“It’s for keeps in the conference,” KU coach Mark Mangino said.
Indeed, it is. The stakes are much bigger, the competition heats up,
the intensity rises, and every game counts. With KU’s mission
to win the Big 12 North and advance to the conference championship game
at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on Dec. 6, this is basically a must
win game for the Jayhawks.
After a bye week following its win over Sam Houston State on Sept. 20,
KU went back to work on fundamentals and got extra healing time for
injured starters Dexton Fields and Kendrick Harper. Fields,
KU’s leading receiver the last two seasons, and the senior
cornerback Harper are expected to play after sitting out the last three
and two games, respectively. Fields injured his foot in the season
opener versus FIU, while Harper suffered a head collision in game two
against Louisiana Tech.
Kansas (3-1) will need all its weapons against an improved Iowa State
(2-2) team. ISU, which went just 3-9 last season in head coach Gene
Chizik’s first year in Ames, is looking to rebound after
losing their last two road games to UNLV and Iowa. The Cyclones began
the season with homes wins over South Dakota State and Kent State.
Iowa State has won four straight home games, but Kansas has won four of
the last five meetings after the Cyclones won three three straight
games from 2000-2002.
The No. 16 Jayhawks must contain talented sophomore quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates. Arnaud has started all four games, completing
54 of 83 passes for 643 yards and four touchdowns. He’s also
rushed for four scores. Bates has seen action as well at QB,
leading the team in rushing with 166 yards while completing 11 of 24
passes for 137 yards.
ISU’s star receiving target is senior R.J. Sumrall,
who’s tied for eighth in Cyclones history with 114 career
On defense, the Cyclones are dangerous. They lead the Big 12 in
turnover margin, forcing 13 turnovers that have resulted in 43 Iowa
State points. ISU also boasts one of the premier defensive ends in the
conference in Kirk Taylor. He finished second in the Big 12 last season
in sacks, and is currently tied for No. 40 in the nation in tackles for
loss per game (1.25).
The Cyclones are also strong in the secondary; they rank No. 30 in the
nation in pass defense with holding opponents to 176 yards per game.
Senior cornerback Chris Singleton paces the team with 119 career
tackles and six interceptions.
Mangino has great respect for Iowa State.
“You can see that their program is starting to (do) really
good things in the run game and in the pass game,” Mangino
said. “Both (Arnaud and Bates) can beat you with their
athleticism, so you can’t take them lightly as far as their
ability to run the football. They have a lot of veteran guys on the
offensive line returning, which should be a strong suit for
Mangino knows the Jayhawks must take care of the ball and not allow
Iowa State to force turnovers and get easy scores in a short field, as
they’ve done so far this season.
“It is just good fundamental play that creates turnovers, but
sometimes it is ineptitude of the opponent. Either way they have done a
very good job with that,” Mangino said. “(They)
don’t take a lot of chances. They play sound, fundamental
football. They like to be in zone coverage as much as they can. They
are getting adequate pressure from the defensive front. Those are
probably the key reasons they have done well this year."
Mangino said the Cyclones’ defensive players are good
athletes with active linebackers and a weapon in Taylor who
“is one of the better defensive ends we will play.”
With the bye week, Mangino wanted his team to improve in such areas as
the run game. (KU is averaging just 119 rushing yards per game.) He
feels the Jayhawks had productive practices heading into
"I think we did get better at running the football this
week,” Mangino said. “I also think we got better at
blocking. We had a good week of fundamentals with offensive line play
and with the tight ends. I feel good about our backs. I feel that they
have a better understanding of what is going on. I think we have
cleaned some things up here and there to help them out, but more than
anything, the offensive line has improved.”
Mangino also expects his linebackers to improve. Led by talented
seniors Joe Mortenson, James Holt and Mike Rivera, the linebacking
corps was expected to be a strong suit this season. However,
they’ve struggled some and Rivera didn’t start the
last game versus Sam Houston State. He had started every game since his
sophomore season, and is the team’s career leading tackler.
“Mike understands what the challenges are. And I expect him
to respond in a positive manner,” Mangino said.
"There is no question that we can play better at that (linebacking)
position,” Mangino added. “We can run downhill a
lot better. We can do a lot better in our zone reads and pass defense.
Nobody understands better than they do that they can play
KU will surely be buoyed with the return of Fields and Harper. The
senior Fields strengthens a strong receiving corps, while Harper will
help shore up the Jayhawk secondary. Fields tied a school record with
11 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns in KU’s 45-7
victory over the Cyclones last season.
"Obviously since I haven't been playing I can't try to come back in and
try to take over the offense,” Fields said. “I am
just going to try and get myself acclimated on what we are doing and
fitting back into the schemes. I will have a little gimp in my step
from my injury, but I don't feel rusty. I am pretty sure that my timing
is going to be OK.”
After the bye week, KU is refreshed and eager to start conference play.
“It gives you an opportunity to reflect back on what you have
done and really learn from the mistakes you have made in the first four
games and grow on the things that you have done well,” junior
quarterback Todd Reesing said. “We took the bye week and made
the best of it, had some good practices, learned a lot and I think it
will make us better and get us rested up for this first game (of the
Big 12 season).”
With the nonconference games in the history books, the real season
begins on Saturday.
"The games count now and it is going to be fun,” junior
running back Angus Quigley said. “We are trying to push
ourselves. You always want to go into conference play playing your
Let the Games Begin
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