Coach (Charlie) Weis was just yelling.”

As is the case following most games, Weis was the last one to get to the locker room. After losses, he's greeted by silence and long faces. Saturday, it was something entirely different.

“They're all sitting there waiting on you and, when you come in there, they maul you pretty good,” Weis said. “It was good.... My enjoyment comes from them. I enjoy watching them have fun.”

Gatorade bath

Several KU players made sure to show their appreciation for Weis' efforts in snapping the losing skid by giving him a Gatorade bath as time expired. Asked what that meant to him, Weis remained his typically honest self.

“It means I'm soaking wet right now,” he joked. “When you get water or Gatorade (dumped on you), especially after a long losing streak, you don't mind one bit.”

Good company

In earning the victory on Saturday, Cozart became the eighth Kansas quarterback to win his first start in 17 total tries since 2000. He joined Zach Dyer (2001), Brian Luke (2004), Kerry Meier (2006), Todd Reesing (2007), Jordan Webb (2011), Dayne Crist (2012) and Jake Heaps (2013).

“He had a pretty nice day at the office,” Weis said of Cozart. “I think Montell has been aggressive each week. He gave us a lot with his efforts today. He got us some big first downs. He has a lot of work to do, but that was a good effort for him this early in his career.”

Heeney almost scores

Midway through the fourth quarter, with his Jayhawks leading 24-7, junior linebacker Ben Heeney picked off a Paul Millard pass at the West Virginia 29 yard line and returned it 28 yards to the one-inch line, covering the final five yards with the abandon of a cheetah stalking his prey in the desert.

Despite coming just inches away from a defensive TD, Weis said Heeney, a former standout running back at Hutchinson High, did not beg to be put in on offense to finish the job.

“I apologized (to him) for not challenging,” Weis said. “Because, watching the replay, I thought he scored. But it was too late. I don't know if he did or didn't, but I would've challenged just to try to get him a touchdown. But, no. He didn't lobby. He was feeling pretty good about himself.”

Instead of Heeney, junior running back Brandon Bourbon (48 yards on 12 carries) plowed in from a yard out to put KU up 31-7.

Pierson popped again

Junior Tony Pierson, who, once again, did not appear to be quite himself in the wake of missing time because of a concussion, was sandwiched between two defenders late in the game and stayed down on the turf for a couple of minutes before jogging off the field.

When asked about the hit after the game, Weis said Pierson reported that his head hurt after the blow and added that he was still in the game because West Virginia had begun to clog the middle.

“We hadn't shut down the game yet,” Weis said. “He was out there because they were collapsing the inside and we were trying to run it to the outside.”

This and that...

The Jayhawks won Saturday’s opening coin toss for the fifth time this season and chose to defer their choice to the second half. West Virginia elected to receive the game's opening kickoff.... Saturday's victory was KU's first all-time against West Virginia.... Senior defensive tackle Keba Agostinho recorded the first blocked field goal of his career on a 42-yard attempt by WVU's Josh Lambert as time expired in the first half.... Agostinho's blocked field goal was the first for Kansas since Phillip Strozier in 2008.... Temperature at kickoff was 66 degrees, under overcast skies with winds of 30 mph out of the south.

Comments

Andy Tweedy 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you to my 'Hawks for making the drive back to Omaha enjoyable for the first time in some time! And thanks to Matt for his Strozier reference, not sure anything makes me smile more than that game in Arrowhead!!!

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Ashwin Rao 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I believe that this game clearly indicates that burning the red shirt of Cozart was a great move! He has given the program the reason to celebrate (even though by just a little), and hopefully we continue to improve after this game. An added benefit is that he has gained good experience this year, and hopefully he capitalizes on it during the off-season, and comes back much better the next year.

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Joe Ross 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Hadn't even thought of that until you said it. Congrats for pointing that out (seriously). There are a lot of us who think we can be coaches. We can't.

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Brett McCabe 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Weis has taken a good amount of heat for riding Crist too long and staying with Heaps too long this year.

But, in fairness to him, in both cases, he showed the willingness to pull the trigger. Last year, we saw why he was slow to make the change because the replacement did no better than the starter.

While I'm happy with the win, Cozart's play was average to below average yesterday. He missed several wide-open receivers, could not hit the short slant route to McCay and made a number of bad reads on the option. He needs to improve A LOT in the next week to win on the road. In fact, the only difference between Cozart and Heaps was Cozart's mobility....which I understand is important.

As far as Heaps, Crist and Weis....I think that it's much harder to bench guys that you specifically brought in turn a program around than many realize. Yes, CW is paid a lot of money to make hard decisions, and yes the team is far more important than any individual but it's not easy to bench these guys.

My hope now is that we keep the pressure on at this position. Cozart needs to make major improvement to hold that spot.

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Ethan Berger 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I would say his play was above average. He did miss some slants and that is fixable. But what was the difference is the ability to extend broken plays. One almost resulted in a 60yd td pass on the move.

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Joe Ross 10 months, 2 weeks ago

RE: "...the only difference between Cozart and Heaps was Cozart's mobility."

Um. No. Heaps has a TON more experience. That omission borders on criminal if you line the two up to make comparisons.

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Brett McCabe 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Joe and Ethan, both fair comments. Heaps certainly has more experience and Cozart clearly has more athleticism. This could point to a lot of upside for Cozart as he gets reps and confidence. However, I'll stick with my assessment of average....5-12, several easy completions missed and some bad reads. Of course, the pump fake near the end-zone was tremendous, a couple of his runs were good and the laser to Turzilli on the sideline was as perfect of a throw as you'll ever see.

Don't mistake me for a Debbie Downer. Thrilled with the win, happy for Cozart and positive about his future. If he takes one of those first game to second game steps next week, we may very well break another streak.

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Aaron Paisley 10 months, 2 weeks ago

The majority of the mistakes Cozart is making is because he's a freshman and the game is going at fast forward speeds for him. When the game slows down for him, and it will with more experience and comfort with the offense, he should be a QB capable of making big plays for KU and possibly be good enough to help KU spring a major upset or two if his supporting cast improves as well.

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Billy Smith 10 months, 2 weeks ago

They should keep the mean looking Jayhawk. It is football after all.

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Erich Hartmann 10 months, 2 weeks ago

ABSOLUTELY keep the "Fight"Hawk (or WarHawk...)

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Billy Smith 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Heaps may have more experience, but his skill set is more catered to what we don't have right now (receivers who aren't very good, below average pass blockers). Cozart is the guy for right now. He has shown he has the ability to move around in the pocket and take off if need be. Heaps is more of a pocket passer. I feel bad for the guy. You aren't the #1 rated qb coming out of high school for nothing.

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Joe Ross 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Good point, Billy! I hope Heaps feels that he can celebrate, too, but if you are a true competitor, you HAVE to hate knowing there was a big win you didn't contribute to at all...such a good kid, too!

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