After a SEMO scare, are the new Jayhawks the SAME as the old Jayhawks?

Nick Harwell made a strong showing Saturday night. But Kansas' offensive surge -- even from Harwell -- dipped to a trickle from the midway point of the second period on and the Jayhawks were outscored 28-10. 

John Rieger/John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

LAWRENCE, Kan. — So which is it, Charlie?

The team that rolled up a 24-0 lead and 153 rushing yards after one quarter?

Or the one that went from there into sleepwalk mode, the one whose quarterback walked away from a live fumble, the one that got outscored 28-10 the rest of the way?

How did a Jim Carrey chortle-fest after 15 minutes turn into a "Die Hard" sequel over the final 10?

"I really don’t have an answer to that," Kansas coach Charlie Weis said Saturday night after his team hung on to preserve a 34-28 win over Southeast Missouri State in the Jayhawks’ season opener.

"I can give you my conjecture. My conjecture is that they were so antsy and anxious to get going, they might not be used to success — to really being on top."

And so it goes in Year 3 of The Weis Era, where the Jayhawks have to learn how to keep its foot on somebody else’s throat as opposed to being the ones struggling for breath.

That’s new. A mixed blessing, to be sure, but new.

"After halftime, we just came out flat," Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart said. "Props to (Southeast Missouri State), they start to pick it up. The whole team, you could just see it — they had way more emotion than us, and it showed on the scoreboard."

So, to recap: "Antsy" and "anxious" Jayhawks, salty.

Flat Jayhawks, not so much.

And the enigma continues. Kicker Matthew Wyman made good from 43 and 33 yards out. On the flip side, one 49-yarder was blocked; another missed wide left.

Cozart’s debut as the unquestioned man under center — 12-for-24 passing for 196 yards and three scores — was more good than bad, but with enough bad to raise pointed, constructive concerns. The former Bishop Miege standout, like his teammates, opened up like a house on fire in the first quarter, completing six of his first eight throws, including two scoring tosses to speedy import Nick Harwell.

And the rest of the way, he was 6-of-16 for 127 yards.

Ying one quarter, yang the next.

Cozart’s nifty flip to Harwell near the left boundary for a 6-yard score pushed the Jayhawks’ bulge to 23-0 with four seconds left in the first quarter. The extra point made it 24-zip — and those 24 points were more in one quarter than KU had scored over 18 entire games since the fall of 2012.

"I think it might even have caught them off-guard a little bit," Weis said, "that things were going so well."

Uh-huh.

Granted, SEMO is the anti-North Dakota State, in theory, the perfect feel-good homecoming date. Before Saturday evening, the Redhawks had visited four "Big Five"-level opponents since 2004, only to lose all four meetings by a combined score of 205-23.

But it takes two for a beatdown, and for a half, the Jayhawks did what teams are supposed to do when another team rolls over on its back at your place. With five minutes to go in the first half, the visitors had racked up just 70 total yards and one first down. One.

Cozart showed a clear comfort level with Harwell, the former Miami of Ohio receiver who seems intent on fulfilling the promise that ex-Sooner Justin McCay never quite reached last fall. In 2013, the Jayhawks managed a seemingly statistically impossible count of zero touchdowns to players at the wide receiver position; on Saturday, KU had produced two by the start of the second quarter.

"I mean, Nick’s what’s advertised," Weis said. "I’ve been waiting to see what a No. 1 receiver looks like. He goes in there and that’s what you’d expect him to look like."

But that offensive surge — even from Harwell — dipped to a trickle from the midway point of the second period on. The hosts rushed the ball eight times in the second quarter for a net of -21 yards after running for 153 yards over the first 15 minutes.

And half of those losses came on the surreal final play of the first half, in which the pocket collapsed on Cozart quickly, basically pinning him in; during the melee, the ball came free.

Now rather than bounce on a rock that appeared to be live, the sophomore sort of casually walked away from where the thing happened to be bouncing, the way an outfielder does when he loses a pop-up in the sun. There wasn’t going to be enough time for the Redhawks to do anything — hell, they hadn’t done much to that point — other than pick it up and scoot the other way, but the play remained live until Kansas tackle Damon Martin wisely smothered the loose ball to officially take the insanity into the intermission.

"’Who did you think was going to recover that ball?’" Weis said he told his young signal-caller. "You can’t let a ball (lay) around.

"That football could have very easily been scooped up and taken to the house the other way. And that wouldn’t have been very good."

No. No, it wouldn’t.

"They hit it out of my hands," Cozart explained later. "But I couldn’t find the ball. I was looking for it, but I couldn’t find it."

That’s the man’s story, and he’s sticking to it.

"We’re definitely going to enjoy (the win)," the Kansas quarterback continued, "because … (wins are) something that we haven’t had a lot of in the past. So we’re going to enjoy this win. Keep chopping wood."

Just be careful where you swing that axe.

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @SeanKeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.