So it should come as no surprise that the No. 19 Jayhawks (2-1) felt a bit testy this week heading into their 6 p.m. game tonight against Sam Houston State (1-0) at Memorial Stadium. The contest is a sellout and will be televised on Fox College Sports.
Kansas squandered a 20-3 lead in the first half to USF, giving up 31
unanswered points, including 17 points during a 10:31 stretch in the
third and fourth quarters. While sophomore quarterback Todd Reesing led
a valiant comeback and tied the game with two passing touchdowns,
Maikon Bonani kicked a 43-yard field goal at the buzzer to give USF the
"I think (the players) reacted the way I expected them to react, like a
good football team does,” Mangino said at his press
conference on Tuesday. “They are angry, they're mad and
that's the kind of reaction you are looking for. Sunday's practice
normally for us is kind of a correction day and a walk through. This
(Sunday) ended up in some real battles on the practice field. Guys were
knocking the crap out of each other and that's the way it ought to be.
If you don't like losing you have to do something about it."
KU is facing a Sam Houston State squad from the Southland Conference
which hasn’t fared well against NCAA Division I Bowl
Subdivision teams the last 21 years (2-21). The Bearcats, who
cruised past East Central, 58-14, in their home opener on Aug. 28, were
idle last week after their home contest with Prairie View A&M
was canceled due to Hurricane Ike.
This is the first matchup between KU and Sam Houston State, which
returns 12 starters from last season’s 7-4 team. The Bearkats
lost several key players from 2007, including three All-Conference
offensive linemen, two-time All-SLC selection David Branch (defensive
end), two all-conference safeties, and All-American tight end Blake
Senior star quarterback Rhett Bomar is back, though, in addition to
some other talented players. The OU transfer led the Southland and
ranked No. 8 nationally in total offense (290.6 yards per game) last
year. The Bearkats also feature some impressive receivers in seniors
Catron Houston (46 receptions for 597 yards in 2007) and Justin Wells
(42 catches for 660 yards). Junior running back James Aston is also an
offensive spark, rushing eight times for 115 yards and two touchdowns
against East Central.
On defense, the Bearkats return All-Conference defensive ends Eric Mikolajchak and Chris Brown, who recorded five of the
Bearkats’ 13 sacks last season. Undersized senior linebacker
Nolan Bucek (5-10, 202 pounds) also returns at linebacker; he led the
Southland in tackles in 2007 with 88 stops.
While Mangino respects Sam Houston State, he admits he focused more on
his own team this week and trying to correct mistakes against South Florida.
“As far as preparing for them, we only have one game that
they played this year,” Mangino said. “We have
watched some of last year’s games, but there’s not
a lot to know. They played a Division II school (East Central) that
wasn’t really a great deal of competition for them.
“What we’ve elected to do is prepare for Sam
Houston State, but also (used) this week to focus on getting our team
better, because there is such a limited amount of information about Sam
Of course, Mangino is familiar with Bomar.
“He's talented,” Mangino said. “He throws
the ball well, he runs the ball very well and he's got great speed.
And on defense, “they are scrappy type of kids, they play
Mangino expects KU to play scrappy and hard on Saturday. The Jayhawks
certainly have room to improve on both offense and defense.
KU’s rushing game was nonexistent against USF with only 61
yards, and the ‘Hawks gave up 25 first downs and 458 yards of
Mangino wants to see better blocking by KU’s offensive line
and wide receivers, and hopes his running backs can find the creases
and lanes better. Defensively, Mangino said “we did not play
up to our standards in a lot of areas” against USF.
“I think our defensive line has to play at pad level and do a
better job of taking care of gap responsibilities,” Mangino
said. “Our linebackers need to play gap responsibility, play
downhill. ...In the secondary we have to do a better job of zone reads,
closing to the football, contesting the ball in the air and playing
with balance with our feet underneath us."
Mangino said KU’s mistakes are all correctable.
The players are certainly hyped for game day and looking to rebound
after their loss to USF.
"We were angry we lost (and) disappointed,” said sophomore
wide receiver Jonathan Wilson, who had a career game versus USF with 10
catches for 171 yards.
“We are just looking to get better now because we have
something to prove."
KU wants to have a great game with a bye week coming up before
conference play begins at Iowa State on Oct. 4. Expect the Jayhawks to
turn up the heat and deliver some bone-crushing this evening.
“Losing stinks, everybody knows that,” said senior
defensive end John Larson. “We’ve always had a
pretty good work ethic, but the intensity and focus goes up that much
more. We’re learning from this loss.”
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