On the Road in Ames

Kansas football has certainly seen better days. The Jayhawks have been crushed by a combined score of 159-24 the last three Big 12 games, while KU fans are leaving games early in droves and heading to the bars. Crimson and blue followers have seem to all but given up on the 2-5 Jayhawks as they look forward to the new basketball season.

But after KU's most recent 45-10 loss to Texas A&M last Saturday in Lawrence, first-year Kansas coach Turner Gill remains optimistic and continues to look on the bright side as his team heads to Ames today for a 1 p.m. (CT) showdown with the Iowa State Cyclones (4-4, 2-2 Big 12) at Jack Trice Stadium.

"I saw a great effort by our players," Gill said Tuesday regarding KU's loss to the Aggies. "I saw great energy by our players. We did have some better execution, but as we all know we have to do a better job of taking care of the football."

Indeed, redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb threw two interceptions, one at the A&M goal line in the second quarter with KU trailing 24-10.

Webb is doubtful for the Iowa State game with a shoulder injury, while backup Kale Pick is out with a concussion. That means third-string junior college transfer Quinn Mecham will start at QB. He saw his first action as a Jayhawk versus A&M, attempting one errant pass and rushing once for minus-four yards.

Mecham has great potential, completing 202 of 323 passes for 3,091 yards, 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a sophomore at Snow Junior College in Utah.

He's certainly looking forward to his chance to start.

"It's an opportunity to go out and help the team and try and get us a win." Mecham said.

Gill has noticed his enthusiasm.

"He's got a smile on his face and he's ready to go," Gill said.

And what does Mecham do best?
 
"I like the way he gets the ball out," Gill said. "I think he can get the ball out fairly quickly, and make quick decisions."

Mecham must produce today for the Jayhawks to beat ISU, which is coming off one of its biggest wins in school history last Saturday, a 28-21 shocker over then-No. 22 Texas in Austin. It was Iowa State's first win over a ranked opponent on the road since 1990 and the first win ever against the Longhorns.

The Cyclones, who had allowed 120 points the previous two games against Oklahoma and Utah, forced four turnovers by Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert. ISU's Austen Arnaud passed for two touchdowns, while Alexander Robinson rushed for 120 yards and two TDs.

Gill knows it will be a tough challenge in Ames facing the Cyclones' one-two offensive punch in Arnaud and Robinson.

"Austen Arnaud is a very, very good football player," Gill said. "He has three years of experience. That's one of the biggest things he's got going for him – he's played quite a bit of football. He can throw and he can run. Their running back Alexander Robinson is a guy who has really come on strong. He's one of the better guys in our conference."

KU hopes to put pressure on Arnaud with its pass rush. KU's two sacks against the Aggies marked the first time it has recorded multiple sacks in a game since the Texas game last season.

"We just have to put some pressure on him and make him nervous quick," junior defensive tackle Richard Johnson said. "We've watched (some) film of him and he's a good athlete. We've just got to get after him."

The Jayhawks know Iowa State is on an uptick after its big win over Texas.

"I was shocked, but that just proves that in college football everything can happen," Johnson said. "It shows that the Big 12 is good. Everybody is competitive right now, so everybody is coming into every game prepared to win."

And you can bet KU is coming to Ames prepared to win. The Jayhawks, who have lost 10 straight Big 12 games, remain optimistic just like their positive head coach.

"We have five more games left, and you can't give up, we have to believe – that is our mission statement," redshirt freshman receiver Christian Matthews said. "If you don't believe, you shouldn't be on the team. I think we can win these next five games. I'd be a coward if I didn't believe that."

Notes:

  • Kansas will be without redshirt freshman running back Deshaun Sands and sophomore receiver/kick returner D.J. Beshears, who have been suspended for the game for violating team rules.
  • Matthews will likely serve as Mecham's backup if Webb is not ready to play.
  • Starting defensive tackle Patrick Dorsey is doubtful after recovering from a concussion.
  • KU has won five straight games over ISU.

Despite losing three straight blowouts, Gill firmly believes the program is on the right track.

"As we continue to build this football program, our fans are going to see speed, they're going to see athleticism, they're also going to see people playing with a great passion," Gill said. "We are very, very confident that we will come through here and have a winning program on a consistent basis and that's why we chose to come here."

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