When Kansas has the ball
KU run offense vs. UTEP run defense
The Kansas running game left little to be desired in a season-opening thumping of Northern Colorado, rolling up 300-plus yards for the first time since 2001. Senior running back Jake Sharp led the way with 123 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and true freshman Toben Opurum looked equally promising, tallying 79 yards and two scores in his first collegiate game. With the recently implemented “pistol” formation, which is used to take advantage of running back Sharp’s skill set, the Jayhawks’ offense also presents a new challenge for opposing defenses.
KU pass offense vs. UTEP pass defense
Although KU quarterback Todd Reesing threw only 20 passes against UNC, he made the most of his opportunities. The senior completed 13 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns before leaving early in the fourth quarter. The return this week of preseason All-Big 12 receiver Dezmon Briscoe should boost the Jayhawks’ pass attack, and the emergence of true freshman Bradley McDougald (two catches, 49 yards) bodes well for a unit many expect to be the team’s bread and butter this fall.
For their part, the Miners are trying to improve upon a pass defense that ranked 112th in the nation last season.
UTEP rush offense vs. KU rush defense
UTEP running back Donald Buckram impressed Kansas coaches by carrying the ball 14 times for 108 yards — a 7.7 yards-per-carry average — and helping supplement the Miners’ traditionally strong passing game last week. He’ll likely handle much of the ground load today and has the benefit of playing behind a talented offensive line. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, surrendered just 74 rushing yards to UNC, and although they did give up runs of 18, 17, 15 and 13 yards and are still in the process of working in a new group of linebackers, they are coming off a season in which they ranked fourth in the Big 12 at stopping the run.
UTEP pass offense vs. KU pass defense
The Jayhawks’ secondary looked good in its first outing last week — helping to hold UNC to just 172 passing yards — but figures to face a much greater challenge against the Miners. Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe — who finished with 3,274 passing yards and 33 touchdowns last season — will be throwing to a pair of standout receivers in Jeff Moturi and Kris Adams, a duo that has combined for 36 career touchdown receptions. Vittatoe, a junior, also showed an ability to spread the ball around, connecting with nine receivers and tossing a game-tying touchdown in the final moments that was eventually negated due to a penalty.
After sitting out last week’s game due to a suspension, Briscoe returns to field kickoffs for the Jayhawks. The receiver made a splash late last season during the final two games of the year, averaging 27.4 yards per return, and KU coach Mark Mangino has made a point of shoring up the team’s special-teams issues from a season ago. Place-kicker Jacob Branstetter’s services weren’t required last week in any capacity but extra points, but the junior could be counted on this time around. UTEP’s Moturi worked as both a kick and punt returner last week, and is listed at both positions on the team’s most recent depth chart.