Kansas football to host Nicholls in season opener

vs. Nicholls
  Sept. 1, 6 p.m.
  Lawrence, Kan.
  David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium
  Jayhawk Radio Network
  Live Stats

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The 2018 Kansas football team will open the season on September 1 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, hosting the Nicholls Colonels. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m., with the game being televised on the Jayhawk Television Network.

Kansas football on September 1
Entering its 128th season of play, Kansas football has competed on September 1 on five occasions, combining for a 4-1 mark. KU has outscored its opponents 152-106 during the give-game span with wins over Houston (1994), Missouri State (2001), Central Michigan (2007) and South Dakota State (2012). KU’s largest margin of victory on Sept. 1 came in its 52-7 win against Central Michigan in 2007.

Under the lights
Since permanent lights were installed at Memorial Stadium ahead of the 1997 season, Kansas is 35-14 in home night games. The week one 11 a.m. kickoff in 2015 ended a 12-season streak of home opening night games (6 p.m. start or later) for Kansas. During the 12-straight season-opening night contests in Memorial Stadium that ended three seasons ago, the Jayhawks established a 10-2 record and outscored the opposition by a wide margin of 402-177.

The Jayhawks restarted the tradition in 2016 with a 6 p.m. kickoff against Rhode Island in week one and continued its successful night game lid-lifting tradition, by defeating SEMO, 38-16, in 2017. As a junior, quarterback Peyton Bender had a successful game to start the season, completing 23-of-37 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns in leading KU to the win over SEMO.

Ring of Honor
Chris Harris Jr., a member of the Jayhawk football program from 2007-10, will be added to the Ring of Honor at Kansas’ season opener against Nicholls on September 1. Harris Jr. is a three-time Pro Bowl selection (2014-16), was First-Team All-Pro in 2016, and helped the Denver Broncos to a victory in Super Bowl 50. He is set to begin his eighth season with the team in 2018. While in the Crimson and Blue, he played in 50 games, totaling 290 tackles, including 198 solo stops, and recorded three interceptions. Harris Jr., also helped the Jayhawks to an 8-5 record in 2008 and a 42-21 win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

Ray Evans (42)* (1941–42, 1946–47) DB/RB
Otto Schnellbacher (1942, 1946–47) End
Mike McCormack (1948–50) OL
George Mrkonic (1950–52) OL
Ollie Spencer (1950–52) OL
John Hadl (21)* (1959–61) QB/RB
Curtis McClinton (1959–61) RB
Gale Sayers (48)* (1962–64) RB
Bobby Douglass (1966–68) QB
John Zook (1966–68) DE
John Riggins (1968–70) RB
David Jaynes (1971–73) QB
Nolan Cromwell (1973–76) QB/S
Willie Pless (1982–85) LB
Gilbert Brown (1989-92) DT
Anthony Collins (2005-07) OL
Aqib Talib (2005-07) CB

*Denotes retired jersey number

Honoring the INSIGHT Bowl Champs
August 30, 2008 marked the start of another exciting year for Kansas football and Kansas Athletics will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of that team when the current Jayhawks take the field against Nicholls. Kansas finished the season 8-5, becoming bowl eligible for a KU-record fourth-consecutive year. For the first time in school history KU made back-to-back appearances in a bowl game as the Jayhawks accepted a bid to square off against Minnesota in the 2008 Insight Bowl. KU took momentum into the bowl game after edging 11th-ranked Missouri, 40-37, in the regular-season finale at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Kansas went on to defeat Minnesota, 42-21, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona to claim the 2008 Insight Bowl title.

New Seasons
Dating back to 2003, Kansas has not opened its season away from the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium. The last time KU didn’t host an opening week contest (2002 loss at Iowa State), this year’s freshman class was just two years old. The Jayhawks have also been routinely successful in the last 15 years in week one, winning 12 games in that span. KU’s offense has also been a tough out in the opening week as the Jayhawks have scored at least 20 points in 14 of the last 15 lid-lifters, outscoring first game opponents 533-to-240 and averaging 35 points-per-outing.

The Wise Man
Daniel Wise enters his final campaign in the Crimson and Blue as one of the top defensive players in the Big 12 Conference. Wise, who was tabbed Preseason All-Big 12 First Team by a media panel and also earned a spot on the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy Watch Lists, had one of the best seasons of any defensive lineman in the Big 12 in 2017 as he turned in 16.0 tackles-for-loss, including 7.0 sacks. His 16.0 TFLs ranked second in the Big 12 in 2017 and 11th in the FBS rankings. Wise’s 7.0 sacks ranked fourth in the Big 12 and tied for 44th in the FBS. Wise earned First Team All-Big 12 honors from the conference coaches and the Waco Tribune-Herald to go along with Second Team All-Big 12 recognition from the Associated Press in 2017. He recorded 53 total tackles, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and five quarterback hurries to go along with his sacks and TFLs.

One season removed from a roster that featured only eight seniors, KU has a much more experienced group in 2018 as 25 seniors are on the roster. Amongst those 25 players are a combined 235 career FBS starts, including 186 starts at KU, led by Daniel Wise’s 30 career starts.

The Louisiana connection
Kansas has turned to the state of Louisiana when it comes to recruiting. The 2018 roster includes eight players from the Pelican State. New Orleans natives Malik Clark, Corione Harris, Mike Lee, Pooka Williams Jr., and Takulve Williams join Daylon Charlot (Patterson), Logan Klusman (Lafayette) and Ryan Malbrough (Cecelia) as KU’s Louisianimals. With Thibodaux, Louisiana being the home of Nicholls State, several of KU’s Louisiana players will be going against former high school teammates. Malbrough and Nicholls’ Devin Briscoe both played at Cecelia HS. Harris and Lee each suited up for Landry-Walker HS, same as Nicholls’ Emanuel Dayries and Alex Anderson.

For Kicks
Kansas senior kicker Gabriel Rui returns for his final season as a Jayhawk as the Big 12 Conference’s returning leader in field goal kicking percentage. Rui connected on 17-of-20 field goals in 2017, good for 85.0 percent. He hit a long of 50 in KU’s final at Oklahoma State on his way to earning All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors. Rui joined the Jayhawks in 2016, spending his first year as a redshirt before taking the reigns in 2017.

Get Behind the Line
Joe Dineen Jr., is climbing the Kansas tackles-for-loss chart at a fast pace after turning in a Big 12-best 25.0 in 2017. Dineen’s 25.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage marked a new KU single-season record. He now has 34.5 TFLs in his career, which ranks sixth on KU’s all-time chart.  Fellow senior Daniel Wise is right behind Dineen with 31.5 career TFLs, ranking 10th in Jayhawks history. Kansas’ career record holder, Willie Pless, notched 41 TFLs in his four seasons in the Crimson and Blue.

The Graduates
In 2018 Kansas will field a team with 11 players on it who have already earned their undergraduate degrees. KU is one of 16 FBS schools with 11 or more graduates suiting up in 2018:
No. of Grads School
19           UAB
17           Clemson
15           Arizona State
15           Pittsburgh
14           Baylor
14           Northwestern
14           SMU
12           Alabama
12           Akron
12           Houston
12           Maryland
12           Temple
12           Virginia
11           Kansas
11           Old Dominion
11           Penn State

The Mayor Gives Back
A native of Lawrence, Kansas, senior Joe Dineen Jr., has always known the benefits of giving back to his community, but roughly two years ago he became passionate about one cause in particular – childhood cancer. Due to his devotion to raising awareness and funds to fight the disease, for the second year in a row Dineen was nominated to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team and named to the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, which honors college football’s top community servant.

Dineen’s dedication to helping the cause started when Cole Hayden (son of Shanda Hayden, Assistant Athletics Director for Academic and Career Counseling) was diagnosed with cancer. Since the diagnosis, Dineen has led his teammates in a number of activities to help benefit those diagnosed with the disease, by visiting kids at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, participating in the Hilltop Hustle 5K (in which all proceeds were donated to Children’s Mercy in honor of Cole), and taking part in a local baseball game that raised funds for childhood cancer research. Most recently, Dineen put together the first-ever “Cole’s Christmas in July” in which he and his teammates donated toys that were gifted to Cole before his passing to kids in Children’s Mercy.

Watching the Jayhawks
Five Jayhawks found their names on Preseason Watch Lists as the various Awards announced the players they have their eyes on to open the season. Senior defensive lineman Daniel Wise led the way for KU as he was named to three watch lists  including the Bednarik Award (top defensive player), Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player) and the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman). Senior linebacker Joe Dineen was also sited three times as he was also tabbed by the Bednarik Award in addition to the AFCA Good Works Team (community service) and Wuerffel Trophy (community service). Senior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr., was recognized by the Biletnikoff Award (top receiver) and the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award (top offensive player from Texas), while senior tight end Mavin Saunders was on the John Mackey Award Watch List (top tight end). Junior offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji joined Wise on the Outland Trophy Watch List.

Sixth Time is the Charm
Kansas sixth-year senior long snapper John Wirtel looks to bounce back after having two-consecutive seasons cut short due to injury. Wirtel, who has started the first three games for KU in each of the last five seasons, is back to handle the long snapping duties for the Jayhawks. After sporting jersey No. 68 during his first five seasons, Wirtel will wear No. 39 in his sixth and final season. His brother, Steven, serves as the long snapper at Iowa State and also sports No. 39.

Kansas will travel to Central Michigan on Saturday, September 8 for a game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Kickoff against the Chippewas is slated for 2 p.m. (CT), with the broadcast designated to ESPN+. Kansas and CMU have matched up just three times prior to this season, with the Jayhawks leading the series 2-1. KU won in a 52-7 rout in 2007 and a 24-10 victory in 2014, while CMU picked up a 45-27 win over KU in Lawrence in 2017.



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