The Red Raiders (4-0) hit the road again after three straight home games to face the Kansas Jayhawks (2-1) in Lawrence, Kan. Saturday’s game is the conference opener for Kansas and Tech’s first Big 12 away game of the season.
The Jayhawks, coming off a last-second home win over Louisiana Tech, ride all kinds of moment into this contest. Especially for a program like Kanas, wins like that are huge for morale and chemistry. Kansas still lacks the kind of weapons needed for a competitive Big 12 team, but don’t underestimate how much they’ve improved on all sides of the ball. After bringing in the best class of junior college recruits in the country this year, head coach Charlie Weis almost certainly wants to compete immediately in conference. Whether or not that will happen could be decided this weekend.
|Jake Heaps||3||105.07||51-94-4||54.26 %||546||3||77||182.00|
A lot was expected out of BYU transfer Jake Heaps, who has thus far failed to produce. Part of the problem may be with the wide receivers, none of whom have more than 10 catches. The leading receiver for the Jayhawks is running back Tony Pierson, whom you may remember from last year’s game in Lubbock when he ran for 202 yards on just 16 carries. While the very talented James Sims leads the team in rushing with 294 yards, Pierson is, by far, Kansas’ most dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands. He’s hard to tackle, he’s fast and he can lineup anywhere.
The Kansas defense and kick coverage unit are definitely the most improved groups on this football team. They haven’t played great competition, except maybe Rice, but right now the Jayhawks only give up 366 yards and 15 points per game. Even against Rice they only gave up one offensive touchdown. The most yardage given up came against Louisiana Tech with 406, though Kansas held the Bulldogs to just 10 points thanks to a few lucky breaks. As for kick returners, the Jayhawks coverage units allow less than 20 yards per kickoff return and a mere three yards per punt return, so don’t expect much from Jakeem Grant or SaDale Foster in the return game.
Kansas is still Kansas; they are by no means a good team. They are, however, an improved team coming off an emotional win at home. Whether or not that helps or hurts them in this game is largely dependent on coaching. But if the game this year goes into overtime again, the Jayhawks likely have a lot more confidence in their closing ability.