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Different debuts, challenges for new Big 12 coaches

Monday, September 6, 2010 | 7:37 p.m. CDT; updated 8:13 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 6, 2010
Turner Gill had a frustrating first game as Kansas' football coach, losing to North Dakota State on Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.

Turner Gill and Tommy Tuberville face different challenges going into Week 2, after the Big 12's two new coaches experienced much different debuts in Week 1.

After losing 6-3 at home to lower-division FCS team North Dakota State in Gill's first game, things could get really difficult for the Jayhawks now. They have to get ready to play 16th-ranked Georgia Tech (1-0) and its option offense.

"I think that will get everybody focused and ready to get better," Gill said Monday on the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "You have to keep everything in perspective, and you have to keep everything going in the right direction."

The Jayhawks were the only Big 12 team to lose on the opening weekend, and carry an eight-game losing streak into Saturday's game. Georgia Tech, which played in the Orange Bowl last season, had a season-opening 41-10 victory over FCS team South Carolina State.

Texas Tech nearly blew all of a 21-point lead in Tuberville's debut, but held on for a 35-27 victory. SMU got its last touchdown Sunday on a short drive after Tuberville opted not to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Red Raiders 34 with 9 ½ minutes left and they botched the play.

Tuberville now has to get his team focused on getting better, and not distracted by the fact that New Mexico is coming off a 72-0 loss to Oregon. The Red Raiders visit the Lobos on Saturday night.

"We don't worry too much about the other team, especially with a new team," Tuberville said. "The second game, you worry about your team and the fundamentals, and getting back to basics."

Especially knowing the Big 12 opener is the following weekend, at home against fifth-ranked Texas.

Gill and Tuberville became the 25th and 26th head coaches to make their Big 12 debuts since the league's inception in 1996. Tuberville was the 13th to win his opener.

The only other Big 12 coach who lost his first game to a lower-division team was Colorado's Dan Hawkins in a 19-10 loss to Montana State in 2006.

Kansas had its fewest points in a loss since a 6-3 game against TCU in 1962, and was held to only a field goal for the first time in five years.

"We know that we have to implement our offense, and learn our defense. It takes time," Gill said. "Obviously, it's going to take a little bit more (time) for us to get things going in the right direction."

Making it more difficult for Gill is "trying to find your starting quarterback."

Sophomore Kale Pick started the opener for the Jayhawks, and was replaced late by redshirt freshman Jordan Webb. It is unclear who will start against Georgia Tech.

"We're definitely evaluating that position for sure," Gill said.

At least Tuberville isn't dealing with a quarterback controversy after choosing Taylor Potts over Steven Sheffield during preseason drills.

Potts hit 34 of 53 passes for 359 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

"You look at leadership, how he ran the offense, got us in the right plays," Tuberville said. "He got hit seven times after throws and was sacked two times. He held his composure very well. ... He handled the offense beginning to end very, very well."


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