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September 1, 2012

Kansas Wins Season Opener

As the last few minutes of Saturday's game wound down, the tone wasn't necessarily one you would expect from a team celebrating its first win since the second game of last season.

When the players walked back to the sidelines after another stalled offensive drive, one of the seniors screamed that their play was unacceptable.

After the 31-17 win, head coach Charlie Weis said he was pleased with the effort, but not the performance.

"As a coach there is no better environment than to constructively criticize your guys after a win because they are so much more open to it," Weis said. "They listen to you. We should be able to make major strides this week."

The offense struggled to get in a groove for most of the game. Quarterback Dayne Crist struggled with his accuracy. One of the more notable miscues was when he overthrew a receiver running a post route in the first half that would've been an easy touchdown.

"Even I could've completed that pass," Weis said.

Weis stuck up for his quarterback afterwards, saying Crist hadn't played significant amount of football since the season opener last year at Notre Dame. Crist didn't shy away from giving himself an honest evaluation.

"I am very disappointed with how I played," Crist said. "I left a ton of throws out on the field but more than anything I am just happy we got a win."

The Kansas running game did its part in jumpstarting the offense. Running back Tony Pierson gained 128 yards on the ground on 20 carries. Weis had previously said he wanted to limit Pierson to 15 carries, but went over that mark because the game was close. Pierson once again showed off his speed by breaking off a 47-yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter.

"He continues to amaze me everyday," Crist said.

It was tough to measure how much exactly the defense improved from last year going up against a Division I-AA team dealing with an injured quarterback. Starter Austin Sumner ended up finding his way on the field, sharing time with backup Eric Kline.

It became obvious that South Dakota State was mainly going to pass when Sumner entered the game.

"He actually threw the ball pretty well considering he was banged up with his thumb," Weis said.

The Kansas defense mostly shut down South Dakota State's offense in the first half … well, as long as you don't count a 99 yard touchdown run by running back Zach Zenner early in the first quarter.

The play didn't seem all that much out of the ordinary from what Kansas fans have seen the last two years. One of the players missed his run gap, which allowed the long score.

Before the play when Weis saw that they had pinned them back to the one yard line, he was already planning the next offensive possession with the idea that they would get good field position.

"The next thing you know is I turn around and see that guy right in front of my face," Weis said.

The defense struggled at times with zone coverage in the second half, but held South Dakota State to 10 points after the initial 99 yard touchdown run.

"I think that shows how far we've progressed as a team - the fact that something like that could happen in a game and we were able to bounce back," Toben Opurum said.



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