University of Kansas

One thing leads to another for Jayhawks

LAWRENCE — If you're looking for perspective on the biggest two-week swing of the young college football season, the one orchestrated by the Kansas Jayhawks, Tim Biere is your man.

Last week, as KU recovered from one of the most embarrassing losses in school history to North Dakota State, Biere wanted to disappear. Biere, a junior tight end, caught two passes and fumbled both receptions away to the Bison.

"Worst game of my life," Biere said. "I didn't want to go out and do anything. I didn't want to go to class. I didn't want to be on campus that whole week."

This week, as life on campus returned to normal after a KU victory over then-No. 15 Georgia Tech, Biere was happy to reflect on the week that was. He had helped beat the Yellow Jackets with a touchdown catch to give the Jayhawks a lead for the first time this season.

"It felt great," Biere said. "From there on out, everything just kind of clicked."

Yes, things sure did click. But confusion remains: Why didn't everything fall into place a week earlier against the team from the lower division? Did North Dakota State have to happen for Georgia Tech to happen?

If there's one Jayhawk that needs to see it that way — that everything has happened this way for a reason — it's probably Biere.

"Sometimes," Biere said, "it takes something to happen to open your eyes to what's going on. It took (North Dakota State) to open our eyes. I wish it never happened. I wish we would have won that game. But I truly think it kind of put a little bit of a spark under us, and we just moved on from it."

At this point, nobody — not even the Jayhawks and first-year coach Turner Gill — knows what Friday night's game at Southern Mississippi will bring.

Kansas can wipe the slate clean, knowing that it was supposed to start the season 1-1 all along. Of course, given that KU found the win column against the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Yellow Jackets instead of the Bison, there's also that nagging feeling inside even the most grateful of Jayhawks that Kansas should be 2-0.

Gill and his assistants had eight months to evaluate their talent and make the right personnel decisions. Gill went with sophomore Kale Pick as the starting quarterback, Angus Quigley and Deshaun Sands as the running backs and kept center Jeremiah Hatch, a two-year starter, out of the starting lineup due to undisclosed issues.

Not to beat a dead hawk, but the plan didn't work. KU came out with the intention of running the football more than it had in years past and found out it wasn't capable. When forced to pass to move the chains, Pick and his receivers couldn't come through. The Jayhawks' offense, prolific for much of the last three seasons, appeared lifeless.

Gill had been saying throughout fall camp that he had to see his players in a game to begin to know something about them, and unfortunately for him, he was right.

"Pick had deserved it," Gill said. "He earned it through practices, scrimmages, all those things. Unfortunately, he wasn't the same guy in the game for whatever reason. Even as a coaching staff, we didn't do things well. We all took the hit on that first ballgame."

Pick literally took the hit, losing his starting job to redshirt freshman Jordan Webb. Gill took the redshirt off freshman running back James Sims and reinserted Hatch into the starting lineup, moving Sal Capra from center back to left guard. Those moves were announced during the week, but other changes would come out on game day.

KU, which considers itself a "multiple" offense, came out playing mostly in the shotgun. The Jayhawks often went without a huddle and pushed the pace. All week, coaches had been drilling one idea into players' heads — play fast.

"The whole thing is we're building confidence," Gill said. "When they blow that whistle on the opening kickoff, you can not be hesitant. You can not be wondering negative things. Because if you think negative, negative things will occur."

Everything was different from one Saturday to the next, especially the result. Webb threw three touchdown passes, Sims ran for 101 yards and a score and Hatch provided an emotional lift. If Kansas had beaten North Dakota State 17-6 or the like, would the necessary changes have been made to send KU on the right path?

"I don't think we needed to lose the game," KU receiver Daymond Patterson said, "but I think when we did lose the game, it really opened a lot of people's eyes."