KU still can win four, but only if …

Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb takes off on a run against the North Dakota State defense during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 at Kivisto Field. The Jayhawks came up short in their season opener, dropping the contest 6-3.

Kansas quarterback Jordan Webb takes off on a run against the North Dakota State defense during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 at Kivisto Field. The Jayhawks came up short in their season opener, dropping the contest 6-3.

September 5, 2010


Highlights: KU vs. NDSU

Highlights from the low-scoring game that was KU's 2010 season opener. North Dakota State won the contest 6-3. Enlarge video

Turner Gill postgame: NDSU

Turner Gill addresses the media following the Jayhawks' loss to North Dakota State on Saturday, September 4, 2010. Enlarge video

KU coach Turner Gill talks after the Jayhawks' 6-3 loss

Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 6-3 loss to North Dakota State on Sept. 4, 2010.

KU quarterback Jordan Webb says he could feel NDSU's momentum building throughout the game

KU quarterback Jordan Webb says he could feel NDSU's momentum building in the Bison's 6-3 victory over the Jayhawks on Sept. 4, 2010.

KU vs. North Dakota State

Live updates from the Newell Post Live, coming to you from Memorial Stadium where the Kansas Jayhawks are taking on the North Dakota State Bison.

Call me an eternal optimist, you always do, but I’ll say it anyway: Despite an embarrassing, historically bad loss in Saturday evening’s season-opener to a Division I-AA football school, I still believe Kansas University can get to four victories this season.

But it’s going to take Turner Gill to remedy immediately a talent-evaluation mistake for the Jayhawks to have any shot at winning four of the remaining 11 games on a tough schedule.

No, we’re not talking about a quarterback controversy centering on Kale Pick and Jordan Webb. Instead, a running back controversy needs to percolate, and it needs to be a very short one.

Toben Opurum, the team’s most talented offensive player, is a linebacker-in-training now. He watched from the sideline as KU’s depth-challenged linebacking crew performed well in the 6-3 loss to North Dakota State, and he watched running backs without his ability to carry multiple defenders on his back search for daylight and find none.

Opurum carries the ball straight up the gut 30 times Friday night, and Kansas scores at least two touchdowns. Period. He generates so much power by keeping his legs churning, he doesn’t need as much help from blockers as most ball carriers need.

The absence of Opurum from the offensive huddle cut the deepest when KU had the ball on its 40 early in the second quarter after Pick and Angus Quigley hooked up for a 20-yard reception and Daymond Patterson had a nine-yard run. On second-and-one, Deshaun Sands was stopped for no gain. On the next play, Quigley lost a yard.

And Opurum watched. And so many among the 48,417 who showed up in anticipation of watching KU beat up on a sparring partner had to wonder just where the Opurum train that appeared headed to stardom before his injury in Austin last fall went off track.

Sands and Quigley combined for 34 yards on 17 rushes. Jeremiah Hatch, once the best blocker in the program and now out of shape, didn’t play a snap.

“Again, I probably have to watch it on tape to really get a true evaluation,” Gill said, asked how much the running woes could be traced to poor blocking. “Some of it was their defense. I want to give them some credit. I think part of it might be our backs reading, whether they hit the right holes or not. I don’t know. It’s hard to tell on the sideline, from that standpoint.”

I had to know, so I asked Gill if he might consider moving Opurum back to offense.

“No, that’s not on my mind, unless something overnight comes and hits me there,” Gill said, smiling.

I fear this newspaper hitting his front porch wasn’t what he meant. Maybe he’ll dream about Opurum playing a wrecking ball with the Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech defenders bouncing off of him Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the way Darrell Arthur once dreamed of playing basketball for KU, hours after he was on the verge of committing to Baylor.

Doubtful. For some reason, this staff doesn’t seem to like Opurum as a running back.

Opurum could have compensated for so many sins — undisciplined penalties, three turnovers, dropped passes, a blocked punt and generally sloppy play — but never got that shot.

Gill, an easy-to-root-for gentleman, is not the only recent KU coach to have a losing debut. Mark Mangino lost his, 45-3, at Iowa State. Glen Mason lost at home to Baylor, 27-14. Bob Valesente lost at home to North Carolina, 20-0. Northern Illinois spoiled Mike Gottfried’s debut in Lawrence, 37-34.

Still, Gill’s easily ranks as roughest, thanks to the abundance of spills, the shortage of thrills and the low profile of the plucky opponent.

The loss puts Gill in a tough spot, given that he follows a coach fired two years after a 12-1, Orange Bowl-winning season, and given that Lew Perkins, the man who hired him and a close friend, has lame-duck status.

Opurum is Gill’s ticket to hope. Punch it, Turner, punch it and this team in need of smelling salts will get its legs back.


7texdude 7 years, 9 months ago

One guy is going to solve the Jayhawks offensive problems? Sure, whatever you say. So, KU's best offensive weapon is two-yards-and-a-cloud of dust up the middle? Wow. If this team does not get it together, it might not win a game........well maybe New Mexico State. Still, it sucks to watch a team go from an Orange Bowl win to this. Just plain sucks.

Go Hawks! Keep fighting!

SteelHorseRider 7 years, 9 months ago

i guess you had to write SOMETHING "positive" after this pathetic game... why didn't you just write the truth, which is to call off the east side stadium expansion because the KU "faithful" WILL NOT come back after such a disappointment.

irvan moore 7 years, 9 months ago

uh, mr. Keegan, winning 4 games is not exactly the kind of goal the fans are looking for.

LogicMan 7 years, 9 months ago

If Joe College were still around, a shirt would be on the racks today:

Closeup picture of an angry Mangino, overlaid with the words "Do you #$@^&*! miss me yet?"

JayCat_67 7 years, 9 months ago

I think a laughing Mangino would be better. Or maybe looking up from a plate of pizza, hot wings, bread sticks, burgers, hotdogs.....

rtwngr 7 years, 9 months ago

Four wins? You're dreaming, Mr. Keegan. This is a football program headed back down the road of mediocrity. Welcome back to the days of losing to teams like Kent State and North NobodyDakota State. At least with Mangino the other teams weren't laughing at Kansas anymore. Welcome back to the cellar Jayhawk fans. Last one to leave, turn out the lights.

kujayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Gill and Long are jokes. How much are we paying these clowns? Thanks for destroying our program Lew.

newmedia 7 years, 9 months ago

Many were concerned when the new coach said his players would not swear. After all this is football. Not to worry coach, the fans were able to take up the slack quite nicely, thank you.

ashmole 7 years, 9 months ago

Echoes of the Terry Allen era in last night's humiliation. With a brilliant coach, this bunch of guys is probably a four win team. With Turner Gill, a winless record seems like a safer bet.

newmedia 7 years, 9 months ago

Even Terry Allen is 1-0 so far this season.

Mean_Green 7 years, 9 months ago

Bye bye Gill. I would recommend looking for openings elsewhere. The new "mamby-pamby program" is an epic failure! Division I-AA are you serious? How embarrasing. Mangino would have hung 40 on them with the same talent then cleaned out the local Chipotle afterwards.

defensehawk 7 years, 9 months ago

I would like to say the offense play callilng was as stale as the popcorn.

lionheart72661 7 years, 9 months ago

If Joe College were still around, a shirt would be on the racks today:

Closeup picture of an angry Mangino, overlaid with the words "Do you #$@^&*! miss me yet?"

A RESOUNDING NO! Mangino was only as good as the players he had playing for him. Everyone knew that it would not be an easy year for Turner Gill and when he does take KU to a championship game I hope all you naysayers remember this day and this article. Mangino and Lew cost KU a lot of money and yes Joe College would still be around if Perkins wasn't such a greedy B@#$#@#$ and you could have your t-shirt but it woulda been just another lawsuit. KU got rid of one piece of waste now I say bye bye Lew. Give Gill a chance!

sourpuss 7 years, 9 months ago

If the coach cannot inspire better play than that, he should be replaced mid-season. Terrible football is the fault of the coaching staff. Clearly there is no training or discipline on this team to play like that.

Armen Kurdian 7 years, 9 months ago

Coach, I'm listening to your post-game comments. That's absolutely inexcusable. Where's the anger? Where's the indignity? You just got your ass handed to you by an FCS school on opening day in your home field. "Well that's just how the ball bounces," does not cut it.

I'm not a fair weather fan. But that was absolutely awful yesterday Coach, and you need to be furious about what happened. We sure as heck are.

kujayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Can we hire Mike Leach before somebody else gets him?

50YearResident 7 years, 9 months ago

Setting the bar a little low here aren't we? Is this all we can expect from our "mush have" replacement coach? How long will it be before we are longing for Manginos return?

Daniel Kennamore 7 years, 9 months ago

To everyone calling for Gill to resign and longing for Mangino...might I remind you that Mangino won exactly two games his first year.

Gill's a first year coach that lost nearly every upperclassman of any talent. This isn't OU or Texas, we don't have the talent to suddenly be good or even mediocre in that situation. If you were expecting anything better than an awful year, you're delusional.

If there isn't signs of major improvement by NEXT Big 12 season, then you can complain. As it stands, you can't judge any college football coach until his third or fourth season. Everyone complaining or calling for him to be fired after one game is the epitome of fair-weather fans.

laughingatallofu 7 years, 9 months ago

edjayhawk you hit the nail on the head. Play calling was terrible! What was with those passes in the flat (that gained nothing or even lost yards) late in the game? In KU's last long drive, NDSU practically escorted KU down the field with big penalties, and they still couldn't score. And folks, even though KU missed a bunch of FGs, FGs, in the long run, aren't going to win a whole lot of football games for you. You need to get into the red zone and score touchdowns. I feel bad for the players. Their coaches let them down by hanging them out to dry unprepared. WWTT?? (What was Turner thinking???)

yankeevet 7 years, 9 months ago

No quarterbacks that can throw; No receivers who can catch; and No kickers who can kick; but other then that a great team..........

jhawkjjm 7 years, 9 months ago

For $2 million a year you better beat an FCS school. That was an embarrassment.

blackhawkx 7 years, 9 months ago

2 million a year for a 6-3 loss to NDSU, a 2A school. Funderful. We're now the biggest joke in the Big 12. We can't win football games that we should win, and we can't even do well with a good NCAA Basketball team that we had last year.

What a joke.

fairplay 7 years, 9 months ago

Tom: KU plays on Saturdays. They may have reminded you of Leavenworth, but Opurum would've been far more useful Saturday night than Friday. Period.

Who recruited the vast majority of this team? These are the heirs to Mangino's 5-7 team of last year. Why is everyone so hung up on Mangino? He had ONE winning season at KU. Mangino was no play calling or game management genius; don't you remember the only loss of '07 against Mizzou and the TERRIBLE 4th and "Let's go for it you skinny little pr(#@" at Arrowhead last year? C'mon! Get off the Mangino chuck wagon. Gill might not be perfect, that's apparent, but we HAD to move on. Time to take off the rose colored (and beef flavored) Mangino glasses.

blackhawkx 7 years, 9 months ago

Mangino at least won the orange bowl for us. If indeed it was time to move on, it isn't certainly by paying a no-name, non-proven coach $2 million a year.

Like Mangino, Gill only had ONE winning season in his career. And it fell apart after that.

burdon54 7 years, 9 months ago

Ah, the chickens have come home to roost! Show the best coach KU has ever had in the modern era the door because some crybabies couldn't cut it, and hire someone who doesn't have a clue how to compete at the Big 12 level. Welcome back to loserville with that great hire that doesn't use cuss words and is warm and fuzzy. I hope coach Mangino is laughing his ass off! Hail to Lew the tool and his hired band of criminals making KU the laughing stock of the Big 12. Thanks for screwing all those loyal KU fans and filling your pockets with gold before retiring and leaving the university with the distinct smell of corruption and a football team that loses to a division II team in its home opener.

GAtechfan 7 years, 9 months ago

Frankly this makes me a bit nervous. If the KU players are buying at all into what one post called Turner Gill's bs, they'll show some pride Saturday and give a good effort. Tech started with a "practice" game too - against South Carolina State. But at least they won it (41-10).

GAtechfan 7 years, 9 months ago

In other words, you guys couldn't be that bad.

Thats_messed_up 7 years, 9 months ago

This team's gonna get beat down by the basketball team even worse than last years! Number 86 is my favorite KU player.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't know how you can see four wins after that. You have to give Gill time, but you go 2-10 in 2010, you only improve to say 5-7 in 2011, then after that season the guy who hired you is long gone.

xyz 7 years, 9 months ago

From Keegan's August 20 column: "(Aside: I stand by my prediction that Perkins will not be in his post when Turner Gill coaches his first game, 15 days from today.)"

Care to revise that prediction for us (and why you made it in the first place)???

jhawki 7 years, 9 months ago

Offensive line was the ultimate embarassment. Watch the tape, There was not a single play til the whistle blows block. At the end of every play 5 guys were watching the game, all our off line, overweight blocking dummies.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.