LAWRENCE — Just past 10 a.m. on Saturday on Mass Street, the sidewalks are already dotted with the remnants of a Band Day parade, students already setting up yard games and tailgates a few blocks away.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
It’s Game Day No. 2 in Lawrence, the Rice Owls visiting Kansas at 2:30 p.m. in Memorial Stadium. Here are three things to watch as KU tries to equal its victory total from last season.
1 Ford ingenuity. So juco transfer Josh Ford is apparently a punt-blocking savant. Ford, a native of Landover, Md., put up big receiving numbers at Arizona Western Community College last season and arrived in Lawrence as a potential starter at the position. The starting job has not materialized, but Ford did make an impact in KU’s week-one victory over South Dakota State by coming off the edge and blocking a punt.
It was hardly a fluke, at least, according to Ford. The junior receiver claims to have blocked seven punts during his senior season at Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington D.C. There was even one practice, he says, where he blocked six punts. (We’ll pause to wonder why the punt-protection unit didn’t pay a little more attention to Ford after the fifth block at that practice.)
The secret, according to Ford, has something to do with watching the long-snapper and timing his first move.
Ford wasn’t the only Jayhawk to make a big play on special teams last week; reserve receiver Chris Omigie also recorded a blocked punt. If the Jayhawks can continue to find ways to make game-changing plays on special teams, it could definitely help make up for a still improving offense and defense.
2 One big question. Momentum can be a tough thing to grasp or quantify. If one football game can offer three or four dramatic swings, it makes you wonder how much momentum a team can really carry from one game to the next. (If KU would have beat South Dakota State by 40, you’d probably be hearing a lot about how much confident Kansas built in week one. It's an easy story line.)
But let's step back for a moment. In 2007, Kansas was coming off a 6-6 season and starting a new quarterback (Todd Reesing) in week one against Central Michigan. The Jayhawks proceeded to throttle Central Michigan 52-7; did the same to Southeastern Louisiana the next week; and then used the rest of the non-conference season as a trampoline to a 12-1 finish.
Of course, that 2007 team also had a collection of future NFL players. And in 2009, the Jayhawks also started relatively fast before sputtering in the opening weeks of Big 12 play and finishing 5-7. So, yes, it’s definitely important for KU to piece together a solid performance against Rice. But it may be less a story about momentum, and more about what such a performance would reveal about KU’s talent level and execution.
3 Saturday trivia. Here’s a trivia question for your Saturday morning. Who was the last KU coach to win his first two games? It’s not Mark Mangino, not Glen Mason, not Mike Gottfried or Don Fambrough.
The answer: Terry Allen, whose 1997 KU squad beat UAB and TCU in the first two weeks of the season. That KU team would win a home game against Missouri the next week before finishing the season 5-6. By the end of the day, Charlie Weis could be the new answer to this question.
To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.