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100 days out from another KU football opener & why you should care

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Well, here we are, 100 days away from the start of yet another college football season.

And, as much as that’s a national holiday for the rest of the country, it often is a day to dread for Kansas fans. Not only is the interest in this program at an all-time low — and you can say that by any number of measures from season ticket sales to message board traffic and everything in between — but the idea of actually attending a football game and, heaven forbid actually staying to watch it, seems to have become something people get mocked for around here.

That only makes a hard job harder for second-year coach David Beaty and his Jayhawks, who, like every other college football team in America, have been working their butts off since the end of the 2015 season in hopes that the work they put in during the down months will pay off in the fall.

Knowing that it’s going to take more than the abstract promise of continued improvement to get KU fans fired up for another football season, let’s look at six reasons to get excited about the arrival of game day, exactly 100 days from today.

1. Game 1 is winnable. Big time. Not only should the Jayhawks be favored to beat Rhode Island in the opener, they should do it. It’s been a long time since KU put a hurting on an opponent in a season opener and there’s no better way to get the fan base jacked than by putting up a big number and rolling to a comfortable rout during Week 1. During the final four seasons under Mark Mangino, KU won its opener by an average of 38 points. In the six seasons — and three head coaches — since Mangino left town, KU has won four openers by an average of 14 points and lost two. Nothing would be more helpful toward getting things turned around than an old-fashioned butt-kicking on Sept. 3 at Memorial Stadium.

2. New offenses can be fun. Especially when they’re Air Raid offenses designed to get the ball to playmakers in space and operate at a pace that puts the defense on its heels. Forget about what you saw last year and consider KU’s 2015 offense the bridge between Charlie Weis’ pro style packages and what Beaty believes KU can run. If you show up on Sept. 3 and see more of the same, head back to the car and take that cooler full of cold beverages to the pool or the lake. But at least show up and check it out. Who knows? Even though KU does not have the talent it had during the Todd Reesing era, this new-look offense might remind you a little of that and you just might like it.

3. KU’s defense figures to be much improved. We saw evidence of this in the spring, when the KU defense most often got the better of the offense during scrimmages and the spring game. And I’ve heard some chatter about defensive coordinator Clint Bowen really getting his crew to buy in to what he wants to do. Some of the credit for that goes to experience. Some of it goes to the leaders like Fish Smithson, Joe Dineen, Marcquis Roberts and Brandon Stewart. And some of it goes to the addition of linebackers coach Todd Bradford and his ability to work well with Bowen and the other defensive assistants. Time will tell just how good this group actually can be, but you can expect to see a confident crew that takes the field with some bounce and swagger on Sept. 3.

4. Time to meet the new faces. By the time Sept. 3 rolls around, you’ll have read plenty about cornerback Kyle Mayberry, defensive linemen DeeIsaac Davis and Isi Holani, linebacker Maciah Long, cornerback Stephan Robinson and defensive end Isaiah Bean. But this will be your first chance to actually see them play. You never know when KU’s coaching staff is going to land that player or pack of players that might be responsible for jump-starting a turn-around. Could he be on the list of names above?

5. The weather should be gorgeous. I know it’s a long ways away still and weathermen and women don’t normally forecast 100 days out, but if history tells us anything the opener should be very nice. According to usclimatedata.com, September is one of just two months each year in which the average high temperature in Lawrence is in the 70s. And they don’t play football around here in May, so why not take advantage of that?

6. Tailgating, man. My esteemed colleague Gary Bedore has called KU’s tailgating atmosphere one of the best decisions the athletic department ever made. Remember, there was a time not that long ago when fans were not allowed to consume adult beverages and enjoy one of the best parts about college football anywhere near Memorial Stadium. That changed back in 2001, and today, even when the likelihood of KU winning a game inside the stadium is low, the buzz outside the stadium is high, both from a participation perspective and the way the whole scene makes the areas surrounding Memorial Stadium, from the hill to the parking lots, look like a big time college football environment.

In the next 99 days, we'll have all kinds of info and analysis of the season ahead, but hopefully what you just read will whet your appetite just a little for that season opener against Rhode Island that is closer than you think.

In case it didn't, here are a few recent comments from Beaty on the opener...

"We gotta win some games. And that starts with one. We are focused on going 1-0 against Rhode Island I honestly don’t even know who else is on our schedule. I am focused on that game. And our kids are too.”

“It’s the most important game in the history of our program because it’s the next one. Period.”

“We’re gonna focus on winning one game at a time and putting a premium on winning. Winning is important. So we’re not gonna sugarcoat it. We came here to win and these kids want to win. We’ve worked our (butt) off and the kids have too. They deserve it. So we just gotta keep earning it.”

Comments

Greg Ledom 4 years, 1 month ago

Matt, thanks for the article. My appetite was already wet and thanks for providing additional sustenance! Purchase season tickets, check; 100% bought in and supportive of Coach Beaty, check; see improvement in some aspect of the program (see recruiting), check; feel the need to support the players who are busting their ass to get better and prove they can win a few, check; ready to tailgate, check; ready to get Coach Beaty's team it's first W, CHECK! September can't get here soon enough. This team and staff have unbelievable committment, passion, work ethic, and all kinds of 'want to'. Come on Jayhawk fans, get out and support this team! Rock Chalk!!

Michael Maris 4 years, 1 month ago

I was ready for the 2016 season, as soon as the 2015 season was over. I believe in Coach Beaty and the enthusiasm he displays about his opportunity afforded to him by AD Zenger.

I'm always looking to see the new recruits that are on the board. I think that we will see a lot more upper tier 3 star players buying into the the Jayhawks Football program in the coming years again.

I'm even considering driving down to the Memphis game.

So, I'm already ready.

Michael Maris 4 years, 1 month ago

By the way, how is Marcquis Roberts health this off-season? And, I would think that Isaiah Bean would likely be a Red-shirt Candidate (to get some more weight and muscles on his frame).

Matt Tait 4 years, 1 month ago

I hear what you're saying about Bean, but I think there's a strong chance he'll have a role this year similar to the one that Dorrance Armstrong had last year as a true freshman. These coaches are way high on Bean.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 1 month ago

Isaiah Bean would normally be a Red-shirt Candidate, but normal includes a roster of 85 scholarship athletes. Red-shirt candidates will be much more limited than normal until we have a full roster.

IMO, Beaty virtually gets a pass on eval until he has a full roster. Maybe he does something that puts us in a worse situation, but as long as there is some progress the FCS roster has to be taken into consideration.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 1 month ago

Memorial is a great place to be on Saturdays. We'll be better, no doubt. I'm looking to see a more competitive and more organized team. Let's go 2-0 and see what happens!

Gavin Fritton 4 years, 1 month ago

I love all of this except tailgating. Don't get me wrong: I love tailgating too. But KU has got to have one of the worst situations for tailgating I've ever seen. I love the location of Memorial Stadium and I even love the creaky old place itself. But without making stadium parking easy and readily available (and I understand why they can't), the only way to tailgate is to pay KU a fee to get a spot on the hill, haul all your tailgating stuff there from wherever you have to park (but rest assured, unless you are a very well-heeled Williams Fund donor, it will be far away), set up, grill, cook, eat, drink, make merry and then tear everything down and haul it all back to wherever you parked and then get back into Memorial in time for kickoff. And given how often KU gets shafted with 11:00AM kickoffs to accommodate TV, the idea of paying extra for this "privilege" is asking way too much.

Or you can park in the street a mile away, set up a pathetic lawn chair (but certainly not a grill, not in the street) and have a beer or two while you eat a slice of pizza you picked up at Pyramid on your way in. Very festive. If you're one of t he people who pay to park in someone's yard, you're really screwed.

Contrast this with K-State where they're fortunate enough to have their stadium attached to a giant parking lot for everyone. You bring everything with you and you don't have to haul it anywhere except out of and into your trunk.

I'm sorry, but unless you have a lot of money and are able to pay a couple of stevedores to haul your stuff (or pay even more to have KU cater your tailgate with mediocre catered food), tailgating at my beloved KU really is overrated. The best you can do isn't to have your own butt-kicking tailgate. It's to get invited to someone else's butt-kicking tailgate.

Greg Ledom 4 years, 1 month ago

It's all part of the experience Russ......I mean Gavin. Gavin, you actually make a lot of good points. Parking (especially for tailgating) is less than desirable. I actually park (this year and last) in the parking lot behind the scholorship residence on the west side up the hill. It's not bad and doesn't cost me an arm and a leg, but does require a committment to WEF and enough points. Parking just off the bowl in the streets where the slum lords rent out driveways and yards is ridiculous. Done that and WON'T do it again. Tried the parking over by the Field House. Yep, they sell you parking way over there. Talk about your sad tailgate experiences. K-State does have a rather large area for tailgating, but it doesn't accommodate all and I'll take our setting and parking challenges any day of the week over the location they have. At the end of the day your either in, out or invited. Good luck and Rock Chalk!

Gavin Fritton 4 years, 1 month ago

I agree. I love our gameday experience. Memorial Stadium is in a beautiful location and pregame inside the stadium is as great as we have any right to expect. But I'm sorry, really, I am sorry to say this, but our tailgating simply stinks. We have to pay extra for the privilege. As you say, to even park up by the schol halls requires Williams Fund points. The hill itself is a great atmosphere that might as well be behind the rope line at Studio 54 in 1977 given how few people are actually privileged enough to get in there. KU could do a lot to make the experience more universally available but they've chosen to monetize it, which has been a trend of the Zenger administration (pettily selling off the student seats behind the KU basketball bench when the students decided they didn't need to keep imposing a fee to subsidize athletics, putting more games on one exclusive cable provider and making them unavailable to lots of people in Kansas but getting more money to the athletic department, seemingly every year agreeing to let the Lognhorn Network be the sole television carrier of the KU-UT game, making it unavailable to huge swaths of KU fans), so I know it shouldn't be all that surprising.

Bottom line: KU has a lot to offer a football fan, at least in terms of the gameday experience. But tailgating simply isn't part of it unless you are part of KU's "one percent."

Greg Ledom 4 years, 1 month ago

Room for improvement........no doubt.

Brad Sherp 4 years, 1 month ago

I keep thinking, "we can't get any worse" but then KU Football keeps proving me wrong. Here is to ending the downward spiral this year....

Bob Bailey 4 years, 1 month ago

Matt,

you have left off a VERY important factor! Defense.

Defense wins games, and no one who is coaching can teach tackling and pass protection, and their Defense Scheme can be beat by a sixth grader. According to a coaching team mate of our DC, he was taught by the worst DC in the country and hasn't learned a thing since. Yeah, he's a great Jayhawk. Let him recruit; but get us a good DC. Example: In the last TCU game in Lawrence, our prize LB was lying in the middle of the field while the runner was celebrating in the end zone. He was our last chance to win. He flung his body at the runner; probably a one chance in 4 of making the tackle, based on the runners skill, not the tackler. Our guys were not taught tackling!

There are two outstanding DC's in college; one at Ore; the other at Mich State. They might be expensive; pay the price! Our guys are talented enough to go 3-and-out; they have hardly shown it in 5 years.

Matt, you are a first rate reporter (your new picture is way better than the old one). Yes, you may or may not have put the cart before the horse. The article is good. But to a guy who can only see a 1 - 9 record ahead, kindly help us keep our prospects in order.

John Fitzgerald 4 years, 1 month ago

3. KU’s defense figures to be much improved. We saw evidence of this in the spring, when the KU defense most often got the better of the offense during scrimmages and the spring game. And I’ve heard some chatter about defensive coordinator Clint Bowen really getting his crew to buy in to what he wants to do. Some of the credit for that goes to experience. Some of it goes to the leaders like Fish Smithson, Joe Dineen, Marcquis Roberts and Brandon Stewart. And some of it goes to the addition of linebackers coach Todd Bradford and his ability to work well with Bowen and the other defensive assistants. Time will tell just how good this group actually can be, but you can expect to see a confident crew that takes the field with some bounce and swagger on Sept. 3.

John Fitzgerald 4 years, 1 month ago

This just pumps me up for football season even more. I'm telling you Tait, I'm feeling a big turn this year, and it's going to be for the better. It'll be the first time in 5 years where KU Football fans will feel optimistic about the future for the program. We'll win at least 3 games, and compete in most of the rest, enough to maybe get a win or two more. It should be a fun year, and I consider this year Beaty's first true year. Also, you nailed it with the tailgating. If anything, go to the game for that and you'll be totally satisfied. ROCK CHALK!

Rhett Place 4 years, 1 month ago

Long time season ticket holder, until this year.

What happens when RI beats us by two touchdowns? This will happen. I know that I'm going to be accused of being a hater but I prefer to be labeled a realist. Didn't see anything last year (or year before, or year before,...) that looked remotely like college football and I haven't seen any off season news to change it.

I will believe that we can win a game (any game) after we have won one. Just One! Until then, how can you predict anything other than 0-12. You better believe that RI will be looking for a win here and why shouldn't they?

When 1/3 of the positives you can come up with are "nice weather" (100 day forecast) and "tailgating", that should raise a red flag. I can go to the park and have a picnic, not spend $200, and not watch us be destroyed by mediocre teams instead. Winners expect to win. Losers expect nice weather and tasty food.

Matt, are you going to circle back on your predictions after the game and see how well you did? I didn't think so.

Matt Tait 4 years, 1 month ago

You lost me here. I haven't actually made any predictions yet. Unless, of course, you're counting me saying KU should beat Rhode Island. If that's the case, I'll stick with that one.

As for last year's predictions, I'm pretty sure I got all but one game correct. I picked KU to beat South Dakota State.

Dirk Medema 4 years, 1 month ago

I thought it was a stretch (false hopes?) to predict a blowout of URI, but a lot closer than -2TD's.

Jim Stauffer 4 years, 1 month ago

No, but we will remember your post. And you can be sure we will remind you of how well you did.

Maria Ungaro 4 years, 1 month ago

Matt, you and your entire staff do a great job of keeping us up to speed and providing insight to the Jayhawks. I know it is tough to be on the inside of a winless team, but you keep it real and professional. Once again Thank you.

I've said this before and I will say it again. KU will go to a bowl game this season. It is very common for college football teams to make a direct turn arounds. These guys have to have a chip on there shoulders - Everyday, Every work out, and every practice. Not talking the Sugar Bowl just a 12/26 game would be fabulous.

Here is the formula: Wins: Rhode Island, Ohio, Memphis, Texas Tech, Iowa St, and KSU.

Close and I mean 3-6 points - TCU & UT

Not ready for primetime: OU, OSU, BU, & WVU.

2016 season will be a turning point for Coach Beaty and the Jayhawks football program. The coaching staff is in place and the 3* recruits are coming. Memorial stadium will be rockin again.

Greg Ledom 4 years, 1 month ago

Maria, I consider myself to be a glass half full kind of guy. Your cup overfloweth! From 0-12 to a bowl game.........damn Daniel! You got a hold of some really good stuff so back off a bit and only smoke in small doses.......

In all seriousness I think your crazy to put that prediction out there and although I think you will be sorely disappointed, I'd love for you to be spot on. Here's praying...because it will take divine intervention. Rock Chalk!

Joe Ross 4 years, 1 month ago

What's crazy is that my interest in KU football is rising. True, my expectations are very low. But you get a sense that something is about to break for Kansas football. This is not based on superstition, but based on the facts that 1. things can't get much worse than the stretch we've been on including a winless season last year, and 2. continuity of coaching and focus on fundamentals has got to pay off. I have my concerns about Beaty (utilization of Cozart, seeming lack of situational knowledge in games), but he's bringing the right attitude to a downtrodden team. Im jumping on the bandwagon for the optimistic point of view. Here's hoping...

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