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Sharp leads quick start in 52-21 Kansas win over Kansas State.

KU won the coin toss prior to Saturday's game against Kansas State and elected to receive. Four minutes and five seconds later, RB Jake Sharp capped an 81-yard drive with a four-yard TD run to claim a 7-0 lead in Saturday's Sunflower Showdown against Kansas State.

It was all downhill from there for the Wildcats.

Kansas' offense treated Kansas State' s defense like a baby treats a diaper. The Jayhawks got off to an incredibly fast start, leading 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, having rolled up 198 yards of total offense. They slowed down in the 2nd quarter, but not much, stretching the lead to 31-0.

Combine that with a KU defense that, during those same 30 minutes, shut down The Josh Freeman Show and you've got a first-half blitzkrieg that was the difference in the game

“We talked all week about the importance of getting out of the blocks quickly, and that if we could set the tempo early, we could take control of the game,” KU coach Mark Mangino said.

QB Todd Reesing, who accounted for over 200 yards of total offense himself, said that it's always a goal to get a quick start but on Saturday, it worked out in spades against KU's cross-state rival.

“We came out fast; we started exactly like we wanted to,” he said. “We were motivated. It was a big game and we really wanted to make a statement.”

The Jayhawks took control, they made a statement, they put their foot down – they did all that stuff. By the time the final gun mercifully sounded, the Jayhawks had rolled up 469 yards of total offense – 280 running, 189 passing – and picked up a much-needed 52-21 win over their in-state rival that was eerily reminiscent of the poundings Bill Snyder used to put on Terry Allen.

Speaking of Coach Snyder, one had to wonder if he questioned his own decision to not recruit Kansas RB Jake Sharp out of Salina Central High School in the heart of Wildcat country. Sharp was the big man on Mount Oread Saturday, rushing for 181 yards on 21 carries.

“It was fun,” Sharp said. “Everything we worked real hard on all week came together for us, and we're very pleased with how it came together. The offensive line deserves a ton of credit. Movin' guys left and right, big creases in the run game and protecting Todd well. Everything came together well for us.”

“Offensively, we noticed some things during the week on film, some opportunities to run the ball, and we felt that if they played us on defense the way that we expected that we could run the ball,” Mangino said. “Our offensive line did a terrific job of getting off the ball and knocking their defensive line back a little bit. They gave Jake Sharp some room, and Jake had a great day.”

Reesing said that when Sharp has a big day, it takes the pressure off the passing game.

“It makes things a lot easier when you can just run the ball up and down the field. It takes the pressure off the passing game. If you can run the ball and throw some short passes and be safe with the ball, that's what we're going to do.”

The Jayhawks defense was just as rude to their guests, holding KSU to 91 yards rushing. Freeman threw for 264 yards on 26 of 41 passing, but he also committed three turnovers, including two interceptions, running his career total against KU.

“Our defense played really well. I liked the plan that we had on defense, and our coaches did a really good job of getting our kids to bounce back and play really well on pass defense, including pass rush. We had some pressure on the quarterback the better part of the day today and got some sacks.”

It was a very happy Jayhawk locker room, which was an interesting juxtaposition to last week's black cloud, we're-gonna-go-eat-worms atmosphere post-Red Raiders. Mangino went so far to suggest Saturday that perhaps his team needed to have their limitations exposed on a big stage.

“You never like to say this, but maybe we needed last week,” Mangino said. “I think it opened our eyes to areas we need to be better, areas that we need to improve on. So, all was not lost last week. I don't care for those kinds of lessons. I'd prefer not to have those.”

One of the most encouraging things that came out of this game – besides a sixth win for Kansas and bowl eligibility for the fourth straight year – is that for the first time this season, the Jayhawks played loose, like they were actually having fun.

Ryan Cantrell said, “We always preach, go out and have fun, but today, everybody was pumped up and amped up for this game. I'm real proud of the guys. Everyone played within themselves and you saw the result.”

Mike Rivera attributed that to the “back-to-basics” approach the team took leading up to this game.

“We felt good out there. We kept it simple. We felt like we were really fundamentally sound and I think that helped us to just play football and go out and make plays and make big hits and cause turnovers.”

I don't know if it can be emphasized enough how important it was for Kansas to get a win Saturday. Just winning brightened the mood around the locker room considerably, but the fact that they managed to have some fun and hammer their cross-state rival just in time to play a winnable game against the Godless Red Horde next Saturday is gravy.

“This win was huge for us,” Rivera said. “It lifts a lot of weight of our shoulders so we can really start focusing on Nebraska and getting' after it. We can't wait to start practicing tomorrow and looking at the film and getting ready for this next win.”

Mangino admitted that it's conceivable that a lot of teams could have taken their lumps from two top 10 football teams and packed it in. The Jayhawks had a choice, he said, and he was proud of the way they stepped up to the challenge of bouncing back.

“We can either sit around and feel bad for ourselves, or we get to the practice field and get it done. Some teams, when they have a couple of losses, they count the days until the season's over. I told our guys, don't count the days; make the days count. That's the approach they took this week.”

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