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It took six games, but a Kansas running back finally turned in a 100-yard rushing performance. Jake Sharp rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns on 31 tough carries and was the key to Saturday's 30-14 Kansas win over Colorado at Memorial Stadium

“Jake did a great job today,” KU head coach Mark Mangino said. “He’s running the ball very well, he’s blocking very well, he’s catching the football and he’s really come to life.  He’s really comfortable, and we were really pleased with his performance today. He’s a guy – he plays well based on sheer determination.  He’s a determined guy.  He has a lot of heart, and we all respect that.”

Jake Sharp’s big game was a much-needed shot in the arm for the KU offense and a nice follow-up to his solid 79-yard performance in last week’s big 35-33 comeback win against Iowa State. To this point, KU’s best effort was an 84-yard second-half effort by Angus Quigley against Louisiana Tech.

Mangino said that Sharp's resurgence and the return of the Kansas running game is due to adjustments made by the coaching staff.

“Some of the things in our offense that we used in the run game suited those running backs, and we had such great success with it, we didn't want to abandon it. But we were forced to put some new looks in the run game and do some thing that play to Jake's strengths, and it's worked well so far.”

The coach explained that the Kansas coaches made a decision during the pre-Iowa State bye week that Jon Cornish and Brandon McAnderson's play book wasn't going to work for Jake Sharp.

“Jake's a different type of running back than we've had the last couple of years here. He doesn't run the same type of style as the kids before him that rushed for over a thousand yards. As a coach,  you think you have something good going, so you stay with that run game and you want it to continue to do it because our players know it and are comfortable with it and we've got a young line and they grew up on those plays. But, hey, you gotta adjust to your players.”

KU quarterback Todd Reesing – who helped his own cause with 256 yards passing – was a little more specific about the adjustments.

“We're running plays that allow (Sharp) to get on the perimeter and use his speed and agility. We were able to do that. Whenever you get the ball in his hands in the open field, it gives him the chance to make plays”

Sharp said getting plenty of carries in Ames helped him get back into a rhythm and gave him a shot of confidence that carried over to the Colorado game. He also said the adjustments made by the offensive coaches – like more option plays – made a big difference.

“I love to get outside,” the Salina, KS, native said. “If I have some space to work with, I'm a lot better off, and I'm not the biggest guy in the world to begin with. Our offensive line and wide receivers, they allowed us to get out in space a little bit and have some fun.”

That brings us to the much-maligned Jayhawk offensive line which had struggled mightily to open holes for KU runners this season. Mangino said that Saturday, his offensive front may have turned an important corner.

“I thought today they took a big step. They (Colorado) have some talented players. George Hypolite (Colorado's all-conference DT) is one of the best defensive linemen in the country, period. He'll play on Sundays. And (OLB Brad) Jones, Derek Fine said last year he's the toughest guy in the conference to block. He's a tough son of a gun. Our kids matched up well with them today.”

Sharp agreed, paying proper respect to the large men who who keep him from getting killed.

“Our o-line played real good, I thought. I thought they gelled together and started making the plays they've been capable of making all year”

The return of the Kansas rushing game was good to see but not a surprise, Reesing said. It was just a matter of time. He noted, too, that a consistent run game will just make KU's offense even more potent.

He said, “We had confidence in our running backs and offensive line. We got Jake going last week and he got some confidence back. He is running the ball hard and hitting the holes. As it showed today, it complements our passing game well because we are able to mix it up and throw the defense off balance.”

Sharp was happy to have had a big day, but he put his success in a much bigger light.

“It gives me the confidence that we as an offense, collectively, can run the ball, and we can pound it when we need to or run around the outside.”

Sharp and his line couldn't have timed this apparent resurgence any better: included in KU's six remaining games are dates with Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Missouri – all top 10-rated teams. With the Jayhawks now sitting at 5-1 and 2-0 in the conference, a consistent running game could be the difference between 6-6 with a “thanks for playing” and 8-4 or, with some good karma, 9-3 or even 10-2 and a legitimate run at the Big 12 title game

And speaking of needing good karma, next up for the Jayhawks, the Oklahoma Sooners. In Norman. After losing their #1 ranking on national TV by losing to their archrival.

It's going to take KU's best effort of the 2008 season for KU to make it two in a row for the Sooners. A big Jayhawk rushing day would sure help.

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