The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Kansas (2-0) is returning to the Sunshine State for the first time
since it’s victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in
Miami last January. The Jayhawks, who won four straight road games last
year (all in Big 12), have not beat a non-conference team on the road
since Sept. 13, 2003 (42-35 victory over Wyoming).
South Florida, which went 9-4 last season and earned a Sun Bowl berth,
is certainly in a different league than that Wyoming team five years
“We play a very good, ranked South Florida team,”
Mangino said of the 2-0 Bulls, who climbed as high as No.2 in the polls
last season. “They feature an outstanding quarterback (Matt
Growthe) who throws the ball very well, yet also runs the ball very
well in a designed run game. They have various plays that are designed
for the quarterback to carry the football in the same fashion that a
tailback would carry the ball.
“Defensively, they are very good. They have some outstanding
defensive players, including George Selvie, who is probably recognized
as one of the top defensive ends in college football.”
“It will be a big challenge because it is our first road game
of the year and you are always anxious to play well in your first road
game to set the tempo,” Mangino added. “I feel very
good about our preparation.”
Mangino feels good despite having to work extra hours to prepare for
the Friday night matchup. This is just the second non-Saturday
regular-season game in the Mangino era. KU lost in double overtime at
Toledo, 37-31 in 2006.
While Mangino isn’t crazy about playing on Friday night, he
said the national exposure was too good to pass up.
“We have to take opportunities as they come,” he
The Jayhawks will indeed have to take advantage of their opportunities
to knock off the Bulls. KU scored just one touchdown in five times in
the red zone in its 29-0 victory over Louisiana Tech last Saturday,
although the ‘Hawks did manage three field goals.
On defense, Kansas must contain Growthe, who USF is touting as a
Heisman Trophy candidate. Growthe is the fourth-leading rusher in
school history and the third-leading quarterback rusher in Big East
Growthe, who has 7,255 yards of total offense and 19 rushing touchdowns
in his career, is coming off a stellar game in the Bulls’
31-24 overtime victory over UCF (Central Florida) last Saturday, where
he passed for 346 yards and amassed 400 yards of total offense,
accounting for all but 104 of USF’s yardage.
While Growthe is the offensive star, Selvie (6-4, 245 pounds) rules on
defense. He is a preseason consensus All-American who came just a half
tackle shy last season of breaking the NCAA single-season record for
tackles for loss with 31.5. He also finished second in the nation in
“He is awfully talented and a really good football player,
but we feel pretty good in our matchup,” Mangino said.
“We aren’t going to spend the whole night focusing
on George Selvie. When you focus on one aspect of a team’s
defense, if they have enough good players, they will hurt you somewhere
else. You want to do some things to keep Selvie from having a major
impact on your offense, however there are so many other quality
football players out there that you can’t just focus on one
Senior Tyrone McKenzie is one of those players and arguably the most
underrated linebacker in the country. He’s tied for team lead
with 12 tackles and leads the Bulls with three tackles for loss.
Through two games, USF ranks No.1 in the country in total defense,
giving up just 161.5 yards per game. Led by junior safety Nate Allen,
the Bulls have an especially impressive pass defense, ranking fifth in
the nation and allowing just 94 yards per game.
The Bulls’ secondary will certainly be tested by KU
quarterback Todd Reesing and the Jayhawks’ high-flying aerial
tack. Reesing leads the country in completions per game (34.5) and is
coming off a standout performance against Louisiana Tech, where he
completed 32 of 38 passes for a career-high 412 yards.
While the passing game has been clicking, KU ranks just 76th in the
country in rushing with 127 yards per game. Junior backup Angus Quigley
leads the team with 131 rushing yards (6.2 yards per carry) while
junior Jake Sharp and junior college transfer Jocques Crawford have
struggled thus far. KU’s first two foes have tried to take
away the ‘Hawks running game.
But this matchup against USF could be different.
“There isn’t a lot we can do running the ball
against teams that are going to blitz their linebackers nearly every
down,” Crawford said. “From the scouting report
that we have seen so far they don’t seem like a team that
blitzes as much, so hopefully we are able to run the ball
Kansas will have to pull together without standout senior wide receiver
Dexton Fields, who will the miss his second straight game with an
injury. Starting senior cornerback Kendrick Harper likely
won’t play either after suffering a head-first collision
against Louisiana Tech.
The Jayhawks head into Friday night hoping to make a statement that
they belong among the nation’s elite in this nationally
“It is a big game for us to go play a ranked team like
ourselves and try to go on the road and win like we did last
year,” sophomore cornerback Chris Harris said.
“Everyone says we always play cupcakes so this is about
respect for us, playing a team that is ranked. We are going to try and
prove that we should be ranked higher.”
Mangino would certainly love to beat USF and move up in the rankings.
But he’s quick to point out this isn’t a make or
break game, and it certainly won’t define KU’s
“This early in the season, if we beat South Florida, I
can’t tell you after the game we’re going to cruise
through the rest of the season,” Mangino said. “And
if we don’t (win), I can’t tell you the season is
going to be a failure, because it won’t be. It’s
too early to say this is a huge game, or we have to win it, or this is
going to happen.”
Make no mistake, though, Mangino will know a lot more about his team
after playing the nationally ranked Bulls in Tampa. And you can bet a
KU victory on ESPN2 will capture the country’s attention and
feed the growing football fever in Lawrence and throughout the Jayhawk
KU at South Florida Tonight on ESPN2
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