Offensive Line Solid in 49-3 Win

The University of Northern Colorado Bears won't be confused with the Ditka-led 1985 Chicago Bears anytime soon. The Buttermaker-led 1976 Bad News Bears are a better comparison at this point in their rebuilding.

Regardless of the opponent, though, the pass-first Kansas Jayhawks rolled up an impressive 328 rushing yards to go along with 219 passing yards and no quarterback sacks en route to a 49-3 win over UNC in the 2009 season opener Saturday at KU's Memorial Stadium.

This was especially good news for a KU offensive line that consisted of a handful of first-time starters, a center who spent last year at tackle and a tackle who was going to be a defensive end after he was recruited as a tight end.

KU head coach Mark Mangino said that while there's room for improvement among his big uglies, he was, overall, pleased with their performance.

"Our offensive line got some good push. They created some lanes for Jake (RB Jake Sharp) and they started doing some things to try to get Jake to bounce it outside a bit. I thought our offensive line did a nice job tonight."

Sharp agreed – as well he should, considering he ran for 123 yards on 21 carries.

"Obviously, with the (rushing) numbers we put up tonight, (the offensive line) performed great. I'm very happy to be running behind this offensive line. They've worked real hard to get here," he said.

QB Todd Reesing is another man who depends on the offensive line to help ensure that his head stays on the end of his neck. Reesing threw for 208 yards and ran for 79 more, but a more telling number when evaluating a young, inexperienced o-line might be sacks. That number was zero Saturday night. Reesing praised his o-line.

"I don't know the last game we've had since I've been here where we haven't had a sack the entire game. That speaks for itself. Those guys did a great job in pass protection, especially some guys making their first start tonight."

Chemistry and communication are always big concerns when it comes to a young offensive line. Redshirt freshman OT Tanner Hawkinson got his first start Saturday and said afterward that considering the new personnel and opening night jitters, he was very pleased with how the game went.

"We all communicated very well," he said. "That was a big emphasis going into the game. Coach Reagan (offensive line coach John Reagan) was just telling us, just communicate and do our assignments and we'll be fine."

Sharp thought Saturday's success rushing the ball and protecting Reesing was a nice confidence booster for the offensive line.

"They really gelled tonight," he said.

Yes, the opposition's going to get better, bigger and stronger very quickly. Even so, Saturday night's solid performance should be something of a relief to KU fans who wondered how this fledgling group would fare under live fire, even if the opponent was Northern Colorado.

Reesing didn't sound like just a quarterback post-game as he praised the guys who kept the seat of his home white pants clean Saturday; he sounded a lot like a fan.

"I'm very pleased with those guys," the Kansas QB said. "They've been working real hard, and for them to protect as well as they did is very encouraging."


Other notes...

  • KU has won six straight home openers, 18 consecutive non-conference home games and 19 straight home games played at night.
  • The 49-3 win means KU has won its last six home openers by an average margin of 29.5 points, including 37 points over the past four years.
  • The Jayhawks' 46-point margin of victory was their biggest of the last six seasons.
  • With 46 wins, Mark Mangino is one victory away from tying Glen Mason for second on the KU victory list.
  • Six Jayhawks made their first career starts, including OT Tanner Hawkinson, OGs Brad Thorsen and Sal Capra, DE Max Onyegbule, DT Patrick Dorsey and CB Anthony Davis.
  • Kansas allowed three points against Northern Colorado, the fewest it's allowed since shutting out Louisiana Tech last season.
  • QB Todd Reesing is 21-6 as a starter after KU's win Saturday.
  • Saturday was the first game in his KU career that Reesing recorded multiple rushing touchdowns in a game (two).
  • With 13 completions against Northern Colorado, Reesing passed Oklahoma Sooner and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White to take the 10th spot on the Big 12 career completions list with 632. He needs 23 more to pass another Sooner great, Josh Heupel, for ninth.
  • Kerry Meier had five catches Saturday night. He has caught at least two passes in 22 consecutive games. His 71-yard reception to end the third quarter was the longest of his career, surpassing his previous best of 68 yards against Sam Houston State. Finally, his 115-yards in receptions gives him six 100-yard games in his career. That ties him with Bobby Johnson (1981-83) and Richard Estell (1982-85) for third on the KU career 100-yard receiving games list.
  • RB Jake Sharp's 122 rushing yards was his third-best rushing game as a Jayhawk. His best was 181 yards against Kansas State last year. While nice, this is not a terribly noteworthy accomplishment except for the fact that it gives me an excuse to once again point out that Sharp ran for 181 yards against Kansas State last year.
  • RB Toben Oporum rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries in his first game as a Jayhawk. The last time a true freshman rushed for two touchdowns in one game was in 2006 when then-QB Kerry Meier rushed for two touchdowns against Northwestern State.
  • Kansas leads the nation in players named Toben.
  • WR Tertavian Ingram caught his first career touchdown pass in the second quarter.
  • KU leads the nation in players named Tertavian.
  • DE Jake Laptad recorded his first career two-sack game. He also tied his career-high in tackles with six.
  • LB Drew Dudley recorded his first career sack in the fourth quarter.

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