|No. 16 Kansas looks to kickstart ground game|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 02 October 2008 22:32|
The 16th-ranked Jayhawks do, in fact, run the football. Their ground game just seems invisible so far.
Kansas (3-1) is averaging just 119 yards rushing a game, on a paltry 3.4 yards per carry. The Jayhawks have been able to make do so far by relying largely on star quarterback Todd Reesing, but even teams in the high-flying Big 12 must show some semblance of a running attack.
That's why the Jayhawks, who open Big 12 play at Iowa State (2-2) on Saturday, spent their bye week trying to shore up a lagging ground game.
``Practices were long and they were tough. We pushed ourselves to the limits and tried to do whatever we could to get the running game going,'' Kansas running back Angus Quigley said. ``We knew we had to get better. We are nowhere near where we need to be.''
ayhawks ran the ball more than they threw it, and averaged 4.8 yards a carry doing so. Since-departed tailback Brandon McAnderson took much-needed pressure off of Reesing, rushing for 1,135 yards, and the Jayhawks are still looking for someone to fill that void.
That role now belongs to Quigley, who started in place of Jake Sharp last week and will do so again Saturday. Of course, a strong running game is as much a product of the offensive line as anything else, and coach Mark Mangino believes the extra week of practice helped there as well.
``I feel good about our backs. I feel that they have a better understanding of what is going on. I think we have cleaned some things up here and there to help them out,'' Mangino said. ``But more than anything, the offensive line has improved and has to continue to improve.''
Kansas likely won't have a better chance to get their running game going than against the Cyclones, who rank 10th in the Big 12 in rushing defense and are allowing a league-high 5.3 yards per carry.
But those that think the Cyclones are the same woeful outfit won three Big 12 games in the past two seasons might be in for a surprise. Though Iowa State has dropped its last two, road losses at Iowa and UNLV, the Cyclones have looked more in synch in their second season under coach Gene Chizik.
, forcing 13. Quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates have proven to be a solid 1-2 punch, completing 60 percent of their passes with 256 yards rushing.
The Cyclones have their own issues running the ball, as none of their top three tailbacks; Alexander Robinson, J.J. Bass and Jason Scales, are averaging more than 3.5 yards per carry. But in losing an overtime heartbreak at UNLV, Chizik saw glimpses of the team he believes Iowa State can become.
The Cyclones fell behind 21-0 against a Rebels squad fresh off a huge win at Arizona State. Iowa State rallied with 28 second-half points and forced overtime on a 28-yard TD pass from Arnaud with 3 seconds left in regulation.
``The second half was the way we envisioned playing football for 60 minutes,'' Chizik said. ``You can build on scoring 28 points in a half. You can build on having 300 yards of offense in a half.''
The Cyclones might have to do that in both halves if they want to keep up with Kansas. The Jayhawks have outscored Iowa State 86-17 in their last two meetings, and Reesing threw for 253 yards and four touchdowns in just three quarters during last year's rout.
``We have to score 30 to 40 points to win this game because Kansas is going to score at will. It's one of those teams where, if you don't score early, the points are going to start piling up,'' Arnaud said. ``They know how to score.''