Downtrodden Kansas looks to the future

Please forgive me if this comes across sounding arrogant, but sometimes I just feel sympathy for certain football teams. The Kansas Jayhawks, Texas' opponent Saturday, is one of them after their 51-7 blowout loss to Nebraska last Saturday.

You see, it appears the Cornhuskers had more fans at the game in Lawrence, Kansas than the Jayhawks did in their own stadium. "It was frustrating to see all the red in the stands," Kansas tackle Justin Hartwig said. "You'd like to think some day our fans will feel that way about us. But that's just the way it is." On top of that humiliation, Kansas fired head coach Terry Allen Sunday, replacing him with defensive coordinator/asst. head coach Tom Hayes on an interim basis.

The KU program under Allen appeared to be going nowhere. Kansas went 5-6 in 1997, 4-7 in 1998, 5-7 in 1999, and 4-7 in 2000. The ‘01 Jayhawks now stand at 2-6 and 1-5 in Big 12 play after the Husker humbling. KU beat Texas Tech 34-31 and SW Missouri 24-10, but got beat up by K-State 40-6, by OU 38-10, and by UCLA 41-17. They lost close to Mizzou 38-34 and hung in with Colorado, 27-16. It’d be a stunner if they hung in with Texas this coming weekend as they are going to see a stadium filled with more Burnt Orange than they could possibly conceive.

This is no great scoop, but Kansas is a pretty miserable football team right now. The Jayhawks are among the nation’s lowest ranked teams in all major categories on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they rank 91st in rushing offense at 118 yards a game, 96th in passing offense at 161 per game, 109th in total O at almost 280 per, and 100th in scoring at 18.5. Defensively, the Jayhawks rank 111th in rushing D, giving up a John Mackovic-like 236.25 yards a game, 59th in pass efficiency D, 90th in total D giving up 422 per, and 102nd in scoring D, allowing 34.5. Yuck. Anybody who watched its game with Nebraska last Saturday had to wince watching Kansas try to move the ball on the Blackshirts.

Still, KU has some players to watch, particularly on defense. Tackle Nate Dwyer gave Texas fits last season and held his own against the Huskers. This season, the 6-3, 305-pound Dwyer is one of the league's top DTs and has 44 tackles, including eight TFLs and two sacks. Senior LB Algie Atkinson has the pro scouts drooling over his 6-5, 240-pound frame and mobility. Atkinson is the team's leading sack-master with five among his 11 TFLs so far in '01. MLB Marcus Rogers, 6-2, 235, far-and-away leads the Jayhawks in tackles with 96. Kansas employs a standard 4-3 defensive scheme and the coaching change, with D-coordinator Hayes taking over the head coaching spot, shouldn't affect the Jayhawk defensive look at all. Hayes, though, suspended starting corner Carl Ivey Wednesday for this weekend's game. Ivey's back-ups at right corner are 5-9 Quincy Roe and 5-7 Remuise Johnson and they'll be at least partly responsible for guarding UT's tall and talented wide receiver corps. Can you say mismatch? Ivey accounted for two of KU's nine INTs. Left corner Andrew Davison, 5-11, 185-pound leads the team with three picks.

On offense, Killeen product Reggie Duncan, a 5-9, 215 sophomore, starts at tailback and averages a solid but not spectacular four yards per carry and 73.4 yards per game. Redshirt frosh QB Mario Kinsey, 6-1, 190 of Waco Lavega, has the Jayhawks excited about the future, but for now he is still pretty raw. Interim coach Hayes this week reopened the battle for the starting QB job between Kinsey and 6-3, 205-pound sophomore Zach Dyer, so either QB or even both QBs could see the field this Saturday. Kinsey has completed a close-to-awful 42.4-percent of his passes for just 872 yards on 151 attempts this season, with five TDs and four INTs, so it's little wonder Hayes is looking at Dyer, who has hit 38 of 71 attempts (53.5-percent) and thrown three TDs along with three INTs. Both Kinsey (190 yards) and Dyer (44 yards) are a threat to run. Lilliputian wideout Roger Ross, 5-7, 180, is the KU QB's favorite target, totaling 29 catches, including a 77-yarder, for 420 yards and two TDs through the Jayhawks' first eight games. Termaine Fulton is second on the team with 24 grabs for 300 yards. So far, unlike many of UT's recent opponents, Kansas doesn't often get the ball to the TE. On the season, the KU O has 321 rushing attempts and 223 passing attempts (a 59-41 run-pass split).

The Jayhawks have solid return men. Ross averages 13.7 yards on his punt returns, with a long of 45, and Fulton averages 22.9 yards per kickoff return. Kansas, though, has also given up a 71-yard punt return TD and a 59-yard kickoff return. Kicker Johnny Beck is 12 of 17 overall, including two of two from beyond 50 yards. Punter Chris Tyrrell averages almost 42 yards per attempt.

Twenty-seven Texans populate the KU roster, including eight starters -- C Nick Smith of Dallas Bryan Adams, RG Kyle Grady of Mesquite Poteet, TE David Hurst of Round Rock McNeil, RB Duncan, FB Austine Nwabuisi of Houston Episcopal, QB Kinsey, LB Rogers of Dallas Roosevelt, and, before his suspension, Ivey of Killeen Ellison. The Jayhawks have 33 players from the state of Kansas, just six more than from Texas, and only four of the 33 start.

[Editor's note: Clendon Ross contributed to this article.]

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