KU-A&M: Still unbeaten!
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The Kansas basketball team opens their season Tuesday with an exhibition game against Pittsburg State, but for perhaps the first time since James Naismith nailed up the peach baskets, the hoopsters won't be the talk of the town.
The Kansas football team withstood a late Texas A&M rally, including a couple of Hail Mary attempts, to pull off their 8th win of the season, 19-11.
The win puts Kansas at 8-0 for the first time since 1909. Yes, 1909!
"We've gone here at Kansas for the last five or six years where every time we turn around there's one of these milestones," admitted head coach Mark Mangino. "That's what happens sometimes at a place that hasn't had consistent winners over the last century. I'm proud that our kids have been able to do that, but we don't pay much attention to that. It not like we're trying to prove something. We're just trying to win."
The Jayhawks won this game with a defense that dominated the first three quarters and an offense that was uncharacteristically smashmouth.
"We knew we had to play the run well and we felt like in order for them to beat us, they had to throw the ball," said Mangino. "That's not their comfort zone."
Through three quarters, A&M's offense couldn't get close to their comfort zone, going scoreless while producing only 127 total yards. With the game scoreless in the second quarter, the KU defense produced its biggest play to snuff out A&M's only sustained drive of the first half. With A&M facing a 4th-and-1 at the KU 9, the Jayhawks stuffed 270-pound battering ram Jorvorskie Lane for a 2-yard loss.
"That's a big play," Mangino said. "Those kind of plays can take the wind out of you. Jorvorskie Lane is known to be able to pick up short, tough yardage and our kids made a big play. I thought our defense at that point really felt like we could stop their running game and force them into a passing game."
The play really did seem to take the wind out of the Aggie offense, as A&M went three-and-out on their final first half possession, then produced -9 yards of total offense in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, Kansas finally got its offense revved up after the break. QB Todd Reesing is normally the engine that makes the Jayhawks move, but tonight the running backs shined.
"They were going to come out and stop the pass," said Mangino. "They gave us some creases and our offensive line did a good job of moving them."
Running backs Jake Sharp and Brandon McAnderson combined to gash the Aggie defense for 249 yards. Anderson's two touchdown runs and two field goals by Scott Webb gave the Jayhawks a shocking 19-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Aggies tried to rally by giving up on a running game that produced only 74 yards, 200 below A&M's season average. QB Stephen McGee threw the ball 44 times on the night for 244 yards, and his 32-yard TD pass to Roger Holland actually made it a one-score game with 1:51 left.
Kansas, however, snuffed the rally by recovering an onside kick and later knocked down two desperation passes to send 85,000 Aggies home unhappy.
The win is the third hard-fought Big XII road win of the season for Kansas, which should convince the fans in Lawrence that, this season, there's no reason to turn their focus to basketball already.
"We haven't had as much success as our basketball team has had in the past, and we're trying to change that mentality," said QB Todd Reesing. "We want people to be just as excited about football as they are about basketball. With the way we're playing and how hard we're fighting every game, I think people in Lawrence are starting to see that. Going home next week, it's going to be really fun to see the fans really excited about this team."
Next Saturday at KU's Memorial Stadium, the Jayhawks will try to improve to 9-0 against once-mighty Nebraska. Yeah, I'd say that's something the fans in Lawrence can get excited about.
Star of the Game: Fullback Brandon McAnderson ran like a runaway bowling ball all night. The 235-pound senior had a career-best 183 yards on only 21 carries. He had four runs of at least 20 yards and scored two touchdowns, his fourth multiple TD game of the season.
Next up: Kansas hosts Nebraska. KU's 2005 win over Nebraska was the school's first win over the Huskers since 1968, so the Jayhawks still have more payback to dish out. Texas A&M heads to Norman to face Big XII South leader Oklahoma in what is probably a must-win for both the Aggies' conference title hopes and coach Dennis Franchione's job security.