Kansas football: Three keys to the Jayhawks beating South Dakota

A general view of a Kansas Jayhawks helmet Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
A general view of a Kansas Jayhawks helmet Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

The time has come; Kansas football plays its first game of the season tonight against FCS South Dakota.

And nothing points to an easy victory for the Jayhawks.

The Coyotes may be an FCS squad, but they play in one of the toughest FCS conferences in the nation–the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC). New head coach Lance Leipold even said when he first arrived at Buffalo he would not schedule any team from the MVFC.

Well, coach, it’s too late now.

This South Dakota squad is projected to finish eighth in the MVFC preseason poll, so they’re not in the top tier of the conference, but that won’t stop them from believing they can win at David Booth Memorial Stadium tonight.

Which brings me to my next point; FCS teams seem to play the Jayhawks tough because they often believe they have a real shot at victory. Kansas will have to be ready for the Coyotes to come out prepared and with plenty of confidence.

For the Jayhawks to avoid an upset loss in Leipold’s first game, I’ve detailed three keys to the game.

1. Pressure the QB

The Coyotes have a young quarterback in Carson Camp who started all four games in the spring. He may be young, but he showed a lot of poise starting as a true freshman. Camp did so well he landed himself on the Missouri Valley All-Newcomer Team.

Even though he had a solid start to his career, Camp is still very young, and the Jayhawks will need to force him into making freshman mistakes. The defensive line is one of the Jayhawk’s strong points on defense, especially with Kyron Johnson, so they’ll need to step it up and keep the pressure on.

If the Jayhawks can consistently hurry the young quarterback, it will take a lot of the pressure off the linebackers and defensive backs, which have many questions going into the season opener.

2. Run the ball

With the expectation that the offensive line will be much improved from last season, the Jayhawks will set themselves up for success if they run the ball and do it often.

They return runningbacks Velton Gardner, Daniel Hishaw, and Amauri Pesek-Hickson from last year, all of whom rushed for over 140 yards each. The Jayhawks also bring in a true freshman, Devin Neal, who could very well be the best runningback of the bunch this year.

If the Jayhawks can successfully run the ball, they’ll take the pressure off the quarterback and allow them to settle in.

3. Avoid costly penalties

A sure way to kill a good drive is by ruining it with a penalty. The Jayhawks will have to be sound on offense and avoid making these mistakes that can stop their offense.

As Kansas fans have seen in the recent past, the Jayhawks offense hasn’t been great. If they continue to hurt themselves with penalties, it will only make it that much harder to fix.

The same goes for the defense. The Jayhawks will need to avoid costly penalties on defense that allow South Dakota to keep moving the ball. They’ll need to be disciplined and play smart football, which has been one of the key points in the new staff’s culture change.