Jayhawks open season against Southeast Missouri St


AP Sports Writer

Last weekend was a test of Charlie Weis's patience.

The first college football game of the day kicked off between Penn State and Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland, so it was on TV bright and early in the U.S. By the time the very last game on the West Coast had concluded, Saturday had already turned to Sunday in the Weis household.

"You're miserable not playing," Weis said. "When everyone else in the free world is playing and you're not, it's really antsy. You're sitting there watching TV, and you're thinking about all those games that are on if you have the right package. It's just terrible."

After a rare bye to start the season, Weis finally gets a chance to join his coaching cohorts when the Jayhawks play Southeast Missouri State on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas will be trying to build on a 3-9 finish in its second season under Weis. The Redhawks will be trying to earn a signature victory for first-year coach Tom Matukewicz.

"We know what's happened in the past, but we're worrying about going ahead and getting this going," Weis said. "That's what we're worried about."

The one benefit to having a week off? Southeast Missouri State had already played a game, pounding tiny Missouri Baptist 77-0. That means Weis and his coaching staff had some game film to pore over while Matukewicz tries to cobble together a plan from last year.

That won't be easy, either. The Jayhawks have scrapped their pro-style offense in favor of a spread attack run by new offensive coordinator John Reagan. They also have transfers and freshmen on both sides of the ball that already have scrapped their way onto the two-deep roster.

"We really don't know a ton about them, but we have a lot of respect," said Matukewicz, who is familiar with the program having grown up in Silver Lake, Kansas. "We know what kind of concepts they're going to come up with. We just don't know much about their players."

Well, start with quarterback Montell Cozart. The sophomore earned the starting nod after the spring and has only grown in confidence, to the point where Weis said he was bordering on "cocky."

Wide receivers Nick Harwell and Nigel King, both of them Division I transfers, give Cozart a couple of promising new options. And running backs De'Andre Mann and Corey Avery have helped the Jayhawks overcome season-ending injuries to seniors Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox.

Those are some players to keep an eye on Saturday. Here are more things to watch:

TOUGHER TEST: The Redhawks opened the season against Missouri Baptist, which was playing its inaugural game. Matukewicz got a chance to use more than 70 players on offense and defense. That probably won't happen against a Big 12 opponent.

TONY, TONY, TONY: After playing in just seven games last season because of post-concussion problems, Tony Pierson hopes to provide a big lift for the Kansas offense. "Last year, I just felt like my team needed me out there, but at the same time, my head wouldn't let me," said Pierson, who still led the Jayhawks with 24 catches for 333 yards. "Eventually it came around."

SECONDARY FIRST: The Jayhawks believe they have one of the best defensive backfields in their conference. They're certainly experienced. A pair of seniors will start at cornerback in Cassius Sendish and JaCorey Shepherd, and another starts at safety in Cassius Sendish. "You can look at it like pressure," Sendish said, "but everybody in our room likes to be under pressure."

GETTING PAID: Make no mistake: Southeast Missouri State already feels like it has won. "We've won 325,000 to zero. That's what we're getting paid to play this game," Matukewicz said. "That's something you have to do at this level. Now we're going to try to earn some respect."

SPEAKING OF RESPECT: Weis is wary of Southeast Missouri State, especially after leading fellow FCS member South Dakota 14-7 at halftime in a season-opening 31-14 victory last year. "They just won 77-0. They could have won 100-0 if they wanted to," Weis said of the Redhawks. "I think a good start is important for the psychology of our team. A sloppy opener doesn't help."

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