Jayhawks Ready for 2014 Season Opener Against Southeast Missouri

Coach Weis (.pdf) | Coach Reagan (.pdf) | Coach Bowen (.pdf) | Game Notes

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach John Reagan and defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Clint Bowen met with the media Tuesday during Weis’ weekly press conference to preview the upcoming matchup with Southeast Missouri State. The Redhawks are coming off a week one victory, 77-0, over Missouri Baptist.
A complete transcription of the press conference can be found by clicking the links above.
The game will be televised on the Jayhawk Television Network and kicks off from Memorial Stadium at 6 p.m. Tickets for the home opener are available and start at just $25! To order call 800-34-HAWKS or log onto KUAthletics.com.

The state of Missouri boasts the third-most players on KU’s roster with 11 total members hailing from the ‘Show Me State.’ Southeast Missouri has its fair share of Kansas ties as head coach Tom Matukewicz is originally from Silver Lake, Kansas. Matukewicz attended college in the state of Kansas as well graduating from Fort Hays State University in 1997. Three assistant coaches on the SEMO staff also went to college in Kansas. DC Bryce Saia (Fort Hays State), Ricky Coon, DL (Bethel College), Matt Martin, RB and ST (Emporia State). SEMO LB Brad Ivey attended Bishop Miege High School as did KU QB Montell Cozart and WRs Justin McCay and Tre’ Parmalee. East St. Louis High School is the alma mater of SEMO guard Luther Wright and KU LB Kyron Watson and WR Tony Pierson.  

The Redhawks used a potent rushing attack to gash Missouri Baptist for 304 yards on the ground in the highest-scoring output in SEMO’s history with a 77-0 victory, where the offense totaled 516 yards. Junior running back DeMichael Jackson, who led Southeast Missouri in rushing a year ago with 977 yards from scrimmage, led the way in total offense with eight carries for 82 yards and one score, as well as one reception for 66 yards, for a game-high 148 all-purpose yards. SEMO had two different quarterbacks combine to complete 12 of 14 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Senior QB Kyle Snyder did a majority of the damage in the Redhawks’ aerial assault accounting for 10 completions on 12 tries, tossing the two lone touchdowns in the game. A former high school all-state selection in Ohio, Snyder accounted for 8,233 yards of total offense. Against Missouri Baptist, Snyder once again showcased his ability to be a dual threat quarterback carrying six times for 33 yards and a career-high two touchdowns on the ground.

Southeast Missouri set several defensive records after notching its first shutout over a non-conference opponent in the program’s Division I era against Missouri Baptist. The Redhawks’ last overall shutout was in 1997, while the Missouri Baptist game marked the third shutout Southeast Missouri has recorded since joining the Football Championship Subdivision. SEMO stuffed Missouri Baptist in the backfield 11 times for a loss of 59 yards helping to set a new team record holding the Spartans to 81 yards of total offense (42 rushing and 39 passing). The 81 yards SEMO allowed erased the previous low of 137 yards set in 1993. Linebacker Roper Garrett led the field with 10 total tackles. Garrett had one sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss of 10 yards, while also forcing two fumbles. 

First-year Southeast Missouri State head coach Tom “Tuke” Matukewicz is used to transforming programs into winners and he did just that as an assistant at Northern Illinois (2008-2011) and Southern Illinois (2001-07). While at NIU, Matukewicz helped lead the Huskies to the Mid-American Conference West title in 2010 and an outright MAC Championship in 2011. Before that, Matukewicz spent seven seasons at SIU. As linebackers coach and run-game coordinator, he had a big hand in three Missouri Valley Football Conference championships (2003, 2004, 2005) and five NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff berths (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007). Matukewicz made one more stop at the University of Toledo prior to accepting his first head coaching job at SEMO. At Toledo, Matukewicz was defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. In 2012, Matukewicz helped guide a defense that ranked among the top-25 in the nation in fourth-down conversion (9th), red-zone defense (10th), interceptions (18th) and turnovers forced (25th). The Rockets went 9-4 and earned a trip to the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. A native of Silver Lake, Kansas, Matukewicz completed his undergraduate work at Fort Hays State. He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1997 and then earned his master’s degree in administration at Pittsburg State. Matukewicz coached at Fort Hays State (1996-97), Pittsburg State (1997-99), Coffeyville Community College (1999-2000) and Emporia State (2000-01) prior to his NCAA Division I football tenure.

Kansas returns plenty of pieces of its offense heading into the 2014 campaign, with no shortage of targets for sophomore Montell Cozart–who was named starting quarterback after a successful spring. With 13 returning lettermen, the Jayhawks have a good amount of experience on the offensive side of the ball. Head coach Charlie Weis has handed over the play calling duties to first- year offensive coordinator and offensive line coach John Reagan. This will mark Reagan’s second stint at KU, as he previously spent five years as an assistant coach (2005-09) in Lawrence, helping lead the Jayhawks to their best season in school history in 2007.

Cozart takes over the reins at quarterback after earning three starts as a true freshman in 2013 and a decisive spring performance. He is a multidimensional quarterback, as he proved in 2013 finishing as KU’s third-leading rusher. A true dual threat, Cozart will look to use both his arm and his legs to lead the Jayhawks on offense in 2014. 

The offensive line protecting Cozart in 2014 consists of four returning lettermen, including All-Big 12 honorable mention honoree Ngalu Fusimalohi at guard, as well as several highly-touted newcomers. Junior college transfer Keyon Haughton, who manned the center position in the spring, is right at home anchoring an offensive line as he played his previous two seasons at Georgia Military College where the Bulldogs’ domination on the line resulted in the top rushing offense in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). 

With the departure of KU’s third all-time leading rusher, James Sims, who graduated, and season-ending injuries to Kansas’ top two lettermen at the running back position (Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox), the Jayhawks will be looking to junior college standout De’Andre Mann and true freshman Corey Avery to carry the load. The talented duo has performed at a high level in fall camp, while freshman Joe Dineen moved to running back from safety following the injuries and will provide depth at the position.
Kansas welcomes assistant coach Eric Kiesau to the program as its wide receivers coach. Kiesau, a veteran coach with more than 14 years of experience mentoring wide receivers, will have the talented Nick Harwell at his disposal. After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Harwell brings a wealth of skills and experience to a receiving unit that also includes explosive senior Tony Pierson. Pierson recorded KU’s longest touchdown of 2013 with a 77-yard score at Rice. Junior receiver Rodriguez Coleman looks to build on a productive 2013 campaign in which he led KU with 26.0 yards per catch. Also joining the Jayhawks at wide receiver will be Maryland transfer Nigel King, who joined the team for the start of fall camp after graduating from UM in July. King led the Terrapins with four receiving touchdowns in 2013.

Senior Jimmay Mundine returns as arguably the top tight end in the Big 12. Mundine led Kansas with five receiving TDs in 2013 and was second on the team in receiving yards. Fellow senior Trent Smiley also returns at tight end, while KU adds depth to the position along with redshirt freshman Ben Johnson.

The Kansas defense enters the 2014 season returning nine of 11 starters from a much-improved 2013 squad. For the second-straight season, the Jayhawks will play in a 3-4 defense using a BUCK linebacker and a nickelback as their base formation, under defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Clint Bowen. Kansas will be led on defense by its heart, linebacker Ben Heeney, and soul, four returning starters in the secondary. 

Up front, Kansas returns 2013 starters Keon Stowers and Ben Goodman. Stowers is one of the top returning interior defensive linemen in the Big 12, while Goodman moves to the strong end position after starting all 12 game last season at BUCK. Also returning to the KU defense is senior BUCK Michael Reynolds, who led KU in sacks last season with 6.5. Senior Tedarian Johnson returns on the defensive line for fifth year assistant coach Buddy Wyatt, while fellow senior Victor Simmons has moved to the BUCK position after playing at nickelback in 2013. 

Heeney, a two-time All-Big 12 performer, returns to the KU linebacking crew for his senior season. The Hutchinson, Kansas native has amassed 200 tackles over the last two seasons, making him one of four players in the NCAA to enter the 2014 season with more than 200 tackles and 25.0 tackles-for-loss in their career. Junior Jake Love returns at the other linebacker position after starting eight games as a sophomore. Also back this fall is junior Schyler Miles, who had a strong spring performance. 

Kansas returns arguably the top secondary in the Big 12 Conference as all four starters from last season are back, led by 2013 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, Isaiah Johnson. Johnson, a junior strong safety, led KU and tied for second in the Big 12 last season with five interceptions. Senior Cassius Sendish plays alongside Johnson at free safety. Sendish finished the 2013 season ranked third on the team with 68 stops. Kansas’ ballhawking duo of cornerbacks, seniors Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd, return as do their 27 passes defended from last season. McDonald tallied 10 breakups and two interceptions, while Shepherd contributed 13 breakups and two interceptions to go along with 45 tackles. Shepherd’s 15 passes defended ranked second in the Big 12 and 17th nationally in 2013. Also joining the Crimson and Blue mix this fall will be sophomore cornerback/nickelback Greg Allen, who was one of the top performers at nickelback for the Jayhawks during the spring, along with sophomore safeties Tevin Shaw and Fish Smithson and cornerbacks junior Ronnie Davis and freshman Matthew Boateng.

Kansas’ 2014 special teams will look for continued progress after making strides in several areas last season. In 2013, Kansas made vast improvements in its punting, kickoffs, both punt returns and kickoff returns, with some growth visible in the place kicking. 

Kansas will be led by senior Trevor Pardula, who mans both the kickoff and punting duties for the Jayhawks. Pardula exploded onto the scene in his first year at Kansas the way the ball explodes off of the 6-5, 212-pounder’s foot, garnering All-Big 12 honors by the league’s coaches and etching his name onto several KU punting records. As well as being awarded All-Big 12 honors in 2013, Pardula was also considered for the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year award ending up with an honorable mention bid as voted by the league coaches. Pardula not only handled punting duties for Kansas last fall, but was relied on to pin the ball deep on kickoffs, as well registering averaging 60.2 yards-per-kick and 21 touchbacks on 42 attempts. 

Sophomore Matthew Wyman returns at place kicker after connecting on 5-of-10 field goals in 2013. Wyman’s career-long make of 52 yards proved to be the game-winner over Louisiana Tech. Freshman John Duvic joins the mix at place kicker and is currently listed as the starter after a strong fall camp performance. Sophomore John Wirtel is back as KU’s long snapper and will man both the place kicking and punting snaps. 

A wealth of players will get a shot in the return game. Senior JaCorey Shepherd was the top Jayhawk return man in kickoff returns last season, collecting 547 yards on 24 returns, with a 69-yard return to his credit. Also in the mix for kickoff returners will be senior Nick Harwell and freshman Bobby Hartzog, Jr.. KU lost its primary punt returner from 2013, Connor Embree, but a bevy of quality candidates are available in junior Isaiah Johnson, freshman Derrick Neal and Hartzog.

The Jayhawks own a 3-0 overall mark in games played on Sept. 6. KU first played on Sept. 6 in 1997, taking a 17-10 win over TCU in Lawrence. Kansas also defeated UNLV, 46-24, on Sept. 6, 2003 and claimed a 29-0 win over Louisiana Tech on Sept. 3, 2008. KU has played all three of its previous games on Sept. 6 in Lawrence. 

Kansas is 70-47-7 (.593 winning percentage) in season openers. The Jayhawks are also 89-31-4 (.734 winning percentage) in home openers. Kansas is opening its season at home for the 12th-straight year (9-2 in last 11 home openers). The Jayhawks have won nine of their last 10 season openers dating back to the 2004 campaign.
KU has won 27 of its last 30 non-conference home games dating back to the start of the 2003 season. KU is 27-8 in its last 35 games against non-Big 12 opponents, including bowl victories against Houston (2005), Virginia Tech (2007 season) and Minnesota (2008).

Kansas has faced just two current Ohio Valley Conference opponents in its 124-year history, owning wins over Eastern Illinois and Jacksonville State. KU defeated EIU, 44-20, while it knocked off JSU, 41-6, on Sept. 20, 2003. Both victories came in games played in Lawrence. 
A season ago Kansas had the fourth-best defense in the nation when it came to opponents converting fourth downs against the Jayhawks, holding teams to a fourth-down conversion percentage of .286, the fourth-best percentage in the country. Opposing teams rarely moved the chains as the Jayhawks stuffed offenses on fourth downs, only allowing a first down twice on the year. KU finished the season one spot behind third-ranked perennial power Alabama and above the likes of the notoriously stingy defenses of Michigan State and LSU in that category. 

Kansas senior linebacker Ben Heeney was named to the 2014 Preseason All-Big 12 Football team as selected by members of the media. Heeney, who was an All-Big 12 Second Team selection in 2013, is heading into 2014 as the conference’s leading returning tackler. Last year the Hutchinson, Kansas native recorded a team-high 88 tackles and finished fourth in the conference with 8.7 tackles-per-game. Heeney also recorded double-digit tackles in six of his 10 games played a season ago and is one of six active linebackers with 200 tackles and 20 tackles for loss in the last two seasons.  
The season opening game against Southeast Missouri State can’t come fast enough for senior wide receiver Nick Harwell. Harwell, who played his first three seasons at Miami (Ohio), was forced to sit out last season after transferring to Kansas after the 2012 season. The last time Harwell played in an actual game was Nov. 23, 2012. When Sept. 6 rolls around, it will have been 653 days since Harwell officially played in a game. Harwell has been forced to wait 93 weeks… 15,672 hours… 940,230 minutes… and 56,419,200 seconds to get back on the field.

Following Saturday’s season-opener against SEMO, the Jayhawks will hit the road to take on Duke in Durham, North Carolina. Kansas is 1-0 all-time versus the Blue Devils, with a 44-16 win over Duke in Lawrence in 2009 to its credit. The Kansas-Duke game will be broadcast by the ACC’s Regional Sports Network. The ACC Regional Sports Networks (RSN) include Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Carolinas, Fox Sports Florida or Sun Sports, Comcast Sports Net Mid-Atlantic, New England Sports Network (NESN), the YES Network or MSG Network in New York and Root Sports in Pennsylvania. In addition, the game will be shown locally on FOX Sports Midwest Plus.

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