Monday Rewind: South Dakota State
Sometime today — probably much earlier than right now, because that’s how he likes to do things — Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis will put down the notes from Saturday’s 31-17 victory over South Dakota State, walk away from the game film that he probably has watched multiple times, and take a time out to visit with a colleague.
The guest of honor is KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger and the talking points, though undoubtedly falling back to football whenever possible, figure to be about everything from Saturday’s season opener to how their respective families are doing.
“I specifically have invited him to join me every Monday over in my office after I’ve had time to do a recap of the previous week so I can keep him up to speed on everything that’s happened,” Weis said.
Who played well. Who played poorly. Who gave good effort. Who gave attitude. All of that, and much, much more, will be covered in the Monday meeting and then both men will get back to their jobs, Weis constructing a game plan for Week-2-opponent Rice, and Zenger to running the athletic department.
The meeting is good for both guys, and speaks to their bond. Remember, these two only have known each other since December. It’s not as if their paths crossed on the coaching trail years ago and they kept in touch with Christmas cards. All of this, every meeting, every milestone, every matter-of-fact moment is new territory for both men, and that’s what makes the scheduled get-together so important. Both have the same goal — to make Kansas football a winner. Regular, as well as positive, communication between the AD and the head coach is as important to that as Dayne Crist’s right arm or the 2013 recruiting class.
“Because he’s an old football coach, (he) wants to give you your space,” Weis said of Zenger, who worked on football staffs at Kansas State, Wyoming and South Florida before moving into administration. “I think that he appreciates the fact that I’ve invited him over and we’ve kind of set it onto my schedule to have that time each week where we can sit there and visit.”
Because both men are football guys and, more importantly, realists, this first meeting might not be filled with a whole bunch of glowing reviews of KU’s season opener. Make no mistake about it, both were thrilled with the victory and hope that the good things that took place last Saturday will serve as a foundation for future growth and more good things ahead.
But it’s my guess that they’ll spend more time focusing on what went wrong and why than they will on the good things. While KU’s fan base had a mixed reaction to the victory, there were plenty of reasons to see the opener as a step forward.
Here are but a few examples:
• The third quarter, a thorn in the side of KU football for the past couple of seasons, actually was KU’s best on Saturday night. The Jayhawks outscored the Jackrabbits 14-0, outgained them 123-62 in total yards and took control of the game with back-to-back scoring drives that featured tailbacks Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox. Just imagine what the running game will look like when James Sims is back.
• Speaking of Cox, it’s notable that Weis’ ability to evaluate players — particularly on offense — seems to be in good shape. Cox edged out sophomore Brandon Bourbon for the No. 2 tailback job behind Pierson and Saturday night we saw why.
• Speaking of Weis, anybody notice how animated he was on the sideline from time to time? Anybody remember seeing that very often during the past two years? How about the 46,601 fans that filled the stadium? Didn’t really see that too often during the past few years either.
• The defensive line, though still not ready to be compared with the best in the Big 12, was significantly more active than anything we’ve seen lately. Josh Williams was a menace and had a nice game with three tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Jordan Tavai, who has been in town for about a month, showed a lot of energy and explosiveness inside. And both Toben Opurum (five tackles) and Michael Reynolds (one sack) made the SDSU backfield their second home all night, even if the stats don’t reflect it. Kevin Young, Keon Stowers and Keba Agostinho (The Killer K’s?) all chipped in memorable moments, as well. The D-Line is still a work in progress, and it likely will undergo a bunch of changes throughout the season, but you definitely noticed them and that’s a major upgrade.
• Oh yeah, and the defense forced five turnovers and the special teams blocked two punts. I realize that South Dakota State isn’t exactly USC, or even USM, but picking up five turnovers is nothing to sneeze about and often a trademark of good teams.
• The Jayhawks, on the whole, were organized, disciplined and prepared and, although things got tight there for a while, they almost always responded with poise. That, too, is something new and should be viewed as a very positive sign, especially in Week 1.
This blog was not written with the intention of pulling the wool over your eyes or saying that Saturday’s victory was an amazing effort and that all is well in Jayhawk-land again. It’s not. And there remains a lot of work to be done.
But in everything from the fans in the stands — does anyone think there would’ve been even half that many if the old staff were still here? — to the play on the field, Saturday’s outing was exactly what Weis called it: “Far from a thing of beauty, but a good start.”
Up next.... Rice, 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.