By Trevor Graff
The Jayhawks left Memorial Stadium, after losing 20-7 to TCU, disappointed with another loss, but encouraged by the effort shown on the field.
The Jayhawks fought for a solid 60 minutes in last Saturday’s game. Sixty minutes that left the game in doubt well into the fourth quarter. This week the task of improving in game situations becomes a bit tougher as Kansas looks to break a 16-game road-losing streak in DeKalb, Ill. against the Northern Illinois Huskies.
“They’ll hear about it several times this week,” coach Charlie Weis said. “Breaking the streak will be one of my main messages. They’ve been winning at home. We’ve been losing on the road. We’re hoping to end a couple of streaks.”
The Huskies have won 16 consecutive games at Huskie Stadium. The Jayhawks chances of breaking that streak could be improved with the return of last year’s leading rusher James Sims – returning from a three game suspension for OUI.
Quarterback Dayne Crist said Sims is sporting a slightly slimmed down look, as well as added speed, in practice these days.
“He’s seen the other two guys playing pretty well,” Weis said. “He knows for him to get snaps he’ll have to earn them. I think he’s very hungry.”
The coaching staff split Sims’ reps during the suspension among the show team and first team offense. This rotation gave Sims the chance to maintain his knowledge of the offense, but also maintain a sense of the speed of the game while playing against the first team defense.
“I expect him to be ready to go,” Weis said. “I don’t expect any rust.”
Turzilli takes on starting role
Andrew Turzilli made his debut as a Jayhawk starting receiver catching three passes for a total of 100 yards. Turzilli gives quarterback Dayne Crist a bigger target in the passing game and may open up the vertical passing attach a bit.
“We’ve been trying to push Andrew into this position since spring ball,” Weis said. “You have to be willing to take an older guy’s job. He started to challenge for the position more and more instead of settling for being the second string guy.”
Weis said the quarterback’s ability to find the bigger bodied Turzilli will mean being able to throw the ball down the field more often. Turzilli took the spot of senior D.J. Beshears who has had a rough start to this season.
“You have to go by performance,” Weis said. “You can’t go by seniority. Right now, D.J.’s not out of the mix, its just Turzilli is playing better.”
Other depth chart moves
The Jayhawks moved defensive lineman Jordan Tavai to tackle and Kevin Young to nose tackle. Weis said the move was made to facilitate Opurum spending more time at the Sam linebacker position.
Randall Dent replaced Aslam Sterling as the first string right guard.
Justin Carnes claims his starting long snapper position, returning from his three game suspension.
Weis announced in today’s press conference offensive lineman Riley Spencer will undergo knee surgery that will cost him the rest of this season.
Kale Pick is expected to play this weekend after running well yesterday, and Lubbock Smith’s status is being evaluated after practice today.
The Jayhawks play NIU Sat. at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN 3.