2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - McNeese State at Kansas
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Sept. 3 at Kansas 42 … McNeese State 24
CFN Analysis: Considering the brutally ugly 6-3 loss to North Dakota State to start last season, blowing out McNeese State wasn't necessarily a given. The secondary was lit up for 325 yards, but the ground game was fantastic with James Sims tearing off 104 yards as the Jayhawks went for 301 yards and three scores to control the game. Jordan Webb wasn't needed to do much, but he was efficient and effective completing 7-of-10 passes for 146 yard and three scores, and he ran for 27 yards and a touchdown. This wasn't exactly a dominant performance against a weak FCS team, but it was good enough. Now the real test begins against a Northern Illinois team that destroyed Army.
(AP) LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Jordan Webb threw three touchdown passes and ran for another, and Kansas, flashing the improved speed coach Turner Gill had promised, beat McNeese State 42-24 Saturday night in a season opener delayed almost 25 minutes by rain.
JaCorey Shepherd caught three passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. He went 56 yards for one score and then, after getting wide open on a fourth-and-3 play in the fourth quarter, hauled in a 48-yard pass for another.
Kansas also got touchdown runs from James Sims, who totaled 104 yards on 19 carries, and Tony Pierson.
The Jayhawks looked snappy and much faster than last year, when they struggled to a 3-9 finish in Gill's first season, beginning with a shocking 6-3 loss to Division II North Dakota State.
Webb, who started seven games in an injury-marred 2010 season, attempted only 10 passes, but completed seven for 146 yards.
Pierson, a true freshman, went 47 yards on his first carry to set up a touchdown and 13 yards into the end zone the second time he touched the ball. He had 73 yards on five carries.
Cody Stroud was 22 for 27 for 210 yards and a touchdown for the Cowboys. He alternated with Riley Dodge, who was 9 for 14 for 107 yards and another TD.
After getting stopped cold on their first possession, the Jayhawks went 84 yards in eight plays on their second, with Webb hitting Daymond Patterson on a 25-yard scoring pass following Sims' 30-yard scamper up the middle.
The Jayhawks took a 21-3 lead into halftime following Sims' 1-yard touchdown run and Pierson's 13-yard carry out of a wildcat formation.
The Cowboys scored on their first possession of the second half, rolling 76 yards in 12 plays. Stroud flipped a short pass to Champlain Babin, who got two excellent blocks while going into the end zone. Babin had five catches for 108 yards.
The Jayhawks answered with Shepherd's 56-yard catch-and-run. Shepherd and Kale Pick seemed to be running the same route, and both had their hands up. But Shepherd, a couple of steps behind Pick, was the one who pulled in the ball.
McNeese State's Dodge, on fourth-and-14, found a wide-open Wes Briscoe for a 32-yard scoring pass in the third quarter. Then back came the Jayhawks, with Sims getting a short touchdown run for a 35-16 lead early in the fourth.
Stroud connected with Babin on a 60-yard pass play, then got into the end zone two plays later. He hit Damion Dixon for a two-point conversion that made the score 35-24 with 8:32 to go before Webb hooked up with Shepherd on another long scoring pass.
McNeese State (0-0) at Kansas (0-0) Sept. 3, 7:00
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Here's The Deal … Kansas fans, enjoy this. Take is all in, relax, and have fun with your layup win, because there's a chance the next victory won't come for a long, long, time.
Head coach Turner Gill didn't exactly set the world on fire in his first season as the Jayhawks sputtered and struggled through an ugly 3-9 season, kicked off with a loss to North Dakota State of the FCS ranks. To put it nicely, the talent isn't quite in place to come up with a shocking rebound of a year, and unlike past seasons, there isn't the relative ease of the Big 12 North to work behind. Now, KU has to play Oklahoma every year. It has to play Texas, and Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State, and all the former Big 12 South teams, that that could be a problem.
Northern Illinois might be the best team in the MAC. The Huskies come to Lawrence next week, and then KU goes down to Georgia Tech for a revenge game after last year's Yellow Jacket clunker, and then comes the nightmare of a Big 12 season. If the Jayhawks are favored in any conference game this year, it'll be a slight shocker.
But the pressure is off, the chance is there to tune-up, and considering McNeese State should challenge for the Southland Conference title, this could be a good, honest test for KU.
Why McNeese State Might Win: The MSU running game could control the tempo. The Kansas run defense was among the worst in America last season, allowing 205 yards per game, and it doesn't have the offense to keep up in any sort of a firefight. It's not like the Cowboys are going to hang 50 points on the board, but they have a terrific-looking offense with a slew of excellent running backs to challenge the mediocre Jayhawk defensive front. Andre Anderson is a strong veteran who finished last year strong, hitting the 170-yard mark in two of the last four games, and Champlain Babin and Javaris Murray can be missed in to help the cause. Throw in running quarterback Cody Straud, and the ground attack is in place to make this interesting.
Why Kansas Might Win: The offensive line play should be better. The Jayhawks had major problems in pass protection last year, and it couldn't consistently get the ground game going, but enough big veterans are back to pound away on the Cowboy defensive front that shouldn't be able to get into the backfield. It'll be trial-by-fire for several players on the KU offense, but as long as the front five can control the line early on, offensive coordinator Chuck Long should be able to rely on the running game when the game needs to be settled down. It's a new year, but all the same pieces are back on the MSU defense that finished 17th in the FCS against the run. However, Missouri was able to pound out 193 yards and five touchdowns last year and LSU ran for 179 yards and four scores. KU isn't nearly as good as those two teams were, but it should be able to run for a least 150 yards.
What To Watch Out For: Is Darius Willis finally really to show what he can do? It was the shock of recruiting shocks when the Texas-based linebacker who could've gone anywhere signed with Buffalo, but he liked Turner Gill enough to take his talents to Western New York. When Gill left for Kansas, Willis followed, and while he had to sit out a year, he was able to get to 100% after getting hurt his true freshman year with a torn pectoral muscle. Big, fast, and very, very good, he's a dream of a middle linebacker for a defense that needs more all-around production.
What Will Happen: It's not going to be the total breather
Kansas might like, and it's going to be choppy at
times for a passing game that needs a long way to go
to simply be mediocre, but McNeese State won't have
enough in the bag offensively to pull off a North
Dakota State-like upset. However, when Kansas lost
last year's opener, it was because the offense
couldn't go anywhere. In this year's first game, the
Cowboys have enough defense to keep the score low,
but KU will get out with the fourth win in the Gill
CFN Prediction: Kansas 38 ... McNeese State 13
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