Lot on the Line vs. Nebraska

Kansas has a chance to make history when the ‘Hawks tangle with Nebraska on Saturday in Lincoln.

With a victory, KU would climb to 7-3 and guarantee a bowl berth and back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. And a win would also be KU’s first at Nebraska since 1968, the same year Kansas won consecutive games over the Cornhuskers.

Kickoff is 1:30 p.m. with the game broadcast on FSN Pay-Per-View.

KU has won two of the last three meetings in the nation’s longest uninterrupted series (102 consecutive games), including a 76-39 victory for the ages in Lawrence last season. The Jayhawks fell to Nebraska in overtime (39-32) during their last trip to Lincoln in 2006.

Of course, Kansas (6-3, 3-2 in Big 12) hopes for a better outcome on Saturday. Nebraska (5-4, 2-3) is coming off a 62-28 loss at Oklahoma, while Kansas hopes to keep the momentum going after whipping K-State, 52-21, last Saturday in Lawrence.

KU coach Mark Mangino knows it will be a challenge beating a new-look Nebraska team under first-year head coach Bo Pelini.

“They are a good football team and much improved from a year ago,” Mangino said. “They have a different system. They are teaching their kids good, fundamental football. On offense they have been very effective. Joe Ganz is a quality quarterback. He is sometimes forgotten in this league, but I haven’t forgotten about him. I think he has passed for about 2,500 yards (2,509) this year. They have quality receivers to throw the ball to in Todd Peterson and Nate Swift.”

The senior Swift passed former Nebraska great Johnny Rodgers on the all-time receptions list at the school, and needs just 255 yards to surpass Rodgers and become the all-time leader in receiving yardage at NU.

“You are talking about a quality football player when you mention somebody in the same breath as Johnny Rodgers,” Mangino said.

Nebraska also has two quality running backs in senior Marlon Lucky and junior Roy Helu. Lucky leads NU with 51.4 rushing yards per game, while Helu is right behind at 50.1 yards per contest. Lucky, who rushed for 1,019 yards last season, has also caught 20 passes for 278 yards.

The Jayhawks’ defense will have to be especially ready since NU can score quickly. Nebraska has recorded 13 touchdown drives that have lasted two minutes or less, and 12 TD drives of five plays or less.

Defensively, Nebraska is getting impressive play from their defensive line. Through nine games this season, the defensive front has posted 12.5 sacks and 37 tackles for loss, compared to 7.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss in 2007.

NU's defense is paced by junior safety Larry Asante (team leader with 55 tackles), junior nose tackle Ndamukong Suh (48 tackles and eight stops for loss), senior linebacker Glenn Cody (47 tackles and six stops for loss), senior defensive tackle Ty Steinkuhler (tied for seventh in the Big 12 in tackles per game by defensive linemen with 3.8 stops per contest), and the 6-7, 280-pound left end Zach Potter, who leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Mangino’s Jayhawks are looking forward to playing in front of a rabid, packed crowd at historic Memorial Stadium. The Cornhuskers are tied with Oklahoma for the second-largest average home attendance (84,960).

“Memorial Stadium is a fun place to play,” Mangino said. “Kids play in the Big 12 Conference for a number of reasons. One of them is they like playing in all of these storied venues. Our kids will go there and play well and will not be intimidated. We respect the Nebraska fans and the Nebraska program, but we have played pretty well the last couple of times we have gone there.”

Indeed, KU almost beat the Cornhuskers in 2006 and then about upset them again in Mangino’s third year (14-8 loss in 2004).

The Jayhawk players know Nebraska might be looking for revenge after No. 8 Kansas crushed them by 38 points a year ago in Lawrence. Todd Reesing threw a KU-record six touchdown passes and the Jayhawks’ 76 points were the most ever allowed by Nebraska.

“(They) know what happened last year and they don’t want that to happen again,” sophomore receiver Dezmon Briscoe said.

“It is hard to accept a defeat like that, just like it is hard to accept a loss to Texas Tech like we had at home,” added senior center Ryan Cantrell, referring to KU’s 63-21 loss to the Red Raiders on Oct. 25.

The Jayhawks are treating this like any other game. But they realize beating a Big 12 North team and claiming their seventh victory holds special significance.

“Every game is of equal importance, but some have added weight,” junior running back Jake Sharp said. “This is definitely one of those.”

Senior linebacker James Holt said the players haven’t talked yet about a bowl game.

“We let the fates decide on that,” he said. “We (want) to go to a bowl, but what comes, comes. We’re just focusing on what we got here and now.”

The Jayhawks can’t wait to roll into Lincoln and win their second straight game over Nebraska for the first time in 40 years, and guarantee back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.

The Cornhusker fans certainly don't want that to happen. They'll be loud and hungry come kickoff.

“I’ve heard it’s a real good atmosphere,” freshman cornerback Daymond Patterson said. “It’s going to be a big sea of red. I’m just ready to go out there and perform at a high level.”

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