Kansas University defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said Southeast Missouri State’s season-opening 77-point outburst against Missouri Baptist last week definitely caught the attention of the KU defense.
“It did,” Bowen said of the Redhawks’ 77-0 victory over Missouri Baptist last Thursday. “We walked in on that Friday, and a lot of guys hadn’t heard or seen the game Thursday night, and when we did mention the number, 77 points, that’s hard to put up 77 points against air.”
SEMO outgained Missouri Baptist 516-81 in total yards and scored on a long run, a long pass and special teams and also added a defensive touchdown to the final tally.
Given the way things have gone for the Jayhawks lately, it’s unlikely that they were in danger of overlooking the Redhawks in the 6 p.m. Saturday season opener at Memorial Stadium. But as soon as the players heard or saw the final score, that option was taken off the board completely.
“For any team to put up that amount of points is a huge feat,” senior safety Cassius Sendish said. “When you look at it on paper, it’s like, ‘Wow. What did they do?’”
Added junior defensive lineman Ben Goodman: “That means they had to be clicking pretty good on offense. We did get the details on the opponent they were playing, a first-year football school, but still, 77 points is 77 points, and it’s hard to put that up. We have to be focused and ready for this game. They might be an (FCS) team, but it’s not a joke. It’s not gonna be a walk in the park. We really have to lock in.”
That should not be a problem, according to Sendish, who said the large number of seniors on the KU roster, many of whom have played a big part in KU’s 4-20 record over the past two seasons, made him certain his squad would be all business come Saturday.
“For me, I take every opponent the same way,” Sendish said. “We’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done around here in a long time, so the attitude is gonna be the same whether they won by one point or won by 100.”
Senior Buck lineman Michael Reynolds said Southeast Missouri’s Week One explosion put KU in the position to make an early statement on defense.
“I’m guessing that has lifted up their confidence,” Reynolds said. “We all know that not many people respect Kansas football, and we just want to change that this year. We want to show our identity, and we want to be seen as an aggressive, tough defense and a fast defense from beginning to end.”
KU lineman Ben Goodman said this week’s practice had a little different tempo than the four weeks of preseason camp the Jayhawks just wrapped up before sitting through a Week One bye while most of the rest of the country kicked off its season last weekend.
“It was a major difference,” Goodman said. “We came out with energy and juice every day of camp, but just knowing that we’re not going to be banging up against each other and not scrimmaging against each other, it was turned up a little more this week.”
Asked how tough it has been to wait a few extra days for the season opener to arrive, Goodman’s eyes lit up before he answered.
“It’s anxious, like a dog on a porch when somebody’s running by,” he said. “We just want to jump off and chase them. We’re really ready.”
O-line a true crew
After explaining that being on the brink of starting his first Div. I college football game “really does feel like a dream,” KU center Keyon Haughton, who held off challenges from red-shirt freshman Joe Gibson and true freshman Jacob Bragg during camp to win the starting job, discussed the collective strength of KU’s front five.
“We all know what we’re good at,” he said. “In any certain play, we all know how we’re going to do it and what the next person is going to do, too. It’s that chemistry. Everybody knows where they’re gonna be, what we’re gonna do, and we just have that connection.”
Haughton said the bond came from playing the entire spring and most of camp with the same five guys running with the first team.