Jayhawks Travel to Austin for Big 12 Match-up with Texas
Two teams with completely different starts to the Big 12 Conference slate meet when the Kansas Jayhawks take on the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday. The 2:30 p.m., contest will be televised on the Longhorn Network and the Jayhawk Television Network.
It’s been a dream start to league play for Texas who stumbled to a 1-2 start in non-conference games before rolling to a 4-0 record in Big 12 contests. Kansas, on the other hand, went 2-1 in non-conference games but has dropped four in a row, including three to Associated Press Top-25 Big 12 foes. Kansas won’t technically face another top-25 squad Saturday, but the Longhorns are receiving votes, having dispatched TCU, 30-7, and then No. 10 Oklahoma in the past two weeks.
A week removed from facing one of the most successful offensive attacks in the history of college football, Kansas will get a little reprieve but still faces a tough challenge against a Longhorn team averaging 450.7 yards per game, the third-best total in the Big 12.
Historically, the Jayhawks have played the role of underdogs against the Longhorns, especially in Austin. KU is 2-10 all-time against Texas and has never won in 10 games at UT. The Longhorns own a 10-game winning streak against KU, including eight with Mack Brown as head coach.
This Day In Kansas Football History Kansas is 8-6 all-time in games played on Nov. 2, including a 52-0 win over Iowa in 1895. The latest Nov. 2 game was even more lopsided, but in the wrong direction, as K-State defeated KU 64-0 in 2002. Still, there are plenty of good Jayhawk performances to celebrate on this date. In 1996, Kansas career rushing leader June Henley posted the ninth-best, single-game total for a KU running back when he ran for 226 against Iowa State. In all, six Jayhawks have rushed for 100 yards or more on Nov. 2, including John Riggins and Bobby Douglass, who each topped the century mark against Colorado on this date in 1968. One of the top receiving efforts on Nov. 2 was Isaac Byrd’s 11 catch, 158-yard effort against Iowa State in 1996.
Kansas-Texas Connections Kansas has 25 players on its roster from the Lone Star State. Texas does not field any Sunflower State natives on its roster. UT wide receivers coach/co-recruiting coordinator Darrell Wyatt served in the same role on the KU staff prior to joining the Longhorns. Kansas defensive graduate assistant Max Onyegbule will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline as his brother, Miles, is a junior TE for Texas.
Texas Head Coach Mack Brown A 29-year head coaching veteran, Mack Brown owns a 155-45 (.775) record in 16 years as the leader of the Longhorns, including a 94-31 mark in Big 12 games. Brown led Texas to the 2005 National Championship and has three BCS bowl wins in four appearances. Brown’s 241 career wins rank him near the top-10 on the NCAA Division I all-time charts and he’s a flawless 8-0 against Kansas.
Heaps Gets Second Shot at Longhorns A number of first-year Kansas regulars will get their first taste of Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday, but its nothing new to first-year signal caller Jake Heaps. The junior QB transfer threw for a game-high 192 yards on 22-of-38 passing but No. 24 Texas used a late rally to fend off BYU, 17-16 at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium during his sophomore campaign on Sept. 10, 2011. Heaps, who sat out last season after transferring to Lawrence from Provo, threw a touchdown pass and completed passes to 11 different Cougar receivers, but also threw two interceptions against the Longhorns.
A Touchdown for Every Start Junior QB Jake Heaps hasn’t produced the number of touchdowns he may have envisioned at this point of his KU career but he’s shown a scoring consistency that is unmatched in the last three years. Heaps has thrown a touchdown in all seven games this season, the longest streak by a KU quarterback since Todd Reesing ended a three-year, 24-game TD streak in week seven of the 2009 season. Hot Rod…Riguez It’s been well documented that Kansas went without a touchdown from a wide receiver during the 2012 season, and while junior WR Justin McCay put an end to that nonsense in the season-opener against South Dakota, TDs from the tall, lanky fellas have still been hard to come by. Junior WR Rodriguez Coleman is working to change that, as the junior college transfer hauled in his first career touchdown on a 30-yard strike from junior QB Jake Heaps in the fourth quarter against Baylor. With the TD, Coleman joined McCay and Andrew Turzilli as true wideouts to catch touchdown passes this season, with running back/wide out/super man combo Tony Pierson also catching a touchdown pass. Coleman is no stranger to the end zone, having scored seven touchdowns last year at Garden City Community College before joining the Jayhawks.
Tackling Bingo for Simmons Junior NB Victor Simmons has been all over the field and the stat sheet for Kansas in his first year as a starter, but he’s not letting his new status affect his auxiliary duties. If there was a version of football tackling bingo, Simmons’ board would be full. Including the free space, Simmons has recorded solo (31) and assisted tackles (16), tackles against the run (26), tackles against the pass (12), tackles for loss (6.5), sacks (1.5), tackles on kickoff coverage (1) and tackles on punt coverage (4).
Special Tacklers Sophomore LB Jake Love padded his tackling stats with eight tackles against his home-state Oklahoma Sooners while starting for injured LB Ben Heeney, but a good chunk of his 29 stops have come on special teams. Love leads the Jayhawks with six tackles on punt coverage, a little more than 20 percent of his total tackles. Kansas WR Justin McCay has made his presence felt on the kickoff team with a team-best three tackles while covering kicks. Fellow WR Andrew Turzilli is tied for second with two kickoff coverage tackles.
First Time Charmers The Jayhawks rank 54th nationally and fifth in the Big 12 Conference with eight interceptions, well on their way to a double-digit season total for the second-consecutive season after a high of eight in the previous three seasons. Not bad for a bunch of kids who had never intercepted a pass before. All five players responsible for the aerial takeaways intercepted their first pass in a KU uniform. In all, Kansas has generated 16 turnovers this season, which ranks 25th in the nation and fourth in the Big 12. It’s Not You, It’s Me Kansas junior DB JaCorey Shepherd has made breaking up look easy – passes anyway. Through seven games the former wide receiver has nine break-ups and the first two interceptions of his career. Shepherd is second in the Big 12 and tied for sixth nationally with 1.6 passes defended per game. Fellow junior DB Dexter McDonald is tied for third in the conference and 26th nationally with 1.3 passes defended per game.
What Learning Curve? Sophomore FS Isaiah Johnson has played an instrumental role in the improvement of the Jayhawk defense. Johnson, a Cary, N.C., native, ranks sixth in the Big 12 in tackling in conference games with 8.5 stops per contest. He turned in a season-high 12 tackles in KU’s game versus Texas Tech and has followed that up with nine-, eight- and five-tackle performances against TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor, respectively. On the season, Johnson ranks ninth in the Big 12 in tackles per game with 7.6 per outing. A transfer from Iowa Western CC, Johnson is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two to his credit. Johnson and his secondary mates CBs JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald have combined for five picks on the season.
Sacked For the first time this season the Kansas defense went without a sack in Saturday’s loss to Baylor. The pass rush has been much improved however, as this year’s Jayhawks have 14 total sacks, two more than last season’s total (12) and the most since the 2010 squad logged 14 sacks. For perspective purposes, the 2009 team had 30 sacks. The Kansas defense is on pace to more than double its previous three-year average of 12.0 sacks (2010-12), and could be close to matching the three-year average of 28.33 (2007-09) from the prior three years.
Little Margin for Error Kansas is +4 in turnover margin for the season, having turned the ball over 12 times and forced 16 turnovers through seven games. KU ranks 31st in the nation and fourth in the Big 12 in turnover margin per game (0.6). The Jayhawks have finished even or better in six games and, outside of last week’s loss to Baylor, have played close in those contests, losing by nine points to Rice (E, 2/2), 10 to TCU (+3, 2/5) and 15 to Oklahoma (+2, 0/2). Texas Tech showed how ugly things can get when the margin is not in KU’s favor, turning the Jayhawks over four times while surrendering the ball just once in a 38-point rout.
Heeney Brings the Hammer Kansas junior LB Ben Heeney missed the last two games and saw limited action at TCU before leaving the game with an injury. Heeney had been the Big 12’s leader in tackles per game and ranked among the top-10 in the Big 12 in four different categories prior to playing the Horned Frogs. The 2013 Lombardi Award watch list member has averaged 8.6 tackles, including 1.4 tackles for loss per game. The Hutchinson, Kan., native, has also secured his first two career interceptions and is tied for the team-lead. Heeney 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.
Many Happy Returns On the punt return team, Connor Embree continues to be one of the best in the Big 12. The former walk-on, who was awarded a scholarship in fall camp, is second in the Big 12 Conference and seventh in the nation with 15.1 yards per punt return. Embree’s 151 punt return yards through seven games are more than KU’s combined total in each of the past three seasons and the most by a KU individual since Daymond Patterson logged 168 return yards in 2009. Junior CB JaCorey Shepherd ranks third in the Big 12 with 23.5 yards per kick return, while sophomore RB Darrian Miller has 24.0 yards per return on eight total returns (does not meet minimum for Big 12 rankings). Sims Continues Climb up Several KU Charts Senior RB James Sims became the fourth player in KU history to rush for 3,000 yards with his 129-yard effort against Oklahoma and needs just four yards to move into third place on the Jayhawks’ all-time rushing chart. The 100+ performance against the Sooners was the 13th of his career, moving Sims past Jon Cornish (12) into a tie with June Henley and Laverne Smith for second on the KU career charts. Sims is tied for sixth in the NCAA among active rushers for career 100-yard games. With five games left, Sims could still catch Tony Sands who rushed for 100 or more 17 times.
Team Captains Junior QB Jake Heaps, junior LB Ben Heeney, senior HB James Sims and junior DL Keon Stowers were selected by their peers as the 2013 team captains, while nine other players were appointed as members of the team leadership council. Kansas conducted a players vote on August 18 during fall camp. Members of the newly created leadership council include Jimmay Mundine,Christian Matthews, Tony Pierson, Pat Lewandowski, Keba Agostinho, Cassius Sendish, Dexter Linton, Darius Willis and Blake Jablonski.
Patiently Waiting The Kansas Jayhawks will again feature one of the most talented scout team offenses in the country with quarterback transfer T.J. Millweard (UCLA) and wide receiver transfer Nick Harwell (Miami (Ohio)) sitting out due to NCAA transfer residency requirements. KU starters Jake Heaps and Justin McCay built repoire and tortured the first team defense while running the scout team last season. Millweard was slated to be the back-up in Westwood after redshirting as a freshman in 2012. The former top-100 Texas recruit from Colleyville, Texas, will be a redshirt sophomore in 2014 and have three seasons of eligibility remaining. Harwell, a 2011 Biletnikoff Award Watch List member and All-MAC First Team selection, brings an impressive resume to Kansas with 229 career receptions, 3,166 yards and 23 receiving touchdowns over three seasons with the Redhawks. The Missouri City, Texas native will have one year of eligibility remaining for next season.
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- It hasn’t been a quarter of a century in terms of time, but it has been a quarter of a century in games since the Jayhawks won a Big 12 Conference contest. Kansas’ conference losing streak hit 25 games with the loss to No. 5 Baylor last week – a streak the second-year Kansas players and staff would love to end before the end of the 2013 season. KU’s last conference win was Nov. 6, 2010 vs. Colorado (52-45).
- Kansas recorded an interception in each of the first six games of the season, including two against Rice and TCU, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the Jayhawks logged an interception in six consecutive games near the end of the 2002 season. Including an interception in last season’s finale, the Jayhawks had interceptions in seven consecutive games, the team’s longest streak since picking off a pass in eight straight games during the 1995 season.
- WR Josh Ford blocked his second punt of the season against Oklahoma (10/19) after also blocking a kick in the season opener against South Dakota. Ford’s two blocks are the most by a Jayhawk since Ronnie Amadi blocked two punts during the 2005 campaign. Ford has made a significant impact on special teams with three career blocked kicks in 20 games.
- TE Jimmay Mundine caught a touchdown pass in four straight games – LA Tech, Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma – the longest streak for a Jayhawk since Kerry Meier’s four-game streak in 2009.
- CB JaCorey Shepherd earned honorable mention by the College Football Performance Awards (10/14) after he herded in his first career interception when he picked off TCU’s Trevone Boykin and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. Shepherd followed that up with a forced fumble on the very next TCU offensive play.
- Texas Tech scored 38 of its 54 total points on drives that started at the 50 or inside KU territory, including four drives of 16 yards or less.
- Kansas had three sacks in each of the first three games this season. That number tied the team’s single-game high from the last two seasons. The last time Kansas logged three or more sacks in three consecutive games was 2009, during a season-opening stretch against Northern Colorado (3 sacks), UTEP (6 sacks) and Duke (5 sacks).
- QB Jake Heaps completed a career-high 28 passes against Louisiana Tech (9/21), five more than he had completed in the first two games combined. He also threw for 279 yards – the third-highest total in his career, which includes two seasons at BYU.
- K Matthew Wyman booted a walk-off, 52-yarder to lift Kansas over Louisiana Tech (9/21). The field goal was the longest by a Jayhawk since 2009 and marked the first time Kansas has won on the final play of the game since 2005. For his efforts, Wyman was named one of three Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award “Stars of the Week”.
- P/K Trevor Pardula set a new Kansas record for punting average in a game after averaging 57.6 yards on five punts agaisnt Louisiana Tech. Additionally, three of his five punts were downed inside the 20. Pardula broke his previous career-long punt twice against LA Tech, including a 78-yard kick.
- K Matthew 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.
- QB Jake Heaps won his Kansas debut, becoming the seventh Jayhawk QB to lead his team to victory in 16 total debuts since 2000. Previous Jayhawk quarterbacks to win their debut in the last 12 years include Dayne Crist (2012), Jordan Webb (2011), Todd Reesing (2007), Kerry Meier (2006), Brian Luke (2004) and Zach Dyer (2001).
- RB James Sims became the 11th player in program history to surpass the 1,000 yard mark in a season during the 2012 campaign, needing just eight games to get there. The 1,000-yard plateau has been reached a total of 13 times, including two 1,000+ efforts by Tony Sands (1989, ’91) and June Henley (1993, ’96). This year, Sims will look to join that exclusive two-man club and become the first Jayhawk to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Sims’ total rushing yardage last season (1,013) was the 13th-best, single-season effort and his 112.6 yards per game ranked as the fifth-best per game mark in KU history.
- QB Jake Heaps had good reason to be raring to go as his first start at Kansas on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, came 658 days after his last collegiate start on November 19, 2011 as BYU’s starting quarterback. A lot can happen in 94 weeks, including birthing an elephant, which at roughly 645 days counts as the longest gestational period for any mammal.
- Kansas entered the 2013 campaign looking to replace three veteran offensive linemen who combined to start 109 games along the offensive front. In comparison, Kansas’ sum total of starts for every offensive lineman on the 2013 roster was 25, or 27 if counting Pat Lewandowski’s two starts at defensive tackle.