Pass-happy Jayhawks aim to improve on the ground Print
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Tuesday, 16 September 2008 10:41
 LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -Todd Reesing has put up sandlot numbers through Kansas' first three games, throwing for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns. He has connected with 12 different receivers, leads the nation in completions per game at 34.33 and accounts for nearly 80 percent of the team's offense.
He also needs some help.
No matter how prolific Reesing has been, it's just too much to ask him to carry the entire load for the 19th-ranked Jayhawks. Kansas needs to get its running game going and soon - the schedule's about to get a whole lot harder with Big 12 games a little over a week away.
. ``We'll do it if we have to, but that's not what we want to do.''
Kansas used a wide-open offense to near perfection a year ago, putting together the best season in school history, finishing 12-1 and winning the Orange Bowl. The Jayhawks ran a spread offense, so the perception was that all they did was pass.
It was a bit of a misconception, though.
True, Reesing put up phenomenal numbers, throwing for 3,486 yards with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He also had plenty of help, particularly from Brandon McAnderson, who ran for 1,125 yards and 16 scores, giving the Jayhawks a 60-40 split between passing and running.
Kansas hasn't had that balance this year.
The Jayhawks have run the ball 90 times for 315 yards the first three games, an average of 3.5 yards per carry. Angus Quigley, a junior who has mostly played late in games with the score already out of hand, leads the team with 153 yards on 24 carries.
Kansas was able to get away with the lack of a running game the first two games, overpowering Florida International and Louisiana Tech in a pair of routs.
l after Reesing threw an interception with less than a minute left.
``The running game obviously is not where we want it to be at this point in time,'' Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. ``We're behind in that area.''
Defensive schemes have played a role in Kansas' sagging ground game.
FIU and Louisiana Tech stacked the line to stop the run, all but daring the Jayhawks to pass. It didn't work too well - FIU lost by 30, Louisiana Tech by 29 as Reesing threw for 668 yards and six scores. But South Florida didn't take the same approach and Kansas still struggled, so there's obviously more to it than the defense.
Some of it is downfield blocking.
Mangino said he counted at least a half-dozen times where receivers or running backs didn't hold their blocks downfield, allowing defensive players to break loose for tackles, turning potentially long gains into short ones.
Kansas' receivers have been great at catching the ball. Now Mangino wants them to block, too.
``He got on us. He made his point,'' KU receiver Johnathan Wilson said. ``We understand what we have to do to get better. I expect us to start blocking better, starting this Saturday.''
gino said some of the veteran linemen have made just as many mistakes.
The running backs should take some of the blame, too, hesitating or dancing before hitting the holes, sometimes missing the creases and lanes altogether.
``Everyone has got to be better,'' Mangino said.
The inability to run the ball doesn't just affect the offense. The defense feels it, too, trotting back onto the field after the offense scores quickly or goes three-and-out.
The running game gives a team control, a chance to grind out yardage and establish physical dominance while taking time off the clock.
``Our run game is important,'' Mangino said. ``Can we live without it? Yeah, we could, but it goes to back to being in control of the game. Not just scoring points, but controlling the game and controlling the clock a little bit. Those are things that are important to having balance in your offense.''
Kansas doesn't have much time to turn it around.
After playing Sam Houston State on Saturday, the Jayhawks move into the conference schedule, which includes games against Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri this year.
M and caused power outages preventing them from practicing.
Mangino doesn't care. He just wants to see improvement, no matter who it's against.
``It starts with us,'' Mangino said. ``I'm not so much worried with Sam Houston State as much as I am the way we execute on offense. We're going to work on it and we're going to get it going.''
 

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