KU vs. NMSU Today

After KU suffered the heartbreak of losing to North Dakota State in the season opener, the thrill of stunning then-No. 15 Georgia Tech, and then the pain of losing a 31-16 battle at Southern Mississippi last weekend, the Jayhawks hope to end the nonconference season on a high note with a victory over New Mexico State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. (CT) on Fox College Sports.

While Kansas (1-2) didn't execute well in its loss to Southern Miss, KU head coach Turner Gill was pleased with how his team competed in its first road game and the fact the Jayhawks didn't commit any turnovers.

But Gill knows his team must improve in its final nonconference game before the Jayhawks open Big 12 play on Oct. 2 at Baylor.

"We want to make sure that we are showing consistency," Gill said. "The thing I am looking at more specifically offensively, I am looking for more cohesiveness out of our play calling and also just the way that we are executing.
 
"Defensively, I am looking for them to play more physical and to be more consistent with their passion of the game. Like they did with Georgia Tech, we have to have some more consistency game after game, week after week, and hopefully as we go along year after year."

And on special teams, Gill stressed KU "must win every phase in the game. We have to be excellent in that phase. We need to start making sure that the special teams is not an area where we are not productive."

KU is facing a New Mexico State team (0-2) which has lost nine straight games and seven consecutive road games. The Aggies have struggled in their first two games this year, losing their season opener at home to San Diego State, 41-21, and then were crushed at UTEP, 42-10, last Saturday. New Mexico State, which went 3-10 last season, is giving up 529 yards of total offense per game.

On a bright note, NMSU quarterback Matt Christian has passed for at least 200 yards in each of the two games, while wide receiver Marcus Allen has come up big with nine catches for 179 yards. He ranks third in the WAC and No. 29 nationally in reception yards per game.

Allen is not the Aggies' only receiving threat. Tight end Kyle Nelson is second on the team with nine catches for 58 yards, while Todd Lee has caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. New Mexico State has completed 38 passes to eight different receivers for 423 yards and two touchdowns this season.

On defense, the Aggies are led by senior defensive back Davon House, one of the top defenders in the nation. House ranks second in the WAC and No. 15 nationally in passes defended with three.

Despite their 0-2 record, Gill expects a tough battle Saturday night from the pass-oriented Aggies.. He likes NMSU's personnel.

"Matt Christian shows some good skills," Gill said. "I like his arm, it sounds like he can put the ball from point A to point B in a quick manner. I think he's done some good things there. They really haven't had a whole lot of sacks. That tells me that one, scheme-wise, they actually get rid of the football and number two, they are able to protect."

The Jayhawks' offensive line certainly needs to do a better job of protecting redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb. The Jayhawks are last in the Big 12 in sacks against this season with 12 for 71 yards.

KU's offense has struggled early, ranking last in the Big 12 in scoring offense (15.7 ppg) and last in total offense (295.7).

"We have to do a better job on every phase of our offensive side," Gill said. "It is still a maturity issue. It is not going to happen overnight and it is probably going to take a little longer than I probably would have liked for it to happen, but that is life and that is football. (However), we expect for it to get cleaned up real quick."

Kansas hopes for a strong offensive outing against the Aggies. Sophomore receiver Bradley McDougald likes KU's offensive potential.

"I think we can be very good," McDougald said. "We showed glimpses of that against Georgia Tech but we still had some errors and missed assignments out there in that game, and we were still young as an offense and still figuring each other out a little bit. But come game four and come conference play, I think we'll be showing many more improvements and shocking many more people."

KU's defense must also improve, especially its pass rush. The Jayhawks have just three sacks this season, tied for last in the Big 12. They'll need to do better Saturday and apply pressure on Christian.

"Obviously their strengths are passing," senior defensive end Jake Laptad said. "They are a big passing team so it will be a big test for the front four, getting pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush. It is a lot of stand in the pocket. The quarterback gets rid of the ball fast, so it will be up to the defensive linemen to put pressure on him."
 
Kansas feels a sense of urgency as it prepares for its final nonconference battle. The ‘Hawks know a big win will be a momentum booster heading into Big 12 play.

"I think we will (get some momentum)," Webb said "We definitely want to get back up to where we were at the Georgia Tech week and I think if we keep working hard we're definitely going to. We're going to be really focused."

Note: The American Football Coaches Association has designated Saturday as "Coach-to-Cure" to support awareness for muscular dystrophy. Gill and coaches throughout America will wear a Coach-to-Cure MD logo patch during games Saturday in support of the cause.

This is the third straight year college football coaches nationwide have joined together in support of the Coach-to-Cure MD program. This effort has helped raised more than half a million dollars to battle Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

College football fans will be asked to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S.. focused entirely on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Football fans can donate to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research by either going online  to www.CoachtoCureMD.org or by texting the word CURE to 90999. A $5 donation will automatically be added to your next phone bill.

In a AFCA media release, the organization states that "Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed during childhood and primarily affects boys across all races and cultures. Boys and young men with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy develop progressive muscle weakness that eventually causes loss of mobility, wheelchair dependency and a decline in respiratory and cardiac function. Currently, there is no cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and limited therapeutic options exist."

"Coach to Cure MD is a tremendous cause for the sport of college football," said Grant Teaff, executive director of the AFCA and legendary former coach at Baylor University. "The coaches' support during the last two seasons has been outstanding, and we aim for even more success this year. The AFCA is proud to be involved in such an important effort."

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