Whether they came for the football or the autographs that came afterward, an estimated 3,500 Kansas University fans enjoyed a pleasant Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium for Fan Appreciation Day.
Treated first to a 100-play scrimmage that featured all four KU quarterbacks leading multiple drives, Jayhawk fans filled the west stands to get their first look at the 2013 team and then took to the track to meet the players.
As expected, the KU coaches and quarterbacks had the longest lines, as dozens of fans filed through to get signatures from KU coach Charlie Weis and starting quarterback Jake Heaps.
Throughout the 30-minute autograph session that followed the scrimmage, the Jayhawks interacted with the fans who showed up and continually thanked them for coming out to support the program.
“It means a lot,” sophomore long snapper Reilly Jeffers said of Saturday’s fan support. “You know these people are excited to see you, they’re ready for the season to get going and they want to see us do well. It’s uplifting in a way to kind of help get you through the doldrums of camp.”
As for the action on the field, Heaps turned in a fantastic day, completing 12 of 16 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. The junior quarterback led the first-team offense to touchdowns on its first two possessions, the first coming on a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jimmay Mundine and the second on a 62-yard TD run from James Sims.
Heaps added a third touchdown drive later in the day, connecting with Brandon Bourbon on a third-and-three play for a 27-yard touchdown.
Senior wideout Christian Matthews led all pass catchers with five grabs for 77 yards.
One of the bigger surprises of the day was the performance of true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart. The Bishop Miege High graduate led the Kansas offense to a touchdown — a 54-yard pass to Andrew Turzilli — and a field goal during his three drives. He finished 6-of-9 passing for 100 yards, which included completions on four of his first five throws.
Defensively, the Jayhawks got a strong showing from junior “Buck” linebacker Michael Reynolds, who finished with three run-stuffing tackles in the KU backfield. Fellow-Buck Ben Goodman recorded three sacks, junior defensive tackle Ty McKinney added a pair of sacks and Keon Stowers, Andrew Bolton and Courtney Arnick each had one. Bolton also added on the game’s only interception on a tipped ball thrown by fourth-string QB Jordan Darling.
The Jayhawks return to the practice field for their 14th session of fall camp today and will resume two-a-day practices on Monday, which marks the start of the final week of camp.
Five sit out scrimmage
Five Jayhawks missed Saturday’s scrimmage — four because of injuries — but KU officials said all of the bumps and bruises were minor and players were held out merely as a precaution.
Junior running back Tony Pierson, junior linebacker Ben Heeney, junior wide receiver Rodriguez Coleman and senior tight end Nick Sizemore all sat out.
Offensive tackle Pearce Slater, meanwhile, missed the scrimmage because he was en route to California to tend to a family medical emergency.
At Friday’s practice, just before the special teams session that closed things out, KU coach Charlie Weis informed the team that junior holder Blake Jablonski was being placed on scholarship.
Jablonski, a quarterback from Collegiate High in Wichita, has been in the KU program since 2010 but red-shirted that season and did not play at all in 2011. Last year, he served as the first-team holder in all 12 games.
After the announcement, Jablonski’s teammates mobbed him and expressed their excitement about the news. Saturday, after the scrimmage, Jeffers, who appreciates the job Jablonski does as much as anybody, said the KU holder was incredibly deserving of the honor.
“I was really happy for him,” Jeffers said. “He deserves it. He doesn’t get glory necessarily from the media, but he does in the locker room. I don’t know anybody that has a bad word to say about Blake Jablonski.”