Jayhawks Host Rhode Island Saturday To Open 2016 Season

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas football opens the 2016 campaign September 3, when it hosts Rhode Island inside Memorial Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

Jayhawk Football can be heard on FM 95.5 KNDY in Northeast Kansas and Z-96.3 The Lake in North Central Kansas

Saturday’s contest marks the first played between Kansas and Rhode Island and the first matchup for KU against a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) team since Nov. 1, 1940 (L, 33-7 – Villanova). The Jayhawks hold a record of 10-3 in home openers since 2003 and a 33-14 clip in home night games since 1997.

SERIES HISTORY VS. RHODE ISLAND
Overall Record: 0-0
First Meeting: Sept. 3, 2016
KU vs. CAA: 0-1 (Villanova, 1940)
KU vs. FCS: 31-10-1
Last FCS Opponent: SDSU (Sept. 5, 2015)

IF WALLS COULD TALK
For the 96th-consecutive season, Kansas will play its home games inside Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1921. The stadium is tied for seventh oldest in the country behind Georgia Tech (1913), Mississippi State (1914), Cincinnati (1916), Wisconsin (1917), Oklahoma State (1920) and Washington (1920). Others schools who started play in their current stadiums in 1921 include Stanford and Tennessee.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Prior to 1976, Kansas never played a season-opener during the first week of September, so in the last 40 years the Jayhawks have had their lid-lifter on September 3rd three other times in 2011, 2005 and 1983. After the turn of the century, the Jayhawks are undefeated on the third day of the ninth month. Kansas bested McNeese State 42-24 in 2011 and Florida Atlantic 30-19 in 2005. KU’s lone loss was to Northern Illinois, 37-34, in 1983.

SHINE
Since permanent lights were installed at Memorial Stadium ahead of the 1997 season, Kansas is 33-14 in home night games. Last year’s week one 11 a.m., kickoff ended a streak of a long succession of opening-week games for Kansas that weren’t kicked off in the evening under the lights. A night game, classified as a 6 p.m., start or later, has been a staple of the Kansas week one schedule for the last decade. During the 12-straight season-opening night contests in Memorial Stadium that ended a season ago, the Jayhawks established a 10-2 record and had outscored the opposition by a wide margin of 402-177.

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, this year’s freshman class was just four years old (2002 loss at Iowa State). The Jayhawks have also been routinely successful in the last 13 years in week one, winning 10 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 12 of the last 13 lid-lifters. In all, Kansas has outscored first game opponents 440-to-218 and is averaging 34 points-per-outing.

NONCONFERENCE DOMINANCE
Kansas will go for its 30th home, nonconference victory since 2003 when they host the Rams. Dating back to a 2003 loss to Northwestern in Lawrence, the Jayhawks are 29-5 against foes outside of the Big 12 Conference, outscoring these opponents by a margin of 1201-to-567.

A GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE
Head coach David Beaty has full confidence in his quarterbacks, redshirt junior Montell Cozart and sophomore Ryan Willis, to hand either signal caller the keys to the offense on any given play. Cozart gets the nod in experience after playing in 18 games over the previous three seasons, but before a season-ending injury in 2015, Cozart was having the best stretch of his career. The Kansas City, Missouri native completed 66-of-105 passes for 752 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 45 times for 113 yards adding a score. Perhaps his most eye-popping statistic, Cozart has actively has thrown 100-straight passes without an interception.

Willis, on the other hand, turned in a record-breaking 2015 season after earning the snaps in 10 games. The rookie set a Kansas freshman record with 1,719 pass yards, completing 164-of-315 attempts for nine touchdowns. A product of Overland Park, Kansas, Willis was named the Athlon Sports National Freshman of the Week after a 35-completion and 330-yard performance against Texas Tech. The 35 successful passes were the most by a Jayhawk in the last six years.

SPEEDY GONZALEZ
Junior wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez has had to wait what seemed like a lifetime for September 3, 2016. Gonzalez last saw action in a college football game on December 29, 2014 against West Virginia as a member of Texas A&M – a span of 614 days. To take it a step further, Gonzalez last had a catch in a game as an Aggie against SMU 100 days prior on September 20, 2014, meaning the Cedar Hill, Texas native has patiently had to endure 714 days of practice to showcase his blazing speed in a new uniform.

THE FOUNDATION
When head coach David Beaty arrived at the program’s helm in December of 2014 the numbers in the weight room didn’t resemble a Big 12 Conference football team. Just three Jayhawks ran a 40-yard sprint in under 4.5 seconds, eight power cleaned 300 or more pounds and only 20 could bench press 300 or more pounds. Since hiring Je’Ney Jackson as KU’s director of strength and conditioning, a year and a half later the improvements are drastic. Now, 34 Jayhawks can run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or faster, 31 are able to power clean 300 or more pounds and 59 can bench press 300 or more pounds. No, the weight room numbers don’t directly equate to victories in the win-loss column, but they provide an invaluable foundation to build upon.

UP NEXT
The Jayhawks will continue their nonconference slate as they play host to Ohio, Saturday, September 9. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m., and can be seen on Fox Sports Net (FSN).

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Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids, and graduated from Valley Heights High School in May of 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communication. After stops at KFRM and KCLY radio in Clay Center, he joined KNDY in 2002 as a board operator and play by play announcer. Derek is now responsible for the digital content of Dierking Communications, Inc. six radio stations. In 2005 Derek joined the staff of KCFX radio in Kansas City as a production coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, which airs on over 70 radio stations across 12 Midwest states and growing.