Jayhawk Insider: Running game breaks free in win over Rutgers
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas football team prevailed over Big Ten foe Rutgers on Saturday, and while the defense put on a show, forcing six turnovers including two pick-sixes, the KU running game was equally impressive, tallying 400 yards on the ground and scoring four touchdowns.
Leading all rushers in the game was Kansas freshman phenom Pooka Williams Jr., who recorded 158 yards and one touchdown. In only the second game of his career, the rookie recorded his second 100-plus yard rushing performance, making him the first Jayhawk in history to do so in their first two appearances in Crimson and Blue.
A large chunk of Williams Jr.’s 158 yards came on a 52-yard score – the second of three 50-plus yard rushing touchdowns on the day for Kansas.
The first long score of the day for the Jayhawks’ rushing attack came from the legs of Khalil Herbert. Already holding a 24-14 advantage, Herbert broke free for a 59-yard run in the second quarter, giving KU a 31-14 lead going into the half. He ended the day with 64 yards on two touches.
Asked what has made the rushing attack so effective early in the season, Herbert was quick to have an answer, pointing to the competition between the deep running back corp.
“We compete every day,” Herbert said. “During the game it’s a little different and we were able to show out today.”
The third of three 50-plus yard touchdown runs happened in the fourth quarter when Deron Thompson broke free for a 55-yard scamper to officially close the door on the Scarlet Knights. Thompson chugged to the end zone with 9:28 left to play in the game, making it 55-14, which would hold as the final score. Thompson finished the game with 70 yards rushing on three touches.
The three long runs weren’t the only touchdowns on the ground for the Jayhawks on Saturday, as quarterback Miles Kendrick added an eight-yard rushing score in the third quarter. Kendrick rushed six times in the game for a total of 28 yards.
Aside from Williams Jr.’s 18 touches, sophomore Dom Williams recorded the second-most touches on the day for the Jayhawks, carrying the ball nine times for 39 yards. Other Jayhawks to get involved in the run game included quarterback Carter Stanley, who carried it three times for 26 yards, Reese Randall (two attempts, 11 yards) and Ryan Malbrough (three carries for 10 yards).
A major factor to the early success of the Kansas running game has been the offensive line, who has put in hard work to establish themselves in the trenches, according to those carrying the ball.
“I just saw the line working hard and getting the push, that’s the number one thing that is most important,” Kendrick said. “We have guys that can make plays and make guys miss, but at the end of the day it starts on the field and in the trenches, and those guys did a great job today. I’m so proud of those guys and what they’re doing.”
The Kansas rushing game will look to continue its success as the Jayhawks travel to Waco, Texas on Saturday, September 22 to open Big 12 play against Baylor. KU will return home on September 29 for Homecoming against Oklahoma State.