Senior Day in Lawrence

After four of the most successful seasons in KU football history, 18 Jayhawk seniors will play their final home game this Saturday against Texas.

Kansas (6-4, 3-3 in Big 12) and the No. 4 Longhorns (9-1, 5-1) kickoff at 11:30 a.m. at Memorial Stadium on Senior Day. The game will be televised on FSN.

This senior class has certainly made its mark on Kansas football. Some of the group’s accomplishments include:

•Producing a combined 31-16 record with two regular-season games left to play. (The 31 wins are the second-most in a four-year period in KU history behind the 32-6 record from 1896-99.)
•Recording at least six wins in four straight seasons for the first time since 1903-06.
•Seeing home attendance average records set in each of the last four years.
•Posting two undefeated home seasons (2005 and 2007).
•Recording a 23-3 home record in their four years.
•Playing in first January bowl game since 1969 with last year's FedEx Orange Bowl victory.
•Returning to the national polls in 2007, the Jayhawks' first ranking since 1996.
•Ranked a school-record 19 straight weeks in the Associated Press poll.

KU coach Mark Mangino is certainly proud of this senior class, which includes such stalwarts as linebackers James Holt, Mike Rivera and Joe Mortenson, defensive ends Russell Brorsen and John Larson, cornerback Kendrick Harper, wide receiver Dexton Fields, center Ryan Cantrell and offensive guard Adrian Mayes.

“This is a senior class that has several fifth-year players and some kids that have played a lot of snaps,” Mangino said. “They have been through some really good times and have had to fight through some (tough) times. We see them as a group of kids who have been here and weathered some storms and have had some really big highs. We expect that they will continue to compete and fight here until the end.”

The seniors want to leave a lasting legacy these last two regular-season games against Texas and Missouri. They’d love nothing more than to shock the college football world and upset the powerhouse Longhorns. KU is playing to keep its slim Big 12 North title hopes alive and secure a guaranteed bowl berth, while Texas needs a win to stay in the hunt for a national championship.

Kansas is coming off a 45-35 loss at Nebraska last week, while Texas heads into Lawrence after its 45-21 victory over Baylor. The Longhorns feature a Heisman Trophy candidate in junior quarterback Colt McCoy, and one of the best defensive ends in the country in senior Brian Orakpo.

“Texas is a very talented, very athletic, and very large team,” Brorsen said. “They have about everything you want in a football team and they are going to be a very tough opponent.”
UT is averaging 44.3 points per game (No. 5 in NCAA) and posted at least 400 yards of total offense in nine of its 10 games. McCoy has completed 244 of 313 passes (nation-leading 78 percent) for 2,879 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also leads the Longhorns in rushing with 449 yards and seven TDs.

McCoy will look to take advantage of KU’s struggling secondary with potent receiving targets Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby.

“He is one of the most improved quarterbacks from last year,” Mangino said. “Whoever works with him in the off-season has done a magnificent job. He is way ahead of where he was at this time last year. He has a lot more poise, he is throwing the ball better and he is running the ball better.”

On defense, Texas boasts the nation’s sixth-best rushing defense, allowing opponents just 86 yards per game on the ground. Orakpo spearheads the defensive line with nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and 23 quarterback hurries.

The ‘Horns also feature a talented linebacking and secondary corps.

“Defensively, they are very stout,” Mangino said. “They have a very athletic defensive line with very quick, athletic guys who can move around. Their linebackers seem to be the heart of their defense. They are an outstanding group of linebackers. Their secondary is very athletic as always.”

KU junior quarterback Todd Reesing certainly won’t have it easy back in the pocket. He was sacked five times by Nebraska last week, and found himself scrambling most of the game. Reesing, who became KU’s all-time leader in passing yardage, must get better protection from the offensive line against the fearsome Longhorns.

“They present a lot of matchups that are problems from top to bottom,” Reesing said. “I think that our offensive line is going to look to bounce back and put in a big performance. I know those guys will be excited to step up to the challenge. I know the coaches have worked hard to get a good game plan together and give us the best opportunity we can to win.”

KU has won 14 of its last 15 home games and is 4-1 in its final home game in the last five years. That lone loss came to Texas in 2004 (27-23) in Lawrence. The Jayhawks fell, 66-14, in their last meeting against Texas in 2005 at Austin. UT wound up winning the national championship that season.

Overall, Texas holds a 6-2 edge in the series, including a 3-2 record in Lawrence. KU last beat Texas in 1938 (19-18 in Lawrence); the teams didn’t meet again until the first year of Big 12 play in 1996. The Longhorns has won all six games since.

KU would like to stop the streak on Saturday and make a memorable swan song for its 18 seniors.

Senior linebacker James Holt is certainly primed for the challenge. He’s become KU’s best defensive player this season, ranking second on the team in tackles (80), first in tackles for loss (13), second in sacks (five) and tied for first in the country in forced fumbles (six).

He’d love to add to his statistics come Saturday and propel Kansas to a victory in his last home game at Memorial Stadium.

“There is a lot of history in that stadium,” Holt said. “I will always remember the first game that I played in it. It will mean a lot to all of the seniors and hopefully we can play a good game and just leave it all out there and give the people a good show.

“Definitely with it being senior day and getting to go against No. 4 ranked Texas, a real powerhouse team, (it) would be great to go out and pull an upset. That would be a tremendous statement for the senior class.”


*Texas will be the second top-10 opponent to come to Lawrence this year. (Texas Tech was ranked No. 8 when the Red Raiders beat KU 63-21 on Oct. 25.)  No. 4 Texas is the highest ranked opponent to play in Lawrence since Nebraska was ranked second on Nov. 3, 2001. The Cornhuskers whipped KU, 51-7, in coach Terry Allen’s last game at Kansas. He was fired after the loss.

*KU has 28 players from the Lone Star State, the most players from Texas than any other state. Jayhawk starters from Texas include Reesing, Cantrell, Fields, wide receiver Dezmon Brisoce, offensive tackle Jeremiah Hatch, cornerback Daymond Patterson, and wide receiver Jonathan Wilson. Top Stories