Despite getting off to another strong start, Kansas would like to see some improvement in its running game. Facing Iowa State could help make that happen.
The 16th-ranked Jayhawks look for their fourth consecutive victory over the host Cyclones as the schools open Big 12 play Saturday afternoon.
Last year during an improbable 12-1 season that culminated in an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, Kansas (3-1) averaged 188.8 yards on the ground, including four straight over 200 to open 2007.
With 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago Brandon McAnderson gone, the Jayhawks are averaging 119.0 rushing yards through four games and hope to build off their 161-yard ground effort in a 38-14 win over Sam Houston State on Sept. 20 in their most recent contest.
Running backs Angus Quigley and Jocques Crawford combined for 104 yards and each rushed for a touchdown in the victory over the Bearkats. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound Quigley has a team-leading 214 yards on 40 carries.
“I feel good about our backs,” said Kansas coach Mark Mangino, whose team was held to 61 rushing yards in a 37-34 loss at then-No. 19 South Florida on Sept. 12. “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, but more than anything, the offensive line has improved and has to continue to improve.”
Kansas has a chance to break out on the ground against Iowa State (2-2), which allowed 151 rushing yards in its most recent contest, a 34-31 overtime loss to UNLV on Sept. 20. The Cyclones rank 95th in the nation yielding 187.5 yards rushing.
If the running game is to stall Saturday, however, the Jayhawks can always ride the arm of junior Todd Reesing, who was 23-for-38 for 356 yards and two touchdowns, with one each to receivers Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, who combined for 260 yards.
Reesing, who threw for 3,486 yards and 33 TDs last season, has thrown for 1,405 yards and 11 TDs already this season and expects to have the Jayhawks’ 2007 reception leader Dexton Fields back after missing three games with a foot injury.
“He is a guy who has a lot of experience,” Reesing said of Fields, who caught 63 passes and eight TDs in 2007. “He is the most experienced wide out we have. He knows how to get open, blocks well and provides some leadership, so having him back is going to be a big help for us on offense.”
Reesing was 21-for-26 for 253 yards and four touchdowns during a 45-7 rout of Iowa State last season. Fields caught 11 balls for 109 yards two TDs in that contest.
The Jayhawks look to win their second straight conference opener as they begin league play on the road for the fourth straight season. After this contest, Kansas faces a tough stretch that includes a home game versus Colorado, a trip to No. 1 Oklahoma and a visit from No. 7 Texas Tech.
Iowa State, which hasn’t beat Kansas since winning 13-7 at Lawrence on Nov. 30, 2004, fought back from a 21-0 deficit to force overtime as sophomore Austen Arnaud threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more.
“There were times we played well and times we played really poor,” Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said. “We were very sporadic on both sides of the ball. I am not happy with either one of them.”
Though the Cyclones have won four straight at home, they have lost eight in a row against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 22 Colorado 30-16 on Nov. 12, 2005.
Kansas leads the series versus Iowa State 47-34-6.