Scouting the Jayhawks

Colorado will have its best opportunity of the season to earn a road win at Kansas on Saturday.

INSIDE SLANT

Kansas coach Turner Gill still knows where he can turn for both advice and consolation.

He has the phone number for Tom Osborne, and he placed a call to the legendary Nebraska coach recently.

"I told Turner that football people understand what's going on," Osborne, who now serves as Nebraska's athletic director, told the Des Moines Register. "People assume you can superimpose a coaching staff on a bunch of players, and all of a sudden you're going to be successful."

That assumption has hardly worked out thus far at Kansas. The Jayhawks are 2-6 overall and 0-4 in the Big 12 in Gill's first season, though a ray of hope exists on Nov. 6. That's when Kansas plays host to the only other team winless in Big 12 play, Colorado (3-5, 0-4). The assumption that's created among those who follow the Buffaloes is that fifth-year coach Dan Hawkins is on his way out.

No such move will be made at Kansas, though a search is ongoing for a new athletic director after Lew Perkins, the man who hired Gill, abruptly resigned two days after the Jayhawks' season-opening loss to North Dakota State.

Although she declined to be interviewed about Gill because she did not wish to address performance issues, Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement to the Topeka Capital-Journal that Gill was "exactly who we need leading our football program during this time of transition and into the future."

The Jayhawks were more competitive in their last outing, a 28-16 loss at Iowa State on Oct. 30. Three first-half field goals staked Kansas to a 9-7 halftime lead. But the Jayhawks, with third-string quarterback Quinn Mecham playing because of injuries, did not score again until the final seconds.

Starting quarterback Jordan Webb, who suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in an Oct. 23 loss against Texas A&M, will be evaluated before a decision is made on his status for the Colorado game. Backup QB Kale Pick (concussion) probably will be available.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, as well as Ray Evans, the chair of the search committee examining candidates for athletic director, told the Topeka Capital-Journal that an immediate coaching change would not be made once the next AD is hired. As for his own take on the issue, first-year coach Turner Gill said, "I have confidence in the administration that whoever they end up hiring, they're going to give us an opportunity to build this winning program."

--No formal timetable has been established for the hiring of an athletic director to replace Lew Perkins, though a short list of candidates could be presented to Gray-Little before the end of the year. The search has been nicknamed, "Operation Restoring Trust," Evans said, because of a recent ticket scandal at Kansas, as well as excesses granted to Perkins during his tenure.

--The streak of 11 consecutive Big 12 defeats began with a 34-30 loss at Colorado last season. The league skid is the longest for Kansas since the 2001 and '02 teams lost 14 in a row under two separate coaches, Terry Allen and Mark Mangino.

SERIES HISTORY: Colorado leads 42-24-3 (last meeting, 2009, Colorado, 34-30).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Kansas changed its focus, and mind-set, and ran more powerfully in the Oct. 30 loss at Iowa State. The results were somewhat encouraging, as RB Angus Quigley and RB James Sims combined to rush for 129 yards on 33 carries. If Kansas can build on its ground game, the opportunity exists to hold the football longer and keep opposing offenses off the field. That keeps a weary defense fresher and enables the Jayhawks to keep the score closer, which they did at Iowa State after getting outscored 159-24 in their first three Big 12 games.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The pass rush is beginning to take shape for the Jayhawks after they needed to blitz early in the year to generate much pressure. Four of their eight quarterback sacks have come in the last two games, with DE Jake Laptad and DT Richard Johnson coming off good games against Iowa State. Some additional push up front will be necessary in future weeks, though the game against Colorado offers an opportunity to match up against another team that's struggling.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We did a good job of running the football (at Iowa State). Things went well. (They) obviously didn't go well enough for us to get a W, but I thought we made some progress." -- Kansas coach Turner Gill.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Colorado at Kansas, Nov. 6 -- Something must give when the two Big 12 teams still winless in conference play collide. Between them, the Buffaloes and Jayhawks rank last in 25 of the 32 statistical categories kept by the Big 12. Although criticism has been leveled at first-year Kansas coach Turner Gill, he's not under as much fire as Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. Speculation is building again for the probable removal of the fifth-year coach. With Colorado headed to the Pac-10 next season, this will be the last meeting for the foreseeable future. The series has been played continuously for 63 years.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Early in the week, Kansas was still uncertain about its starting quarterback with Jordan Webb and Kale Pick coming off injuries that kept them out of the Oct. 30 loss at Iowa State. QB Quinn Mecham, a junior-college transfer, took over and completed 22 of 33 passes for 149 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. The Jayhawks sputtered in the second half after three field goals staked them to a 9-7 halftime lead. The performance was encouraging, because the defense was more respectable and a lead was generated. It should provide confidence heading into a matchup against a struggling opponent Kansas can beat. RB Rodney Stewart is a consistent threat on the ground for the Buffs, who have also turned to a backup quarterback, Cody Hawkins. Injuries have depleted the Colorado defense, which permitted 1,607 yards in the last three games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

P Alonso Rojas -- Used extensively by the sputtering Jayhawks, Rojas has punts of 70-plus yards in each of the last two games. He also has placed a punt inside the 20-yard line in each game, with just one touchback in the last five games.

RB James Sims -- He recorded his first career touchdown catch at Iowa State while also rushing for 60 yards on 19 carries. He remains Kansas' rushing leader with 375 yards.

DT Richard Johnson -- He was in on a career-best seven tackles, including a sack, against Iowa State. He leads Kansas defensive linemen with 30 stops after recording five tackles or more in four of the past five games.

ROSTER REPORT:

--QB Jordan Webb (strained shoulder) will be evaluated throughout the week before a decision is made on his status for the Colorado game.

--QB Kale Pick is expected to be available after sitting out the Oct. 30 game at Iowa State with a concussion suffered Oct. 23 against Texas A&M.

--WR/RB D.J. Beshears will return after serving a one-game suspension that kept him out against Iowa State. The versatile Beshears is the back the Jayhawks use when running the Wildcat formation.


BuffStampede Top Stories