September 16, 2010

Week 3 preview in the Big 12

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THE SCHEDULE
FRIDAY
Kansas at Southern Miss, 8 p.m.
SATURDAY
Iowa State vs. Kansas State in Kansas City, Noon
Air Force at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m.
Hawaii at Colorado, 3:30 p.m.
Nebraska at Washington, 3:30 p.m.
Baylor at TCU, 4:30 p.m.
Florida International at Texas A&M, 7 p.m.
San Diego State at Missouri, 7 p.m.
Tulsa at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m.
Texas at Texas Tech, 8 p.m.

As Nebraska's quarterback back in the early 1980s, Turner Gill was involved in some impressive victories over nationally ranked opponents.

For example, there was a 44-6 season-opening blowout of No. 4 Penn State in 1983, and in 1982, there were wins over No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 13 LSU.

But Kansas' 28-25 victory over Georgia Tech last week may be the best win, and not because the Yellow Jackets were ranked 15th, operate the hard-to-prepare-for triple option and were a two-touchdown favorite.

Rather, it was because Gill, the first-year Kansas coach, was able to rally his Jayhawks from a humiliating 6-3 season-opening loss to FCS member North Dakota State.

NDSU coach Craig Bohl even said that his team's next opponent - Northern Iowa - was better than Kansas. Northern Iowa did beat North Dakota State.

Gill ignored all that and went right back to the rock-chalkboard. He felt the Jayhawks were hesitant and apprehensive in the opener, so he planned more up-tempo practices leading up to the Georgia Tech game.

"We're not going to spend a whole lot of time on negative things," he said. "We get it corrected and move on. That's what he did."

There wasn't much negative about the performance against Georgia Tech. The Jayhawks committed just one turnover and were penalized just five times - not bad for the second game of the season. They also held Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt to 33 rushing yards.

Plus, junior tight end Tim Biere, who had three drops and lost fumbles after the two catches he made against North Dakota State, caught a short pass for a touchdown.

"I think the big thing is I'm so proud of the whole situation here," Gill said. "We all know in life, true character gets revealed when adversity hits. I think this is a great example of our coaching staff and our players knowing how to handle adversity.

"Character got revealed. So for me, I'm so blessed to be part of this group of guys. I love the type of people that can respond like they responded in a great way."

Freshman running back James Sims rushed for 101 yards in his first college action. Linebacker Justin Springer posted a career-high 15 tackles, with three going for losses. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb threw three touchdown passes in his first career start.

Now, the task facing Gill is making sure the Jayhawks continue to play well on Friday night against Southern Miss. Kansas has lost its past four road games.

"The main thing is we have to get our guys to know how to handle prosperity," Gill said. "The big thing is we have to improve on some areas. We had a good football game and there are still some areas where we need some improvement. We have to make sure we do better on short yardage. We haven't done well on the third-and-1s or fourth-and-1s or third-and-2s, that aspect of it. We need to improve in the kicking game and get more explosive plays."

Teams typically improve most from the first game to the second game. But if Kansas keeps making major strides, the Jayhawks could be a factor in the Big 12 North race. A victory over a ranked opponent would seem to prove that.

Gill feels otherwise. The Jayhawks still have to prove themselves.

"We're trying to build over a whole season," Gill said. "We're not going to let one or two games or three or four games define who we are."

Best matchup: Washington QB Jake Locker vs. Nebraska's defense. The Huskies' passing game presents the first challenge for Nebraska's heralded defense this season. Locker has passed for 555 yards and five touchdowns. Four of those scoring throws have gone to explosive WR Jermaine Kearse, who is averaging more than 20 yards per catch on his 14 receptions. They haven't faced a defense like Nebraska's, though. CB Prince Amukamara and S DeJon Gomes head one of the best secondaries in the country. The Huskers already have six interceptions. And although they've allowed two touchdown passes, they haven't given up one in the first half.

Player on the spot: Colorado QB Tyler Hansen. He needs a strong performance against Hawaii, and not just to keep up with the high-scoring Warriors. He needs to atone for a disastrous showing in last week's 52-7 loss to Cal in which he lost a fumble and threw three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. That was against a defense that last season ranked 111th in the nation against the pass. And don't forget that his backup is former starter Cody Hawkins, the son of coach Dan Hawkins.

Numbers game: Through two games, Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter has 414 rushing yards, which surpasses by 32 yards the output during his injury-plagued '09 season. Hunter has scored six touchdowns and already has five carries that have covered at least 20 yards.

What they're saying:

"He's really, really, really fast. Kind of reminds me of Jake [Locker]." - Washington SS Nate Williams, on Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez

"When I watch these guys on tape, if you throw a bubble screen, they blow them up. They're used to selling out and throwing their body around. That's what they do for a living. I'm not trying to sugarcoat it. You guys are watching tape of these guys. They're really good." - Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, on Air Force's defense

"Hopefully with Air Force coming here, we'll be loud singing 'home of the brave' and nothing else. I would sure hope that would be the case." - Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, in response to Oklahoma fans ending the national anthem with "home of the Sooners"

"We haven't given up a sack. It's possible to go a whole year with no sacks. Anything is possible. That would be an amazing goal." - Texas G Michael Huey

Etc.: Baylor has not allowed a touchdown in its first two games, a feat the Bears have not accomplished since 1960. Baylor is at TCU this week and hasn't beaten a top-five opponent since upsetting No. 3 USC in Los Angeles in 1985. ... Colorado WR Scotty McKnight has caught at least one pass in 39 consecutive games, which is the longest current steak in the NCAA. He needs 8 more receiving yards to reach 2,000 for his career. ... Iowa State middle linebacker Matt Tau'fo'ou will miss at least six weeks because of a broken leg. Outside LB A.J. Klein will shift over to replace him and backup Matt Morton moves into the starting lineup. ... Kansas State senior QB Carson Coffman is coming off a game against Missouri State in which he set personal-bests with 280 passing yards and three touchdowns. ... Missouri's defense is tied for the nation's lead with nine forced turnovers. That includes six interceptions. The Tigers managed just eight all of last season. ... Tigers QB Blaine Gabbert set a school record for single-game completion percentage when he hit 83.9 percent against McNeese State. Tigers freshman RB Henry Josey got only seven carries last week, but he made the most of them gaining 112 yards and scoring three touchdowns. ... Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez has posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances. The last time a Huskers quarterback did that was Jammal Lord in 2003. ... Oklahoma freshman RB Brennan Clay won't play Saturday because of a concussion suffered last week. The Sooners also are without RB Roy Finch and LB Austin Box for the next two weeks. Finch has a fractured ankle and Box is having problems with his back. ... Oklahoma State is seeking the 19th 3-0 start in school history. The Cowboys are also seeking their fourth 3-0 start in six seasons under coach Mike Gundy. ... Freshman WR Mike Davis has moved into Texas' starting lineup. He's one of 12 freshmen who have played for the Longhorns thus far. ... Last week, Texas A&M's Dustin Harris returned a punt for a touchdown - the first time the Aggies have done that since 1998. ... A&M WR Jeff Fuller has tied a school record by catching his 19th career touchdown pass. He also made the 100th catch of his career in last week's game. ... Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts is seeking to extend a streak of five consecutive games with at least two touchdown passes. ... Texas Tech's special teams have indeed been special. In last week's win over New Mexico, the Red Raiders blocked two punts and Eric Stephens had a 93-yard kickoff return. All led to touchdowns.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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