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