Thursday, August 27, 2015


Column: Kansas’ opener will be tester

Storm clouds hover over Memorial Stadium during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

Storm clouds hover over Memorial Stadium during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 25, 2015.


Every school’s football schedule has a litmus test. The season opener vs. South Dakota State of the Football Championship Subdivision qualifies as Kansas University’s.

It’s not supposed to work that way, but given where KU is at the moment, combined with the quality of the FCS opponent, the first game shapes up as the toughest one to forecast.

John Stiegelmeier is in his 19th season as head coach of the school located in Brookings, South Dakota. Stiegelmeier didn’t have to use any time or energy to educate players on new terminology, schemes, etc.

David Beaty is in his first season as a college head coach, and his staff installed an Air Raid offense, inheriting talent that at some positions didn’t necessarily fit perfectly to the up-tempo attack.

South Dakota State relies heavily on a power running game. The Jackrabbits line up and try to outgrunt opponents. The Jayhawks prefer quick hits to head-on ones.

The Jacks’ offensive strength matches up with a projected defensive weakness of the ‘Hawks, size and strength up the middle.

A potential KU strength, the running threat presented by quarterback Montell Cozart, matches up with SDSU’s vulnerability. A year ago, the Jackrabbits repeatedly were burned by scrambling quarterbacks running for first downs on game-changing plays. Cozart has the speed to expose them, but last season didn’t use his speed, his feet slowed by him thinking too much, reacting too little.

South Dakota State lost five games last season. The first was to Missouri in a game in which the Tigers led by just three points early in the third quarter. Two of the losses were to national-champion North Dakota State, one to runner-up Illinois State.

Zach Zenner, who has had an impressive exhibition season with the Detroit Lions, had three consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons, so he’ll be missed. Three players from KU’s defense — linebacker Ben Heeney and cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald — went in the NFL Draft.

The visitors for the 11 a.m. kickoff one week from Saturday bring roster stability, the home athletes superior agility but a lack of history with each other as teammates.

Emotionally, the Jackrabbits crave what would be their first victory vs. a Football Bowl Subdivision school. The Jayhawks won’t have a better opportunity for a victory on the 2015 schedule.

Remember, it doesn’t necessarily require great teams to produce a great football game, just great competition and an abundance of drama.


Eric Bernauer 4 years, 9 months ago

I don't think North Dakota State won the national championship. Didn't CSU-Pueblo beat NDSU?

Lucas Town 4 years, 9 months ago

Didn't CSU-Pueblo win the Division II national title? Same classification as Pitt State, Washburn and Emporia State.

Aaron Paisley 4 years, 9 months ago

NDSU has won 4 straight FCS (Formerly 1-AA) national titles.

J.L. Forge 4 years, 9 months ago

NDSU beat Illinois State 29-27 to win the title last January.

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 9 months ago

Great reminder and observation in the last paragraph: "it doesn’t necessarily require great teams to produce a great football game, just great competition and an abundance of drama." One of your best.

We all have seen plenty of great games during HS seasons where the overall talent is not great but the teams are evenly matched and the players compete hard making some plays.

This game will certainly contain a lot of drama with the new coaching staff, players, and offensive/defensive schemes. If we can get the guys to compete hard, it does have the potential for a great football game.

Doug Cramer 4 years, 9 months ago

It may seem depressing, but I like the realistic view and reporting of the program. We havn't had that in a while. Remember Tait last year saying we were going to beat Duke ? Love you Tait, but you did call that win :)

The kool-aid is finally gone ! :)

Bryce Landon 4 years, 9 months ago

If Kansas loses this game, it won't be anywhere near as bad as when Kansas lost to North Dakota State in Turner Gill's KU debut. Gill's 2010 team was considerably more talented than Beaty's 2015 team and was one year removed from the glory days of Mangino. That NDSU loss was inexcusable in every way imaginable. If Beaty loses this game, I won't be moving to the "FIRE DAVID BEATY" wagon immediately, and no one else should either. Turner Gill and Charlie Weis ran this program so deep into the ground and left Beaty with so little to work with that it's going to take Beaty perhaps the rest of the 2010s decade to get KU to being bowl-game worthy. So if Kansas loses to South Dakota State, let's not all jump off the cliff like a bunch of lemmings.

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