Jayhawk Insider: Getting Defensive
By: Adam Sullivan
LAWRENCE, Kan. – On a day honoring one of the greatest offensive players in Kansas history with Todd Reesing being inducting into the Kansas Football Ring of Honor, it was the Jayhawk defense that played lights out in a 55-14 victory. KU’s defense pressured Rutgers all day long forcing six Scarlet Knight mistakes marking the second consecutive week the Jayhawks have forced six turnovers.
The attack came early and often for Kansas leading to a huge momentum boost early.
On Rutgers’ second drive of the game, Lawrence native Bryce Torneden showed great patience and vision as he timed a pass perfectly, jumping the route returning an interception 39-yards for the score. The play marked not only the first touchdown for Torneden, but his first interception as a Jayhawk.
“I don’t really remember it to be honest,” Torneden said of the interception. “It was really surreal, felt like I was playing Madden. He just threw it right to me and I saw I had some blockers in front of me. We’re a hardworking team and we feed off of one another. Each turnover just gets everyone excited and we’re just trying to make plays.”
On the following possession, Torneden showed high football I.Q. following a huge hit by Shakial Taylor. Torneden jumped on a loose ball as Kansas forced its second turnover of the afternoon. Kansas capitalized on the play of the junior as the Jayhawks took an early 10-0 lead with a field goal by Gabriel Rui.
The Jayhawk defense continued to wreak havoc on the Scarlet Knights. With 3:36 remaining in the opening quarter, sophomore Kyron Johnson forced a fumble recovered by junior Willie McCaleb, his first of the season.
The big plays didn’t stop and the defense continued to pressure Rutgers. With 14:10 remaining in the first half the Jayhawks defense struck again. Junior safety Mike Lee picked off a Scarlet Knight pass and returned it 31-yards for a touchdown. The score marked the first time since 2003 that the KU defense has recorded two defensive touchdowns in a game.
“I knew that my time was coming and today it came,” Lee explained. “Once I caught it I knew I had to get in the end zone. I knew I needed to make a few guys miss and I knew I needed to make a play and that’s what I did.”
Kansas continued to increase its turnover margin in the second half. In his third game as a Jayhawk, true freshman Corione Harris added his name to the stat sheet with his first career interception.
KU has now pressured its opponents into 13 turnovers in its first three games of the season.
“I feel like as a defense we all have a lot of confidence right now,” Lee said. “The coaches are putting us in the right spots and we’re just making plays.”
Joe Dineen Jr. has tallied up quite an impressive list of stats during his four years as a Jayhawk. The Lawrence native has racked up 279 tackles, one interception and three sacks.
On Saturday Dineen was able to add another stat to his resume. With 4:59 remaining in the third quarter, a botched snap by Rutgers allowed a blitzing Dineen Jr. to jump on a loose ball for his first career fumble recovery.
“After week one it would have been really easy to throw in the towel and let that be the end of our season,” Dineen stated. “Our coaches really have us going in the right direction. We’re just taking things one game at a time.”
Nine Jayhawks have had a hand in the turnovers forced thus far as Kansas has one of the top turnover margins in the nation at +12.
The Kansas defense will look to continue its momentum as KU will open Big 12 play with conference foe Baylor on September 22 at McLane Stadium. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.