Kansas received mixed reviews during opening weekend of its 2001 football season.
There was a little good, a little bad and a little ugly during the Jayhawks' 24-10 victory over Division I-AA Southwest Missouri State on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
On the one hand, sophomore quarterback Zach Dyer threw for 231 yards a KU record for a QB making his first start while directing the Jayhawks' no-huddle, one-back attack, but also had two interceptions. The defense scored a touchdown, forced two turnovers and had four sacks, but surrendered 243 yards.
Then there's the wide receiving corps, which scored a touchdown and accounted for the Jayhawks' biggest plays of the evening, but either were directly or indirectly responsible for two turnovers.
"I think there was a lot assumed out there that you're going to go out and walk all over this football team," KU coach Terry Allen said. "I was scared to death all week because of the perception out there. With the veteran group that they had, they'd stand in there and they'd move the football pretty well and I thought if we turned it over that we could really cause ourselves some problems.
"That's exactly what happened, but again with this staff and their approach to things, I think that we'll be able to build on the mistakes and get some good out of it."
Something bad that might come out of the win is that Dyer might have made Allen's decision as to who to start at quarterback next Saturday against UCLA a little bit tougher.
Dyer dominated early, accounting for 72 of the Jayhawks' 80 yards in the first quarter. He had four carries for 20 yards including his 1-yard sneak for KU's first touchdown and was 4-of-5 passing for 20 yards. The sophomore signal-caller was 8-of-11 passing for 134 yards with a TD toss and interception in the half.
"I don't know, there's a little mixed emotions there right now," Dyer said of his debut as a starter. "I'd have to see it. I'm happy with the win, but mostly frustrated with some things. I also think I did a good job on some other things so I'm kind of mixed.
"I missed a couple open receivers and maybe a couple reads that I shouldn't have or tried to force a play here, especially with turnovers."
Dyer finished 19-of-29 passing with a 43-yard touchdown to sophomore Derek Mills and two INTs.
"Less bad than good," Allen said of Dyer's debut. "We said he does some real good things, then he does some not so good things. I think that you saw that in his performance. He doesn't throw the one interception, he really plays well because the other interception was a ball off the hands of Harrison Hill that, had he caught it, it would have been just like the previous one that he caught when he made about 25 yards on the catch."
Earlier in the game Dyer hit senior co-captain Hill on a crossing pattern that Hill turned into a 20-yard gain. But on the same play later, the ball deflected off Hill's hands and into the arms of SMS freshman cornerback Carlos Banks.
"That interception that I dropped was bad," Hill said. "I don't remember doing that in four years here. But I got it out of the way and I'm done for the year. It's not going to happen any more."
Perhaps more surprising than Hill's drop he finished with three grabs for 47 yards was that Dyer gained 41 yards on 12 carries.
"Not necessarily surprised," Dyer said of his success on the ground, "but maybe surprised with the number of times I did run."
Some of that was necessitated by the lack of ground game as the Jayhawks played without starting running back Reggie Duncan and red-shirt freshman quarterback Mario Kinsey, who both were suspended for the opener.
In Duncan's absence, sophomore Dan Coke received the start, finishing with 21 carries for 44 yards and a fumble out of bounds.
The Jayhawks' air attack accounted for 231 yards compared to 102 from the ground game and utilized seven different receivers. Mills led the way with five catches for 72 yards, including a 43-yard TD where he found a seam and outraced the Bears' secondary.
"Derek Mills has improved a lot since he's been here," Hill said. "When he first came in he couldn't catch the ball very well, but now he's going to be one of our go-to guys. He's got so much speed and he can catch the ball.
"Hit him in the middle and let him run and he can make some big plays."
KU senior wide receiver Termaine Fulton had four receptions for 58 yards including a highlight-reel sliding catch for a gain of 31 yards.
The estimated crowd of 37,500 was KU's largest in an opener since 48,100 in 1994. The turnout was credited in part to KU's massive marketing effort, as well as athletics director Al Bohl's push to legalize responsible pregame tailgating.
"That was great," Allen said. "I think it was a real compliment to everybody in our athletics department. Obviously I think that's generated by Dr. Bohl, but our kids notice that. You know we're going to have a great crowd next week. We've got a little different Bear coming to town, but I think that we'll have a great crowd.
"The festivities beforehand, everything about it is just kind of setting the stage."
KU will play host to UCLA's Bruins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.