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Game Scout: Texas Tech at Kansas

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 10/5/13

SITE: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan.

TV: FOX Sports 1

SERIES: Kansas is 1-13 against Texas Tech. The lone win for the Jayhawks in the series came in 2001, when they managed a 34-31 overtime upset in Lubbock in Terry Allen's last season as coach. Charlie Weis is the third Kansas coach since then. The Jayhawks have lost 14 straight to Texas teams since a 2009 win at UTEP, which is also their last road victory.

RANKINGS: Texas Tech No. 20, Kansas unranked

KEYS TO THE GAME

Kansas found an interesting way to spend its off week. The Jayhawks went full throttle in practice.

"We beat the heck out of them for three days. We went full pads every day," said coach Charlie Weis. "Most people get some rest during that week. That wasn't our deal.

"We scrimmaged at full speed, which means take them to the ground. The quarterbacks were live, and we were trying to get physically tougher on both lines of scrimmage."

Hey, when you're a coach trying to revive a program as moribund as Kansas, you resort to anything. The Jayhawks (2-1) play their Big 12 opener on Oct. 5 against the most surprising team in the conference to date, Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0).

Kansas is at least coming off a win as it tries to snap a 21-game losing streak in Big 12 play. The 13-10 victory against Louisiana Tech required a fumble recovery near the goal line and a field goal on the game's last play, but the Jayhawks made those plays to carry some momentum into the bye week.

Yet surprisingly, the Jayhawks were instructed to hit some more.

"There's no better way to get used to playing more physical than when you're going full speed," Weis said.

One position group Weis watched intently was the offensive line. Eight linemen got into the rotation used in the Louisiana Tech win. Practices again involved some shuffling, which was designed to improve communication in game-like conditions.

The line is part of the ongoing development designed to make the Kansas offense more effective. Despite playing a soft non-conference schedule, the Jayhawks rank ninth in the Big 12 in total offense, averaging 352 yards per game with just seven touchdowns. Their passing attack, headed by quarterback Jake Heaps, is the least efficient in the league, averaging just 186.3 yards with four interceptions against three touchdowns.

Heaps completed more passes (28) in the Louisiana Tech victory than he managed in the first two games, but he has not really developed any familiar connections with his wide receivers.

Justin McCay, an Oklahoma transfer, often hooked up with Heaps during their work a year ago on the scout squad. They even hooked up nine times in the Jayhawks' spring game, but so far, McCay has two catches for 12 yards. Tony Pierson, a slotback, leads Kansas with 15 receptions for 209 yards.

The run game remains the Jayhawks' biggest threat offensively. James Sims has the bulk of the carries (55) for 281 yards and a 5.1-yard average.

Texas Tech, under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, surprised TCU 20-10 in their Big 12 opener on Sept. 12. Kingsbury announced that quarterback Baker Mayfield, a true freshman walk-on, will continue to fill the starting role, though another true freshman, Davis Webb, entered early in a Sept. 28 victory against Texas State. Michael Brewer, the presumed starter going into fall camp, continues to deal with a back injury, though the sophomore is expected to engage in some drills at practice.

"Obviously they are throwing for a lot of touchdowns, so it doesn't make a difference who they are putting out there," said Weis, whose defense was not truly tested during non-conference play.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jayhawks

--FL Tony Pierson was moved into the slot this season to capitalize on his speed and allow him to do a mixture of things. The former running back leads the Jayhawks with 15 receptions for 209 yards and also gets the ball occasionally on running plays.

--RB James Sims is as dependable as anyone on the Kansas offense. His vision and strength as a rusher should enable the Jayhawks to eventually set up the pass as long as QB Jake Heaps can get on the same page with his receivers. Sims averages 5.1 yards per carry and ranks second in the Big 12 with a 93.7-yard average per game.

--LB Ben Heeney leads all Big 12 tacklers with a 10.7 per-game average. He helps the Jayhawks in coverage and can also reach quarterbacks on blitzes, recording two sacks in the first three games. He will be used in both roles trying to solve the spread attack Texas Tech presents in an Oct. 5 matchup.

Red Raiders

--Senior WR Eric Ward threw a touchdown pass to give Texas Tech the overtime victory over Kansas last year. He has 20 receptions for 221 yards in Tech's four games.

--Junior RB Kenny Williams was Tech's leading rusher in 2012 with 824 yards, but he has yet to get cranked up this time around. He has rushed for only 76 yards on 29 carries, a 2.6 per-carry average that is less than half his 5.8 mark of last year.

--Senior DE Kerry Hyder has the ability to get into an opponent's backfield. He leads the Red Raiders and is tied for fourth the Big 12 in tackles for loss with five.

--Senior LB Terrance Bullitt is among the leaders in the Big 12 in passes defended with six breakups, but he has yet to get his first career interception. He has two sacks among his 16 tackles.
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