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September 25, 2010
Hard work pays off on Saturday
The week leading up Kansas' 42-16 win over New Mexico State had a different feel to it - at least for the offensive players. It started after last Friday's 31-16 loss to Southern Mississippi, a game marked by poor communication in getting plays in from the sideline and an offense that failed to execute.
So two days later on Sunday, a day that the players can usually expect a light practice, the coaches made the players get out the pads and ramped up the contact. The coaches were also a lot more aggressive in making sure the players knew what they had to get done.
"There was a lot more emphasis on it this week and they were actually getting after us a lot," wide receiver Jon Wilson said of the coaching staff. "They weren't letting us slack off. Their intensity is up a lot. There is a lot more yelling and they are encouraging us to get to plays."
The offensive players responded by putting up a season high 501 total yards. D.J. Beshears and James Sims combined for five touchdowns, one of those was an electrifying 96-yard kickoff return by Beshears.
Quarterback Jordan Webb wasn't surprised by Beshears' breakout game.
"I really think everybody was expecting it out of him," Webb said. "It came later actually than I expected it. We've been working him in, putting a lot of plays in for him and he really showed tonight that he deserves it."
The Jayhawks this week also opened up their playbook and ran more plays in practice that relied on the deep ball. It's been something wide receiver Jon Wilson has been begging Webb to do since the season started.
"I told him to just give me a shot to go make a play," Wilson said. "I just want more chances down the field."
Wilson got his wish as Kansas completed several long passes and generally had no problems moving the ball on offense. On the day, Webb was 17-27 with 249 passing yards. Wilson said the quarterback is slowly growing into his role as starter.
"I am so used to Todd being out there so we got to bring [Webb] along," Wilson said. "I told Daymond and Bradley that you need to make the plays for him. If it is a bad pass then you need catch the ball."
The defense also played well and made stops when it had to, only giving up 274 yards on the day.
"We are satisfied, but we are just not happy because we gave up 16 points more than our goal," linebacker Justin Springer said. "It makes us think about some things that we could have done better but I will be able to sleep at night."
If Kansas had one weakness on Saturday, it would be their special teams coverage. New Mexico State ripped off several big runs and were the more physical group on the field.
"I think that is the only phase where we didn't do very well," Turner Gill said. "We had not done very well the whole football season but unfortunately some of it started with our kicker. I think the first two he kicked were a little bit low number one, and number two, they were not deep enough when we had the wind in those opportunity situations.
I think part of it was the kicker and you have to have people get off blocks and make plays too," he added.
Kansas now begins preparation for next week's Big 12 opener against Baylor. For the offense, Wilson hopes that the change in attitude from the coaches down to the players sticks around.
"Our practices are a lot harder than the games now," Wilson said. "They are up-tempo practices and everybody is moving around pretty good and we probably looked like the way we did tonight because we practiced a lot harder. "
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