Last week, the Kansas Jayhawks opened up their 2017 campaign with a 22-point victory over the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks. Their second-straight season opening win under David Beaty. Last season, Kansas opened the year with a 55-6 drubbing of Rhode Island. Why is that relevant? Well, Rhode Island and Kansas’ next opponent, Central Michigan, slugged it out to open the year in a triple-overtime thriller last week.
The Central Michigan defense forced 6 interceptions on Rhode Island last week, but only mustered seven points off of those turnovers. Central Michigan’s issues stemmed from their own ball control problems, suffering from three fumbles and a pick by starting quarterback Shane Morris.
Both teams will be fighting for their reputations Saturday. Central Michigan will be fighting to prove that they are far better than a triple OT, three-point squeaker against an FCS opponent. Kansas, fighting to prove that they are better than the bottom-barrel Big 12 team that they’ve been in the recent past.
Saturday marks the third all-time meeting between the Chippewas and the Jayhawks, with Kansas holding a 2-0 advantage. The first-ever meeting was all the way back in 2007, when Todd Reesing and the Orange Bowl bound Jayhawks beat up on CMU 52-7. The most recent meeting, however, was not so one-sided. Central Michigan and Kansas were tied at 10 heading into the 4th quarter, when Montell Cozart connected on two touchdown passes to send KU to a 24-10 victory.
BREAKING DOWN THE CHIPPEWAS
CMU is lead by head coach John Bonamego, who is in his third season in Mount Pleasant. Bonamego has maintained the consistency of the Chippewa program, having taken them to back-to-back bowls and coached them to a 14-13 record over his first two seasons and change.
Offensively, Michigan transfer and starting-quarterback Shane Morris performed well in his Chippewa debut, throwing for 226 yards on 25/49 attempts and just one interception. Morris wasn’t the only person to contribute offensively, as the Chippewas unleashed their two-headed monster rushing attack on Rhode Island. Jonathan Ward handled the ball 19 times for 147 yards and a score and his counter part, Devon Spalding, rushed 20 times for 70 more yards and another touchdown.
Defensively, the unit to focus on for CMU is their secondary. Seniors Josh Cox and Amari Coleman both recorded 2 interceptions in week one. For Coleman, his two picks were on the only two passes he defended all game. Cox, however recorded a modest two INT’s on three passes defended, having deflected the third pass. Safety Darwin Kelly recorded another interception tallying five for the Chippewa secondary on the game. With Kansas being an air-raid offense, the battle of the CMU defensive backs versus Kansas’ offense will be the one to watch.
Kansas’ passing attack will be challenged by the aforementioned CMU defense, but they feel they are as well-equipped this year as they have been since back in 2007, when Todd Reesing ran the show. The reason for that is junior transfer from Itawamba Community College, by way of Washington State, Peyton Bender, who completed 23 passes on 37 attempts for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns, with two interceptions against SEMO. The only question surrounding KU’s offense is the rushing game. Whether it’s the offensive line, or the running backs you question, the combination of the two mustered just 73 yards and one score on 25 attempts for the game against an FCS foe, which won’t get it done against the big boys of the Big 12.
Defensively, Kansas has their own strengths all over the field. Dorrance Armstrong and Daniel Wise are arguably the most dangerous front-line duo in the Big 12, combined for eight tackles in week one. Add in safety Mike Lee, who added in five tackles of his own, and you almost have enough to equal the contribution made by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, Joe Dineen, who tallied a team-high 15 tackles, with 2.5 tackles for loss. This combination of players looks to be the Jayhawks’ strongest defense in the better part of a decade, and they will be looking to build off of their strong season-opening performance on Saturday.
For David Beaty, this game means just a little bit more. The third year head coach of Kansas has yet to record a win over a non-conference FBS opponent, and having the home field advantage in this match up will play into his hand.
Jayhawks win 31-24
Saturday, September 9 at 3pm. Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas.
Fulton Caster and Jackson Schneider on the call. Pregame starts at 2pm on 90.7fm KJHK Lawrence.