Saturday, September 1, 2012
KU gets back to life in the winner's circle
By David Ubben
It's been 356 days since Kansas last won a football game.
Finally, the Jayhawks will experience a happy locker room after beating South Dakota State, 31-17.
KU jumped on top, 24-7, entering the fourth quarter. The Jayhawks gave up 10 points to open the quarter before icing the game with an eight-play, 75-yard drive.
It doesn't matter that you're playing an FCS team. Tonight was about getting back in the win column for Kansas and trying to build from last year's two-win disaster.
Kansas has more new faces on the field than anybody in the Big 12, and tonight was about finding out what those guys can do. Dayne Crist wasn't breaking any records, but he completed 17 of 36 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception on a jump ball. His lone touchdown? A 2-yarder to another fresh face: his former teammate at Notre Dame, tight end Mike Ragone.
Even through a combined five wins the past two years, Kansas has had strong running backs, and proved it again tonight. Two running backs went over 100 yards, led by starter Tony Pierson's 124 yards and two scores on 20 carries.
As for the defense? You have to be concerned anytime you give up a 99-yard touchdown run like Kansas did tonight. South Dakota State's Zach Zenner (23 carries, 183 yards, TD) is far from a speedster, but he managed to outrun KU's entire defense. That's not pretty.
The Jayhawks did force five turnovers compared to just two of their own. Even if it's South Dakota State, that's a good thing. KU forced just 18 turnovers in 12 games last season. That's pretty good progress.
KU didn't have a 100-yard receiver, but Kale Pick led the unit with 81 yards on five catches.
Plenty still to work on for the Jayhawks, but finally, they can remember what it feels like to win. Tonight could be the first step to experiencing that sensation in conference play later this fall.