In front of a crowd of more than 42,000 people and a representative from the Fiesta Bowl, the Jayhawks accounted for 615 yards and touchdowns from the offense, defense and special teams. The yardage mark was good enough for the second-best performance in Kansas history.
“No question we accomplished a lot of the goals that we set for ourselves in non-conference,” said Kansas coach Mark Mangino. “Number one is to win, and we accomplished that.
“Like I’ve said all along, there’s a lot of people that were supposed to be 4-0 that aren’t,” Mangino said. “Bottom line is we are, and we have to get ready for conference play.”
It didn’t take Kansas long to find the scoreboard. After FIU went three-and-out, Raymond Brown broke through the line to block the Chris Cook punt, and Dakota Lewis won the ensuing scramble for the ball to put Kansas up 7-0.
The Jayhawks scored again on their second drive, this time on a 30-yard field goal by Scott Webb.
But FIU made it a one-score game on its next drive. The Golden Panthers used a 29-yard pass from Wayne Younger to Jason Frierson and a Kendall Berry 22-yard run to set up a Chris Abed 42-yard field goal.
“(Younger) was like having a wide receiver back there, man,” said James McClinton, Kansas defensive tackle. “I had him two, three, four times. He was tough.”
Kansas responded a couple drives later, when Reesing dove between two defenders for a nine-yard score. Webb chipped in another field goal, this time a 37-yarder. The Jayhawks took a 20-3 advantage into the half.
That margin would more than double in the third quarter. The blitzkrieg started when Todd Reesing hit Derek Fine for a 19-yard touchdown. Two plays later, FIU running back A’mod Ned was stripped by John Larson and Mike Rivera fell on the ball at the FIU 33. Reesing then hit Marcus Henry for 31 yards to the one, and Jake Sharp took it in from there for a 34-3 lead.
The Jayhawks scored again before the end of the quarter when Brandon McAnderson broke a 23-yard touchdown run.
Aqib Talib added the highlight of the day about two minutes into the fourth quarter. He leapt in the end zone and intercepted a Younger pass. But it was what happened after the catch that was impressive. Talib sprinted up the sideline, then cut back across the field and into the end zone. The end result was a 100-yard return, the longest interception return in Kansas history.
“That’s one of the best plays I’ve seen from a defensive performer in my career,” Mangino said. “For the people that were in the stadium tonight, they got to see a real treat. It was an awesome play, and you don’t get to see that every day.”
Should Talib have downed it?
“It depends how deep in the end zone they are,” Mangino said. “And the guy wearing number three out there for us tonight, he can run it out any time he wants.”
Talib said he never thought about downing the ball.
“When I caught it, I said, ‘I gotta score’ … it was the best play I’ve made in my career,” Talib said. “I was gassed at the 40. But I made it. I made it.”
McAnderson scored his second touchdown of the night on a five yard run a few minutes later to round out the scoring.
Kansas showed a number of formations and tricks early on in the game, from the diamond formation that featured quarterback Kerry Meier as the backmost point to a play where Meier went into motion and received the option pitch from Todd Reesing. A bubble screen to Meier went for 15 yards, while Meier gained six yards on the run after the pitch.
“Kerry is too good of an athlete to spend all his time on the sideline,” Mangino said. “He will continue to play and grow into our program in a number of different roles. It will be on the field in the future.”
The next trick formation was almost the most successful. Reesing motioned out of the backfield to a wide receiver position, and center Ryan Cantrell snapped the ball to Brandon McAnderson, who burst 13 yards to daylight at the FIU seven before fumbling the ball into the arms of Lionell Singleton in the end zone for a touchback.
That would be one of several missed opportunities inside the FIU 30 for Kansas. The Jayhawks would lose another possession when McAnderson fumbled the ball at the FIU 23, and Reesing had his first pass intercepted on the year when Aqib Talib was hit and the ball popped into the air and was caught by Cory Fleming in the end zone.
“I kind of got alligator arms, because I felt (the hit) coming,” Talib said. “I turned before I caught the ball, and he was able to put a good hit on me.”
“I went over to Todd and told him sorry,” Talib said. “That was the first thing I did. I broke the streak.”
Kansas also lost the ball on downs at the FIU 24.
Reesing passed the 300-yard mark shortly into the third quarter and finished 24 of 37 for 368 yards and a touchdown through the air, and ran for 47 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, McAnderson rebounded from his two fumbles to lead Kansas with 105 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
“That’s the key thing, he bounced back,” Mangino said. “(The fumbles) were uncharacteristic of Brandon, and it’s unfortunate.
“The next play is the most important one,” Mangino said. “And Brandon responded.”
Sharp ran for 42 yards and added another 46 yards receiving. Dexton Fields, Derek Fine and Dezmon Briscoe were the main receiving threats for Kansas with 77, 70 and 53 yards respectively.
The defense also came alive, forcing five turnovers and harassing Younger into 16-33 through the air. Joe Mortensen paced the Jayhawks with 13 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, and a forced fumble, while Rivera and Holt combined for another 17 tackles and 3.5 in the backfield. Talib and Justin Thornton each had an interception.
“I told Aqib he had to make (the interception) up to me,” Reesing said. “The return was nice, but I’m still disappointed in the interception.”
“I think this team has a chance to be very good,” Mangino said. “I know people judge by scores, and that’s the right way to do it. I think we have some things that we need to work on … but I think we have a chance to be a good football team.”
The Jayhawks have a bye week next week before facing off against the Kansas State Wildcats in two weeks in Manhattan.
KU – Dakota Lewis blocked punt recovery in end zone (Scott Webb kick), 12:56 1Q
KU – Webb 30 FG, 8:23 1Q
FIU – Chris Abed 42 FG, 5:31 1Q
KU – Todd Reesing 9 run (Webb kick), 8:33 2Q
KU – Webb 37 FG, 4:27 2Q
KU – Derek Fine 19 pass from Reesing (Webb kick), 9:46 3Q
KU – Jake Sharp 1 run (Webb kick), 8:38 3Q
KU – Brandon McAnderson 23 run (Webb kick), 1:03 3Q
KU – Aqib Talib 100 interception return (Webb kick), 12:54 4Q
KU – McAnderson 5 run (Webb kick), 9:19 4Q