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Jayhawk report Jayhawk report: Kansas 31, South Dakota 14

  • Published Saturday, Sep. 7, 2013, at 11:48 p.m.

First Quarter

Key play: South Dakota took an early lead when quarterback Josh Vander Maten connected on a 2-yard touchdown pass to Drew Potter. The score gave South Dakota a 7-0 advantage with 2:18 left in the quarter.

Key stat: 65 passing yards. While Weis tried to open up the passing game, Jake Heaps was hurt by drops and completed five of 11 passes.

Second Quarter

Key play: Jake Heaps’ first touchdown pass since Nov. 19, 2011 — when he was a sophomore at BYU — was a 5-yard strike to Justin McCay with 1:28 left in the first half. The touchdown gave KU a 14-7 lead, its first of the game.

Key stat: KU had four penalties for 41 yards, helping to stifle the offense.

Third Quarter

Key play: Senior James Sims atoned for an earlier fumble by completing a long drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. It was his second of the night.

Fourth Quarter

Key play: Sophomore kicker Matt Wyman, a walk-on, drilled a 45-yard field goal in his first college game, pushing KU’s lead to 24-7. It was also the first field goal of Wyman’s entire career; he’s a converted soccer player who was 0 for 1 on field goals in high school.

Key stat: The KU defense held an opponent under 300 yards for the first time since Sept. 25, 2010, against New Mexico State.

Report Card

Offense: C. The rushing offense looked as good as anticipated, with James Sims and Darrian Miller leading a balanced attack. Heaps made some impressive throws, but the receiving corps still needs to be more consistent.

Defense: B-. There were some defensive lapses, certainly, but the junior-college newcomers showed some flashes. Middle linebacker Ben Heeney, who suffered from cramps, also looked like an improve playmaker.

Special teams: A. Definite bright spot. Kicker Matthew Wyman looks like an answer on field goals, and punter Trevor Pardula knocked one kickoff through the end zone. In addition, punt returner Connor Embree, a former walk-on, looked solid in the return game.

Coaching: C. It was far from a complete performance. But the hope is that Kansas, with its load of newcomers, will continue to make incremental improvements. And maybe, a little experience can go a long way.

Player of the game: Miller. Sims is a workhorse, and showed why on Saturday. But Miller, who got loose for 72 yards, added a legitimate spark. He looked like the shifty, star-in-the-making that he was during his freshman year at KU in 2011.

Reason to hope: Junior nose tackle Keon Stowers added a push inside and made a game-changing interception on defense, something that has been sorely lacking on the defensive front.

Reason to mope: On the whole, this victory looked awfully similar to last year’s season-opening win. The running game was solid, the passing game shaky, and KU had to work for four quarters. Last year, KU lost its last 11.

Worth noting

Playing in brutal heat on Saturday night, KU linebacker Ben Heeney missed a handful of series while battling through cramps on Saturday night. KU coach Charlie Weis said Heeney’s cramps weren’t serious and he was happy with the play of sophomore Skylar Miles in a reserve role.

In addition, Weis said he was waiting to hear on the status of running back Taylor Cox, who appeared to tweak a hamstring late in Saturday’s victory. Weis was unsure whether it was a tweaked hamstring or just cramps.

•  KU junior cornerback Kevin Short, a junior college transfer from Fort Scott Community College, sat out the opener for what KU termed as “personal reasons.”

“Kevin is not being disciplined by either the University of the football program,” Weis said in a statement.

Short arrived late to fall camp, but was listed this past week as a co-starter on the depth chart with junior Dexter McDonald.

Rustin Dodd

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