For the second consecutive week, Kansas fell behind after a slow start.
Colorado won the field position battle for most of the first half, and it paid off with the first score of the game. The Buffaloes started a drive on the Kansas 28 and moved to the 11 on a 16-yard pass from Cody Hawkins to Cody Crawford. The two hooked up two plays later for an 11-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
Kansas tied the game in the second quarter with a Jake Sharp one-yard run, then took a lead when defensive end Jake Laptad chased Hawkins four-yards deep into the end zone and sacked him for two more points.
Kansas extended its lead late in the third quarter when quarterback Todd Reesing drove the Jayhawks 78 yards in 12 plays, capped by a five-yard strike to a leaping Dezmon Briscoe in the back of the end zone. Reesing was six of seven for 72 yards on the drive.
But Colorado responded quickly. The Buffaloes used a 59-yard kick return from Josh Smith to set up the Buffaloes on the Kansas 41. Three plays later, Smith put the Buffaloes with a first and goal from the one, following a 38-yard pass from Hawkins. Hawkins dove in on the next play, bringing Colorado to within two.
The Buffaloes never came any closer. Kansas came back on the next drive to push the lead back up to nine after a Jake Sharp nine yard run, then upped the lead to 16 after Sharp took an option pitch and burrowed into the end zone from seven yards out.
Sharp was Kansas’s first 100-yard rusher since Brandon McAnderson ran for 132 against Oklahoma State in 2007. His 31 carries marked the first time a KU back topped the 30-carry mark since Jon Cornish had 31 rushing attempts against Nebraska in 2006.
“Jake did a great job today,” Mangino said. “He’s run the ball very well. He’s blocking very well. He’s catching the football. He’s really come to life. We were really pleased with his performance today.”
Reesing was 27 of 34 for 256 yards and a touchdown. Kerry Meier led the team in receiving with nine catches for 94 yards. Briscoe’s touchdown was his sixth this year. Overall, the Jayhawks topped the 400-yard mark and led in time of possession.
But if the offense was good, the defense was stellar – Colorado didn’t pass the 200 total yards until the Buffaloes completed a pass with less than a minute left in the game and both Colorado touchdowns came courtesy of short fields.
One of Colorado’s few bright spots offensively was the play of Rodney Stewart, who had 77 yards on 18 carries. Hawkins finished eight of 22 for 90 yards and two interceptions. He was pulled with more than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter for redshirt freshman Matt Ballenger. The Jayhawks picked off two passes and had six tackles in the backfield. Darrell Stuckey and Kendrick Harper had the interceptions, while Jake Laptad had 1.5 sacks. James Holt led the team with 10 tackles.
Kansas will travel to face Oklahoma next week.
“I see an opportunity for our football program to make a statement,” Mangino said.
- Kansas went to an option attack for much of the game to get Sharp out on the edge. Mangino said the change in strategy started during the off week, when coaches decided they were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with the running game.
Mangino said Sharp had a different running style than other running backs who had success at Kansas, and that the staff made adjustments accordingly.
- While Mangino said the offense and the defense played well, he had a few choice words for the special teams units. Mangino said the kick coverage and kick return teams were putting too much “strain” on the offense and defense, and said changes would be made.
Mangino said there were several games during his time at Kansas where the Jayhawks won the game because they won the field position war against more talented teams. He said he would look at both schemes and personnel to try and find a better fit.
“It’s my number one priority going into practice this week,” Mangino said.
- The defense is getting better. Mangino said Kansas was starting to build a competent unit out of a group that lost who he called two of the best defensive players in the history of the school.
“You don’t get over losing Aqib Talib and James McClinton with the snap of a finger,” Mangino said.
He said the defense began to improve as players’ health improved, and as the coverage and pass rush matured. He said the Jayhawks were thin in a few spots though, something that might not get any better with the injury to Caleb Blakesley. Mangino said he wasn’t sure of the extent of the injury, but that he hoped it wasn’t serious. Jamal Greene saw time in Blakesley’s spot, while Darius Parish rotated extensively as a backup.
Colorado – Cody Crawford 11 pass from Cody Hawkins, (Aric Goodman kick), 3:15 1Q
Kansas – Jake Sharp 1 run (Jacob Branstetter kick), 8:56 2Q
KU – Jake Laptad 16 sack of Cody Hawkins for team safety, 8:07 2Q
KU – Dezmon Briscoe 5 pass from Todd Reesing (Branstetter kick), 1:30 3Q
CU – Cody Hawkins 1 run (Goodman kick), 0:06 3Q
KU – Sharp 8 run (Branstetter kick), 13:07 4Q
KU – Sharp 7 run (Branstetter kick), 10:29 4Q