Sunday, April 13, 2014
Kansas football coach Charlie Weis was disappointed with the first-half play of KU's first-string Blue team in the spring game, which Blue rallied to win, 20-10, against the second-string White squad.
Kansas football senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers says his Blue team rallied at halftime after the White team outplayed the first-stringers in the first two quarters.
Former Jayhawk Aqib Talib, now a cornerback with the NFL’s Denver Broncos, recorded a short video greeting for the Kansas University fans in attendance at Saturday’s spring football game.
Included in Talib’s message was a light-hearted effort to urge fans to come out this fall and support the team. A day earlier, Talib and former KU lineman Anthony Collins, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, met with the team and sent a much more direct message.
“They just told us, ‘Enough is enough,’” said KU quarterback Montell Cozart, who initially met up with Talib and Collins during a trip to the barber shop on Friday. “(Denver’s) Chris Harris came in and talked to us (Saturday). Everybody’s just been harping on the same thing: Enough is enough. And we’re all buying into it.”
Asked what it felt like to have a handful of pros come back and attempt to inject some life back into the struggling program, Cozart’s face lit up.
“They’re just like us,” he said. “They’ve been in our shoes. It was kind of eye-opening, like, ‘What are these guys doing here?’ But it was great to see them come back and be able to tell us, when they first got here, KU wasn’t a powerhouse program and it took a few leaders to get things going.”
Harris, Talib and Collins were three of several dozen KU football alums who returned to town for a barbecue Friday night leading up to Saturday’s spring game.
The one unit that may have taken the most criticism during the past few KU football seasons proved to be one of the unquestioned bright spots during Saturday’s 20-10 blue team victory at Memorial Stadium.
Put another way, the wide receivers did not drop any obviously catchable balls.
Behind the strong play of three seniors — No. 1 receiver Nick Harwell (31 yards on four receptions), big-play threat Andrew Turzilli (57 yards and a touchdown on three receptions) and the suddenly steady Justin McCay (33 yards on two receptions) — KU’s receivers got open, made tough catches in traffic and finished a solid spring with a resounding exclamation mark.
“If we were, as an offensive staff, to say what position on the team in the spring rose the most, it was clearly the wide receiver position,” KU coach Charlie Weis said. “Clearly.”
Counting drops is one of the easier ways to judge the receiving corps’ production. Not only did the group not have any on Saturday, but Weis said it had been that way for a while.
“I don’t know if in the last two weeks if we’ve had five dropped balls at the wide receiver position,” he said.
Run game still strong
James Sims, one of the top rushers in KU history, may be gone, but Kansas still appears to be a team that can run the football.
The Jayhawks made it clear that offensive coordinator John Reagan’s new offense would be able to rely on the ground attack, whether it was with first-team personnel — 96 yards on 12 carries for tailback Brandon Bourbon and 50 more on seven carries for back-up Darrian Miller — or the second-string unit — 63 yards on 15 carries for Taylor Cox. KU’s rushers totaled 364 yards on 62 carries, good for a 5.9 yards-per-rush average.
“I thought the whole team ran the ball well today,” Weis said. “Especially Taylor. I thought Taylor ran hard.”
Position battles heat up
Toward the end of his post-game meeting with the media Saturday, Weis said the team still was facing two different types of questions. One had to do with the continued installation of the offense and the other had to do with competitions at a few positions.
Most notable among the competition — outside of the QB battle between Montell Cozart and Jake Heaps — were sophomore nickel back Greg Allen pushing for playing time with the first unit and McCay closing on Rodriguez Coleman at X receiver.
Format a success
Although there was no dramatic change in format at halftime as had been the plan, Saturday’s spring game still featured the kind of late-game pressure Weis had hoped for.
Even though the game took place in April and came against opponents he knew like brothers, senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers said he thought the close nature of the game was good for the Jayhawks.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “You’re getting season-like situations. This only happens in the season. You get that feeling where there’s sweat dripping down your face, it’s third-and-three and (if) they get a first down, you’ve got another set. You have to just keep pounding and pounding, so that was really good to be able to get a situation like that today.”
This and that ...
Veterans Jake Love (10) and Stowers (8) led the KU defense in tackles on Saturday. Both played for the blue team. Tyler Holmes (7) led the white squad in takedowns, with Tedarian Johnson, Tevin Shaw and Colton Goeas all right behind him with six stops apiece. ... Junior defensive back Isaiah Johnson, last year’s Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year, recorded an interception on the game’s opening drive. Johnson led the Jayhawks with five picks a season ago. ... Saturday’s official game time was one hour, 46 minutes. ... Temperature at kickoff was 75 degrees, under mostly sunny skies with winds of 12 mph out of the south.