Boulder, Colo. — A lackluster defensive effort in last week’s narrow victory over Iowa State led Kansas University coach Mark Mangino to say unit changes were imminent, and the coach made good on that declaration Saturday.
Red-shirt freshmen Lubbock Smith (safety) and John Williams (defensive line) both earned their first career starts for the Jayhawks, while four other players — defensive end Quintin Woods, linebacker Angus Quigley, true freshman defensive back D.J. Beshears and receiver Bradley McDougald — saw their first defensive snaps of the season in the Jayhawks’ 34-30 loss to the Buffaloes.
“I told our defense the last couple of weeks that we’re going to make changes,” said Mangino, whose team fell to 5-1 (1-1 in the Big 12) this season. “And I think they realize now we’re going to make changes.”
And in comparison to the unit’s performance against the Cyclones, when KU gave up 512 yards and 36 points to one of the Big 12’s weakest offensive teams, the new look seemed to work.
Despite a 34-point outing from the Buffaloes, the Jayhawks’ defense held Colorado to 322 yards — just 175 through the air — and gave up just one touchdown in the second half. Two first-half touchdowns, meanwhile, came following Kansas turnovers, when the Buffaloes took over at the KU three- and one-yard lines.
“I think it worked out pretty well,” Mangino said. “They had one week to practice. We moved two guys over from offense to defense, and there’s no question that the more experience they get, they’ll make our defense better.”
Sharp struggled in return: Following a two-game absence while nursing an undisclosed injury, Jake Sharp made his first start since KU’s Sept. 19 game against Duke.
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the senior running back’s return didn’t go quite as expected.
Sharp carried the ball 13 times for just 37 yards — a 2.8 yards-per-carry average — as Kansas finished with a horrid minus-eight total rushing yards for the day in a 34-30 loss to Colorado. He suffered at least partially from a poor performance from the offensive line, which gave up five sacks and failed to create holes for Sharp and backup Toben Opurum (two carries, three yards).
“Jake’s pretty healthy, that’s a good thing,” Mangino said. “But I don’t think we gave him the opportunity to run the ball very well today. It’s not on Jake.”
Branstetter has career day: Jacob Branstetter had a career day Saturday, taking advantage of the opportunities presented by Mangino.
Branstetter’s three field goals — on kicks of 37, 43 and 42 yards — are the three longest of his career. He connected on all three of his PAT attempts, as well, and threw in a pair of tackles, one of which might have saved a touchdown.
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