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Saturday, September 5, 2015

KU seeks experience, opening win

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The lack of experience on Kansas University’s football team has been well documented throughout the offseason.

But one quirky statistic puts the unproven roster into better perspective.

The Jayhawks, who are replacing 10 offensive starters from the final depth chart of the 2014 season, do not return a player who scored a touchdown last season.

Junior quarterback Montell Cozart, who entered 2014 as the starter but was benched during Game 5, threw five touchdown passes during his five starts a season ago.

But Cozart, who once again earned the starting QB job this preseason by holding off a charge from freshman Ryan Willis and juco transfer Deondre Ford, never carried the ball across the goal line.

Cozart did score as a true freshman in 2013 late in a loss at Texas.

And both Taylor Cox (3) and Schyler Miles (1) scored rushing touchdowns during the 2013 season as well.

But no Kansas player who scored a touchdown during the 2014 season is back with the Jayhawks for the start of 2015, which kicks off today at 11 a.m. at Memorial Stadium against South Dakota State.

This, from a program that, in 2012, went an entire season without witnessing a wide receiver catch a touchdown pass.

Cover that kick

KU coach David Beaty said earlier this week that SDSU punt returner JeRyan Butler was the kind of player who could keep head coaches awake at night.

“He is probably the most dynamic punt returner that I have seen at that level,” said Beaty of the FCS division the Jackrabbits call home. “That guy is dangerous. I don’t know that he even thinks about fair catches. He’s going to catch it and run with it. He’s got courage (and) we have a great challenge ahead of us trying to hem him in. He does a great job.”

Butler, a senior from Tempe, Arizona, averaged more than 13 yards per punt return, including a long of 80 yards, during the 2014 season.

Series history

KU and South Dakota State have faced one another twice in the history of the programs, with Kansas winning both match-ups. KU topped SDSU, 86-6, in October of 1947 in Lawrence, and, more recently, held off the Jackrabbits, 31-17, in the 2012 season opener.

KU is 31-9-1 all-time against FCS foes (formerly Division I-AA), including a 12-1 mark since 2000. The lone loss during that time came in Turner Gill’s debut as head coach in 2010, when the Jayhawks fell, 6-3, to North Dakota State at home.

KU favored

According to the online betting site, sportbet.com, KU enters today as a 5.5-point favorite over South Dakota State.

It marks the sixth time in the post-Mark Mangino era that the Jayhawks have been favored in the season-opener, but the spread is by far the lowest during that time.

KU is 4-1 in season openers since 2010 and 2-3 against the spread.

Comments

Bryce Landon 7 years, 3 months ago

Win this game and 3-9 looks pretty likely. Lose today and it looks like an 0-12 season.

Don Johnson 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't think you can predict the whole season from this game. Obviously, this may be our best chance for a win, but this team could continue to improve. Three wins may be possible, but I would be really surprised if we go winless.

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