Jayhawks Look to Bounce Back Against Louisiana Tech Saturday
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas looks to bounce back in front of its home crowd when the Jayhawks welcome Louisiana Tech to Memorial Stadium for an 11 a.m. game on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) Saturday. A bowl team and the nation’s highest scoring offense a season ago, the Bulldogs (1-2) dropped their conference opener to Tulane last Thursday and are also looking to get back on track under new head coach Skip Holtz.
Kansas (1-1) has been among the nation’s leaders in pass defense, having allowed just one passing touchdown with three interceptions through two games. Kansas running back James Sims continues his climb up the career rushing charts and moved into fifth place with another 100-yard performance in KU’s loss to Rice last weekend. The Jayhawks and Bulldogs will be meeting for the fourth time, with Kansas leading the all-time series 2-1, all in Lawrence.
This Day In Kansas Football History Kansas is 4-3-2 all-time in games played on Sept. 21st, with the first game dating back to an 1895 match-up against Midland in Atchison, Kan., which KU won 28-0. Most recently, Kansas dropped a 39-16 decision to Bowling Green in Lawrence during the 2002 season, Mark Mangino’s first year as head coach. Kansas had won two straight on Sept. 21st, with wins over Indiana State (1985) and New Mexico State (1991).
Kansas-Louisiana Tech Connections The Jayhawks and Bulldogs have both dipped into the Texas high school and national junior college ranks and share a number of potential connections in both areas. Kansas junior right tackle Zach Fondal is among the most connected, as a former teammate at Navarro Junior College to LA Tech’s Mitchell Bell (OL), Eddie Johnson (WR) and Thomas McDonald (WR). Bell and Fondal were one-time Arkansas commits and both visited Kansas last fall. Kansas junior defensive lineman Keon Stowers went to Georgia Military Academy, as did LA Tech’s Tre Carter (OL), Kevin Gary (WR) and Terome Grant (WR). Bulldog corner Josh Ross and KU offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi both played at City College of San Francisco. Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Devon McKinney played at Pierce College in California, as did Kansas players Brandon Holloman (DB), Marquel Combs (DL) and Marcus Jenkins-Moore (LB). Current Jayhawk defensive quality control assistant Ty Greenwood was previously the defensive coordinator at Pierce.
In the high school ranks, there’s an age gap, but KU’s Alex Matlock and LA Tech’s IK Enemkpali are both from Plugerville (Texas) HS. Bulldog offensive lineman Jens Danielson is from Wichita, Kan., and went to Andover Central High School. Although he went to high school in Houston, KU redshirt freshman DB Greg Allen grew up in New Orleans. Among other connections, Kansas assistant defensive backs coach Scott Vestal was a graduate assistant at Louisiana Tech.
Scouting the Louisiana Tech Offense Louisiana Tech scorched opponents at the rate of 51.5 points per game during the 2012 season, but is breaking in a new coach and starting quarterback in 2013 and haven’t yet been able to match that pace. Gone are Sonny Dykes, who took the head coaching job at California, and Colby Cameron, the 2012 WAC Offensive Player of the Year who graduated, and in their place are new leader Skip Holtz and Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young. This year’s team is averaging 18.7 points per game, with Young throwing for nearly 150 per contest. He’s been efficient at quarterback, completing 52.9 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception in three games. Young left last Thursday’s game with an injury and freshman signal caller Ryan Higgins was his replacement.
The favorite target early in the year has been Sterling Griffin, a graduate transfer who played for Holtz at South Florida. The Bulldogs lost their top three receivers from a year ago and Griffin has attempted to fill part of the void with 11 catches for 103 yards. In all, Young has hit 12 different receivers for at least two catches through the first three games. Running back Kenneth Dixon averaged nearly 100 yards per game last year, while running for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman All-American, but has seen his per-game production cut in half during the early portion of the 2013 slate, while battling a knee injury. Tevin King was the Bulldogs’ starter in 2012 before suffering an injury of his own and has led the Bulldogs with 96.3 yards per game and 7.0 yards per carry.
Scouting the Louisiana Tech Defense The Louisiana Tech offense took the biggest hit in the off-season with eight starters lost, but the defense wasn’t far behind with seven starters lost. Among this year’s leading tacklers, only defensive back Le’Vander Liggins, was among last year’s top-10 tacklers and he’s fifth among 2013 tackling leaders with 17 through three games. Liggins is tied for the team lead as one of three Bulldogs with an interception this season. Graduate transfer Daniel Cobb, who played for Texas Tech in KU’s overtime loss to the Red Raiders last year, has set up shop in the opposing team’s backfield with a team-leading eight tackles for loss. IK Enemkpali, a 2012 First Team All-WAC selection, has been equally disruptive for opponents with a team-best 4.5 sacks and an interception from the defensive line. The Bulldogs recorded six sacks in their Conference USA debut against Tulane last Thursday but gave up 370 yards in the process. Sophomore defensive back Kentrell Brice is the Bulldogs’ leading tackler with 26 total stops.
Louisiana Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz Holtz is in his first season as Louisiana Tech’s head coach following a three-year stint at South Florida and previous head coaching stops at East Carolina and Connecticut. Holtz has participated in 15 postseason games in his coaching career, including seven as a head coach and eight as an assistant coach. Of the seven games as head coach, five occurred in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and two occurred in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Holtz and Kansas head coach Charlie Weis share Notre Dame as their alma mater.
Top Performers – Offense: James Sims, HB, Sr., 6-0, 200, Irving, Texas Sims recorded his 12th career 100-yard rushing game as he put accumulated 109 rushing yards on 19 carries at Rice. With his 109 yards, Sims now has 2,685 yards for his career which ranks No. 5 all-time in Kansas history. He passed David Winbush (2,608) and Kansas greats John Riggins (2,659) and Gale Sayers (2,675) on the KU all-time rushing chart in KU’s outing at Rice. Sims’ 12th 100-yard game moved him into a tie with Jon Cornish on the KU all-time list for 100-yard games. Sims also had three catches for 14 yards in the game.
Top Performers – Defense: Ben Heeney, LB, Jr., 6-1, 230, Hutchinson, Kan. Heeney was all over the field for the Jayhawk defense as he set a new career-high with 18 tackles at Rice. Heeney tallied 11 solo stops and also had 2.5 TFLs for a loss of 12 yards, one sack for a loss of eight yards and a career-best two pass breakups. The 18 tackles marked Heeney’s sixth double-figure tackling game of his career. His sack for a loss of eight yards marked the third-straight game he has recorded a sack.
Top Performers – Special Teams: Trevor Pardula, P/K, Jr., 6-5, 212, San Jose, Calif. Pardula punted six times for 278 yards, turning in a 47.8 yards per punt average. He recorded a career long punt of 59 yards and also dropped two punts inside the 20-yard line. Additionally, Pardula kicked off for the Jayhawks—notching touchbacks on all three of his kickoffs.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Kansas junior cornerback Dexter McDonald has made breaking up look easy – passes anyway. Through two games the Kansas City, Mo., native has five break-ups, including three at Rice. Coupled with his first career interception against the Owls, McDonald leads the Big 12 Conference and is tied for the national lead with San Jose State’s Bene Benwikere in passes defended with 3.0 per game. McDonald has been a key component to the Jayhawks’ pass defense, which ranks third nationally in passing yards allowed per game (122.5) and second in team passing efficiency defense (75.70).
|1.||Dexter McDonald (KU)||2||5||1||6||3.0|
|Bene Benwikere (SJSU)||2||5||1||6||3.0|
|3.||2. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, NU||3||4||3||7||2.3|
|Lorenzo Doss, (Tulane)||3||5||2||7||2.3|
|D’Joun Smith (FAU)||3||6||1||7||2.3|
|Tim Bennett (IU)||3||7||0||7||2.3|
Turning the Tide on Defense Kansas’ pass defense comparison to two-time defending National Champ Alabama didn’t last very long, but it wasn’t the Jayhawks moving down the list. Kansas was runner-up a week ago in the national rankings for fewest passing yards allowed per game and remained in the top five while the Crimson Tide fell to No. 92. Kansas hasn’t faced a Heisman contender, but the Jayhawks are a much improved unit and rank third at 122.5 yards per game, behind Washington State (99.7) and Virginia Tech (106.3). KU limited South Dakota to 67 yards through the air in the season-opener, the best passing defensive effort since allowing just 66 yards passing to K-State on Nov. 7, 2009. Kansas’ pass defense continued to look sharp in game two as the Jayhawks picked off two passes and combined for nine pass break-ups, while limiting Rice to 178 yards and no touchdown passes. Last season, KU surrendered a program worst 289.2 passing yards per game and has allowed 220 yards per game or more in each of the last nine seasons. Kansas’ largest, single-season improvement in pass defense was 85.4 yards from 1973 to 1974, a little more than half of the difference (166.7) from last year to the current tally through two games.
Fear the Beard Ben Heeney’s career-best 18 tackles against Rice helped push the junior up the Big 12 and national tackling charts. Heeney’s 11.0 tackles per game are tied for the Big 12 lead and rank tied for 12th nationally. The 18 tackles were the most since current Denver Broncos linebacker Steven Johnson recorded 18 tackles against Texas Oct. 29, 2011, and earned Heeney honorable mention among linebackers by the College Football Performance Awards on Monday. Heeney, KU’s top returning tackler and 2013 Rotary Lombardi Award watch list member, burst onto the scene in 2012 with 112 tackles in his first season as a starter for the Jayhawks. His tally included 66 solo stops and he led KU with 12.0 tackles-for-loss with one sack. Heeney earned second team All-Big 12 honors following the 2012 season from the conference coaches, the Associated Press and Phil Steele Magazine. He was listed as a preseason first team All-Big 12 member entering the 2013 season by Athlon, Lindy’s and The Sporting News. Additionally, Heeney was named to the College Football Performance Awards watch list for the top linebacker in the NCAA.
Developing a Pass Rush Kansas has recorded back-to-back games with three sacks and reaching back to the final game of 2012, the team has logged three sacks in three consecutive games. That number ties the team’s single game high from the last two seasons. Linebacker Ben Heeney has a sack in each of the first two games and Buck Michael Reynolds got to the quarterback twice against Rice. The last time KU recorded three or more sacks in consecutive games was the end of the 2010 season when KU sacked Missouri four times, then opened the 2011 campaign with three sacks against McNeese State. The last time it happened in the same season was 2009, during a three-game stretch to open the season against Northern Colorado (3 sacks), UTEP (6 sacks), and Duke (5 sacks).
Extended Range The Jayhawks have received some much needed relief in the area of special teams with the emergence of redshirt freshman kicker Matthew Wyman and junior college transfer punter Trevor Pardula. Wyman nailed a 45-yard field goal in the season opener – the longest by a Jayhawk kicker since Jacob Branstetter’s 46-yard make at Kansas State on Nov. 7, 2009. Pardula, who serves as KU’s kickoff specialist, has six touchbacks through two games and needs just one more to match last season’s entire total. Pardula booted a career-best 59-yard punt against Rice and ranks ninth in the nation in punting at 45.7 yards per punt.
The Sims KU senior running back James Sims had an outstanding 2012 season as he ranked first in the Big 12 and 17th in the NCAA in rushing yards per game. Sims also ranked third in the Big 12 and 33rd in the NCAA in all-purpose yards. Sims rushed for 100 yards or more in six games last season. After missing the first three games of the 2012 campaign, Sims eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in six-of-seven outings vs. Big 12 foes. In 2012, Sims recorded a career long rush of 64 yards (vs. Texas), a career-long reception of 51 yards (vs. Oklahoma) and a career-long TD run of 59 yards (vs. Baylor). Additionally, he logged his career-best rushing game with 176 yards vs. Texas. Last weekend, Sims notched his 12th career 100-yard rushing effort at Rice to tie Jon Cornish on KU’s career 100-yard games list and moved past Gale Sayers and John Riggins into fifth on the Kansas career rushing totals chart. With two touchdowns this season, Sims also moved into second on the KU career rushing touchdowns list. Here’s a look at where he ranks on those three charts:
|Sims and the KU Record Book|
|Career Rushing Yards||Att.||Yards||Avg.||TDs|
|1.||June Henley (1993-96)||823||3,841||4.7||41|
|2.||Tony Sands (1988-91)||778||3,788||4.9||28|
|3.||Laverne Smith (1973-76)||472||3,074||6.5||21|
|4.||Clark Green (2002-05)||641||2,754||4.3||13|
|5.||James Sims (2010-pres.)||603||2,685||4.5||29|
|6.||Gale Sayers (1962-64)||412||2,675||6.5||19|
|7.||John Riggins (1968-70)||518||2,659||5.1||19|
|Career Rushing Touchdowns||TDs|
|1.||June Henley (1993-96)||41|
|2.||James Sims (2010-pres.)||29|
|3.||Tony Sands (1988-91)||28|
|1.||Tony Sands (1988-91)||17|
|2.||June Henley (1993-96)||13|
|Laverne Smith (1973-76)||13|
|4.||Jon Cornish (2003-06)||12|
|James Sims (2010-pres.)||12|
|6.||Gale Sayers (1962-64)||11|