Kansas defeats Duke, 44-16

  • 11 a.m., Sept. 19, 2009
  • David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kansas carrying on

With Sharp ailing, Opurum steps up

Kansas running back Toben Opurum charges up the right side of the field on fourth down against Duke linebacker Abraham Kromah, 8, and cornerback Leon Wright, 7, during the third quarter Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Toben Opurum charges up the right side of the field on fourth down against Duke linebacker Abraham Kromah, 8, and cornerback Leon Wright, 7, during the third quarter Saturday at Memorial Stadium.


Podcast episode


Postgame: Duke

The guys (Tom Keegan, Jesse Newell) tie up loose ends from KU's 44-16 victory over Duke. The two talk about Todd Reesing's solid performance, the improvement of the offensive line, areas of concern for the Jayhawks and the correct etiquette when playing golf.

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KU-Duke football


KU vs. Duke

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Highlights from KU's 44-16 victory against Duke.

Reader poll

Who was KU's MVP against Duke?

  • Todd Reesing (338 passing yards, 3 TDs) 44% 881 votes
  • Dezmon Briscoe (6 catches, 117 yards, TD) 5% 119 votes
  • Toben Opurum (120 combined yards, 2 TDs) 24% 495 votes
  • Maxwell Onyegbule (47-yard interception return for TD) 15% 303 votes
  • Darrell Stuckey (11 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss) 8% 179 votes
  • Other 1% 24 votes

2001 total votes.

For the second time in three games, Kansas University’s football team played without one of its top offensive players.

And for the second time in three games, the Jayhawks carried on as if everything was perfectly normal.

Two weeks after opening the season without preseason All-Big 12 receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who suffered a one-game suspension as a result of academic issues, the Kansas offense didn’t miss a beat in the absence of starting running back Jake Sharp, turning in a typically potent performance in Saturday’s 44-16 victory over visiting Duke.

“That’s what you see in big-time programs,” said KU quarterback Todd Reesing, who threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns on 28-of-41 passing against the Blue Devils. “If someone goes down, there are guys that are capable and ready to play.”

Saturday, one of those guys happened to be backup running back Toben Opurum.

With starter Jake Sharp idling on the sideline for much of the afternoon, limited by an undisclosed injury suffered during practice last week, Opurum, a true freshman from Plano, Texas, enjoyed the finest game of his young career.

Despite a slow first half, in which the Jayhawks totaled only 61 rushing yards, Opurum piled up 120 total yards (70 rushing, 50 receiving) and two touchdowns. He also provided the game’s top play with a one-handed catch in the second half and barreled into defenders with such vigor that, following the game, one reporter was compelled to ask KU coach Mark Mangino whether Opurum called to mind a young Jerome Bettis.

“Jerome Bettis?” Mangino said, in mock (or quite possibly legitimate) disgust. “He’s played three college games, my friend. Jerome Bettis is in the Hall of Fame. You’re way out in front of this train. Let’s save that for a couple years, OK?”

Still, plenty about Opurum’s performance left Mangino grinning.

“Toben had to step up, and he did a really, really good job,” said the coach, whose 22nd-ranked team improved to 3-0 heading into next week’s game against Southern Mississippi. “He’s a true freshman, and he made a few mistakes, but he did some really awesome things.”

Meanwhile, it’s hard not to look at Opurum’s performance as a testament to the depth that has been developed under the eight-year watch of Mangino.

Whereas in the past an injury to a player as prominent as Sharp might have spelled disaster, these days the team’s foundation is such that it can sustain even with a key cog unavailable.

Playing without Briscoe against Northern Colorado, for instance, the team still finished with 547 total yards, and in the absence of Sharp — who entered the weekend as the conference’s second-leading rusher — this week, the Jayhawks rolled up 490 yards of total offense and their second-highest point total of the season.

“I think that’s a credit to what coach Mangino and his staff have done with recruiting,” said Opurum, who chose KU over traditional powers Notre Dame and Florida. “I think it’s provided depth so that if anything happens, if someone goes down, anybody can step in and take their place.”

That was certainly the case Saturday, in a game in which the Blue Devils managed to hang tough early on.

It took Duke just two plays and 35 seconds to put Kansas in its first hole of the season. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis completed a 66-yard pass to a slanting Austin Kelly and then rushed for a 21-yard touchdown that gave the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead.

Just over two minutes later, however, Reesing connected with Briscoe on a 14-yard touchdown pass to tie the game, then followed with consecutive scoring passes to Sharp and Kerry Meier before KU defensive end Maxwell Onyegbule returned a Thaddeus Lewis interception 48 yards for a touchdown in the opening minutes of the third quarter to push Kansas’ lead to 27-7.

The Blue Devils never threatened again, thanks largely to a KU defense that, with the exception of two sub-par series, turned in another solid outing, giving up its highest yards total of the season — 394 — but forcing two turnovers and holding its third straight opponent to 16 points or fewer.

Following another example of Kansas’ vast offensive options, meanwhile, players and coaches can sleep soundly with the knowledge that they can make it through some bumps and bruises.

“That’s a good thing,” said Meier, who finished with eight catches for 64 yards and a score. “(We know that) when one of our horses isn’t running, we have a backup that can come in and fill in and do just as good.”


NebraskaJayhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

I don't want to burst anyone's bubble about this game....but Duke wasn't that good. It's good to be happy about these wins.. don't get me wrong. But if anyone else watched the VT / Nebraska game, you have to know that when we play Nebraska this year (and Oklahoma, Texas, & TT), we are not going to be putting up the kind of points we did against Duke unless our offensive line improves dramatically in the next few games. Reesing having to scramble as often as he has against these early teams is not a good sign as to what real defensive lines are going to do against us in the Big XII.

On the other side of the ball for us, we look slow in the secondary. Just my opinion this far into the season. We are an Aqib Talib away from being similar to the 2007 defense though. But I don't see anyone in our secondary with those skills. I do think if Springer ever gets to 100%, he could be a force at LB & Wheeler looks like he can motor when he wants to.

Opurum is a stud. Period.

Sorry for being negative after a good 'ole fashion butt spanking, but it's just the way I'm seeing things shaping up for us this year and I don't like it.

Kevin Long 12 years, 1 month ago

Your not being negative Nebjahawk. Your being real. For some reason KU just can't get clicking on all cylinders. I just want to see them put together a complete game. They are running out of time to get it right. Sourthern Miss. is a pretty good team.

I hope they can get it all together and have a good season. I know that sounds bad to say after a big win, but let's not forget who they played.

prairie_dog 12 years, 1 month ago

We have covered the spread every week, just like the Orange Bowl team did. No, we have no Talib's, but we have more quality players at every position. I agree that the execution has not been there so far, but it is still early.

O-line has a ways to go, but the D-line may be the best we have ever had, certainly the deepest.

Our weaknesses look correctable. As for the Corn, their offense is suspect.

JJHAWK 12 years, 1 month ago

Beginning of conference play will give the edge to Nebraska or Missouri. They play at Mizzou and the winner will be in the drivers seat for the north title. Both have Baylor on their schedule. Should be interesting!

kranny 12 years, 1 month ago

I agree with Nebjahawk, I'm very nervous about S. Miss. I sure hope our true colors show up next week against S. Miss. Nebraska, Texas, Tex Tech, Mizzou still display a lot of speed. Even KState looked noteworthy against UCLA.

bergyju 12 years, 1 month ago

I totally see your points. But it sounds like you guys have to remember we are in pre-conference, thererfore this is when we work out the kinks. And just remember since it is pre-con. we are not running our plays you will see in conf. games. So keep in mind we have other stops up the sleeve that will come out later and make you all so proud!

OCJHAWK 12 years, 1 month ago

We seem to be fortunate that Sharp looks to be held back for precautionary measures and Briscoe hopefully has his act together. With the way Pick has looked as Todd's backup, I am sure he will be situationally worked in to the offense.

This schedule is working in our favor to be a special year. Work out the kinks the fiirst six weeks then grind out wins the next six. I have watched all the league contenders and KU will stack up well against them all as long as we stay healthy.


waywardJay 12 years, 1 month ago

Whil watching the game I noticed something.... Darrell Stuckey has some sort of a cast on his arm it doesn't look like it's major but he definetely has some new equipment he wasn't playing with against UNC.....

skeezerpleezer 12 years, 1 month ago

Although it was not a great performance, it was a win. I am not sold on Nebraska. They didn't manage a TD against a VT defense that is not as good as usual, probably not much better than ours. And the VT offense is horrible. How they are ranked that high is beyond me.

grantmvb 12 years, 1 month ago

NebJayhawk- Not to burst your bubble, but your ovbiously frustrated about the Nebraska loss. I would have liked to see them win as well. This team is fine. The only concerning part for this team right now is still the defense. The offense will put up points. It doesn't matter how they do it - todd scrambling, etc. They will put up points.

Jeff Hargate 12 years, 1 month ago

I know it's early, but...our DB's and safety's can't seem to find the ball in coverage. Even a ball with some air under it is not being picked up. It looks like they are just getting beat. The last Duke TD was ugly coverage by Thornton. He was there, but he never turned around. This could be a bend, but don't break type of D this year.

tdub 12 years, 1 month ago

This article seems like it was written by someone who didn't even watch the game! Didn't anyone else notice that the offense was pretty stagnant in the first half until Sharp was inserted. He provided the spark, even with limited touches, that got the points rolling. Opurum did an admirable job filling in, but look closely at his rushes. I can't remember too many carries he had for more than 4 or 5 yards.

Do not get me wrong, I believe Opurum will be a special player. I just can't believe an entire article was written based on what I perceive as a farce. I also question why, if he was truly hampered by injury, Sharp was inserted in such limited fashion. Sure, he sparked the offense, but we would have sufficed just fine without him. Get him healthy! He has been the biggest key to this team thus far! If you question this, compare KU's rushing totals in this game vs. the first two games.

tdub 12 years, 1 month ago

jeffthejayhawk - I hear you. Most of the time our DBs are in position, but they simply fail to look for the ball. This will lead to countless interference calls against the likes of OU and Texas for face-guarding if it's not corrected. There were several times yesterday we could have been flagged, but luckily the stripes took mercy.

mondhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

your right nebraskajayhawk ku is not hitting on all cylinders yet but you are way to negative on your posts. I see a team making mistakes {dropped passes,penalities,etc.} that MM will get corrected. Instead I see a offensive and defensive line that is vastly improved over last year and that by itself will help the hawks compete against the south. I suspect you will try to attribute that to the teams we played so far but go back look at the film from last year early and you will see this team is much better off to compete for the league.

mdfraz 12 years, 1 month ago

Took mercy? Which play do you think really deserved a flag? The coverage is MUCH better than it was against UNC. I don't really remember a single play where our guy interfered with the receiver. They were step for step with them (which is hard enough) on all but maybe a couple plays, and although it was a touch late sometimes, they seemed to look back and make a play on the ball, unlike Davis did a couple weeks ago.

As for Thornton getting burned in the end zone, yes it was disappointing, but we blitzed everyone and the pass was a floater that the receiver saw and Thornton didn't. It happens. Hopefully he learns from that, but I won't get on him that much for it. Any of you ever played man to man coverage in the secondary? If you have, you wouldn't be quite so critical of the defenders. I'm not saying they played perfectly; far from it. However, our guys were on islands for a lot of plays yesterday, and they did fairly well for the most part. Much better than against UNC I think.

Opurum seemed slower yesterday, and didn't dish out very much punishment, especially early on. If you are 240 pounds you ought to be running low and making defenders pay for trying to stop you, and I didn't see that power running much yesterday. Mangino has pointed out that Toben still runs high, and I think you could see that yesterday. Don't get me wrong, I love the kid and I think he could be one of the best to come through KU in a long time, but he has some work to do, just like a lot of other guys.

We're getting there. Every week we tighten a couple aspects of our game up, and that's what the non-con is for. I won't guarantee a north title, but we are gonna have a really good chance at it, especially if we keep tweaking and fixing the little mistakes we are seeing.

100 12 years, 1 month ago

All I know is we beat the Duke Jamies.

We have one thing to do right now -- forget about the Duke Jamies, watch some tape & prepare for Southern Miss.

gardenjay 12 years, 1 month ago

My theory is, if you tip a waiter or waitress properly, then you will get better service the next time - even from behind those kitchen doors.

If our fans will please stop leaving before the blow-out non-con games are over, then the players will feel better, and perhaps feel more energetic. So we need more audience retention ideas, like:

1) Free beer at Free State with coupons handed out at the end of each game (paid for by AD) 2) Free Bill Self bobble-heads handed out at end of game 3) Free basketballs - at end of game 4) "The Basketball Fans Guide To Football", free at the end of the game.... 5) ...please help me here....

JBurtin 12 years, 1 month ago

One thing that nobody has yet mentioned that I think is noteworthy.

Duke was the first team we have played this year that didn't drop 7 or 8 guys back in covereage on every play. Of course they are going to cover the run better if they have a defense in place that is made to slow it down.

As for the passing game being a bit slow to start. This is also the first game for us to have to rely on the passing game to produce some points. Reesing had to knock a little rust off the old throwing arm, but he warmed up and did his job just fine.

Duke also brought some blitz packages to get some pressure and our coaches did a wonderful job of adjusting at halftime. They made Duke pay for their aggressive tactics by rolling Reesing out to keep the Linebackers at home. This left the receivers in single coverage and allowed them to operate and put up points. Duke is lucky that Reesing missed a couple of his throws, and his receivers dropped a ball or two; otherwise, this game could have gotten much uglier than 44 to 16.

All in all, not the most dominating performance I have seen by the Hawks, but they are certainly a team that could get nasty under the right circumstances. They just need to shed the desire to repeat 2007, and develop the desire to become the 2009 team that everyone knows they can be.

100 12 years, 1 month ago

6) brainwash our current students to forget their 5 year old memories of their parents taking them wailing to the car at the start of the 2nd half, to "avoid postgame traffic"

7) have KU officials giving stamps out at the end of the game -- businesses like the Wheel would then have an agreement of some sort, dime draws/ etc ($1 Yellow Sub etc)

Benjamin Piehler 12 years, 1 month ago

Jason Whitlock of KC star is siding w/ Mizzou over KU this year. A not so flattering article was in the paper today titled "Somethings the Matter with Kansas". I dont really agree with much of the article, in fact, it does a poor job of providing specific examples where the team needs help aside from "maturing".

tdub 12 years, 1 month ago

Did you read the Gabbert love-fest from Whitlock two weeks ago after MU beat Illinois? I thought it fitting that he was outperformed by a nobody in their second game, which they almost lost. Surprisingly, there was no love given out last week by Whitlock. Now, they beat up on a nobody again, and we get dissed for playing an (admittedly bad) ACC team! If you haven't already, boycott Whitlock AND the KC Star.

BigBlue4KU 12 years, 1 month ago

NebraskaJayhawk I must disagree. While the Jayhawks first three opponents were not probable bowl teams, at least UTEP and Duke are competitive Division 1 teams. Southern Miss IS a probable bowl team and should be a solid test for the Hawks before the conference season begins.

I have to say that based on the games we've witnessed so far, would you say Nebraska has more or less offensive concerns that Kansas? I would say immensely more concern is in the house of the Cornhuskers. Defensively Kansas has shown a lot more possibility than Nebraska has shown Offensively. Virginia Tech is probably going to have its bell rung by Miami next weekend. Then, what will your projections be concerning the Nebraska offense. I see that FSU scored 54 on a BYU team (in Provo) that Oklahoma could only manage 13 points against. If you want to discuss inconsistency, how about that? Texas has not been particularly impressive against its "lowly" non conference foes but I don't hear anyone counting them out of the Big 12 race. Missouri has had its moments (last week) where you wondered if they were in serious trouble. Oklahoma State losing at home to Houston? How about USC getting beaten by a Washington team that is 2-12 over the last two years coming off the longest losing streak in the country?

I don't care if the Jayhawks have played "little sisters of the poor", they have CONTROLLED their opponents. They have averaged over 500 yards per game, 40 points per game, and seem to be as effective on the ground and through the air. They have NOT stumbled on their lesser opponents. EVERY coach who has played them, including Price (former Alabama head man) and Cutcliffe (who has an extensive Division one history) have praised their preparation and play. Defensively, they are making incredible strides.

Every school has to question where they are after playing non top 25 teams, but given Kansas had a schedule to play, they have played it well. Better than well. There has never been a doubt about their superiority. I personally feel as good about this team as I could possibly feel at this point in the season. I cannot imagine what you must want to see to be convinced that they are real.

As to Nebraska being superior, I don't know what game you were watching yesterday, but the Nebraska team I watched was not overwhelming. I think we will kick their butts. This time, I hope Coach doesn't stop at 76.

Tony Bandle 12 years, 1 month ago

8] Make everyone leaving early pay a fine ...say, ten bucks a head with the money going to free beer for all those that stayed to the final gun.

9] Make them walk in front of the stands with people booing and heckling them for their lack of loyalty.

10] Lock all the gates!!

11.] Have naked cheerleader races after the game...boys and girls. We've got to be fair, you know.:}

12] Stamp the hand of every person leaving early with a portrait of Lew Perkins with indelible ink that won't wash off for two weeks. THAT will keep everyone in their seats!!!!!

KURocksChalk 12 years, 1 month ago

What concerns me most about this game is Duke getting so many first downs. We have got to do better on defense. There is a lot to look forward to, but I agree that we don't look sharp in quite a few areas. I am beginning to wonder about the lifestyle of the players, are they getting enough sleep, rest, partying too hard on weekends? When they get their rest they will be a much better team. I know how it is with anyone else in any walk of life when you are tired, you make mistakes.

kvskubball 12 years, 1 month ago

I don't know what game some people were watching, but the D secondary was very fortunate.... I remember several passes that the Duke receiver dropped from his hands, or that the QB had a wide-open receiver and missed him (including twice over-throwing a wide open receiver behind the defense). If Duke had executed better or had better athletes, or both, we'd have had a tough time winning the game, with our offense mostly stuck in neutral for a large part of the first half, for the second game in a row and our defense starting the game in slow-mo.

I'll take our victories, but our next opponent IS a quality team, and it will be interesting to see how much we've improved. The O Line has some issues, like not sustaining blocking for even a second on a screen, with Todd having to rush the throw for an incompletion, missed blocking assignments.

The D Line looks good. On offense, our skill people look like they will be very good, if they can play for a full game.

The D-backs, I'm not sold on.

Are we better than we were last year? IMO, too early to tell. Ask me after our next game, and I think I'll know pretty much whether we can compete.

After our first three games against very 'light' competition, my assessment is that we seem to be good enough to get in a bowl game again. We look like we might be able to be much better, but the O-Line and D secondary have to continue to make large strides, or we'll be fortunate to finish second in the Big XII North. That wouldn't be bad, but our success over the last couple years has me hoping that the depth that we have will keep us moving further on up!

MM and the coaching staff have managed to develop a lot of near-coal into near-diamonds in the past 7 years. He's also uncovered some really good talents that others over-looked. Now, it seems he is starting to recruit near-diamonds (McD, TOp, and Pick), and if he can get them to make the strides the other less talented players have made, then we'll be celebrating opportunities to compete for league championships and more over the next couple of years! I hope we start this year, but there are many improvements to make to get there. We have some time, but it is getting shorter by the week :)

Rock Chalk!

dewclw 12 years, 1 month ago

I agree with NebraskaJHawk. I believe the one thing really lacking in this team on both sides of the line is Hunger or Passion. If you want something bad enough, you'll find a way to make it happen or collapse trying. Whether you're a starter on this team or a back up. Talent only takes you so far. These guys have got to want it more. Determination can carry you far, even with less talent than other teams. This team has got to light it's own fire, especially with OU, MU, Tex, TT, etc on the horizon. Stop accepting that you'll probably lose to the big three in the south. We used to have an already beaten mentality about NU, but not anymore. want it....then go take it. By force.

100 12 years, 1 month ago

With all the analysis (which by the way, setting the bar high is great, this is what KU hoops fans have been doing forever), it's time for a good dose of reality:

  1. We have a very young line protecting Todd Reesing -- it will only get better. Their run blocking has been superb so far this year, & that has been the big push -- can we have a stellar run game to go with our stellar passing game -- well it looks like thanks to the work put in by these lineman & running backs, the best chance a D coordinator has to stop us is to simply guess -- which is dangerous to do against Todd.

  2. Our D hasn't looked this good since the Orange bowl -- now we took a step back against Duke with coverage, but the athletes are there & so is the mindset. When was the last time we saw our D line dominating anybody? Huge strides have been made here.

  3. Our snapping distance to Todd has been shortened. This is to assist with the running game, but it also makes for harder reads. This could pay off in the long run, but I believe what we are seeing is Todd & company getting used to this -- let's face it, the run will be extremely important against teams like OU -- we must be ready to have a multidimensional attack.

  4. Remember -- it's one game (and only one game) at a time. Win each one (and we can) & we will be very high in the polls come the end of the year. In 2007 we weren't anywhere near the top 25 at this time of the year -- we're three weeks from (possibly) being in the top 10. All we have to do is work on being our best & focus on one game at a time -- this is a very good football team, which simply looked a bit sloppy last Saturday.

Just beat Southern Miss.

NebraskaJayhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

First of all, let me make this very clear. I am not a Cornhusker fan. I was born and raised in Kansas. I just live and work in Nebraska. I had to laugh at some of the comments made to my own, especially the one made about me being upset with Nebraska's loss. Trust me, when you work around these guys, you grow to hate the huskers even more than before. However, I hold to my previous comments. We obviously did not watch the same VT / NU game...either that or you have rose colored glasses on. Nebraska's defense is for real, especially up if that wasn't apparent last year with Suh in the backfield every other play. I agree that we have a better offense...everyone in the nation would agree with that. But I can tell you one thing: we are not going to score very many points against Nebraska if we don't get some better line play. That's just a fact. Every football player and fan knows that this game is won in the trenches. I'm amazed at the talent we are getting at some positions, but we have not grabbed any big time talent for either the O-Line or D-Line yet. That's not saying the guys we do have can't step up, but I just haven't seen it on the O-Line yet...sorry.

That said, I love this team that we have. Lots of character and heart which translates into possibly a great season. I'm optimistic, I'm just wanting to see some better play on our O-Line. Peace out.

kvskubball 12 years, 1 month ago


Really the only reason we weren't in the top 25 at this point in the season last year was because of the egg we laid in the second half in our first away game in Florida! But that 'directional' Florida team was better than the UTEP team we beat on the road this year!

After the So. Miss game, I think we'll know whether this team is 'ahead' of last year's team. I hope so, but I don't 'know' so!

100 12 years, 1 month ago


You're right about last year's team -- that S. Florida game hurt.

I was talking about the 2007 team, where we snuck up on everyone & went to the Orange bowl (the 2008 Orange bowl technically).

My point is, even that year we slowly rose up to #2 in the nation & if we could have somehow scored a last second touchdown against Mizzou (& played a close game in the big12 championship game) we wouldve been in the national championship game.

Hard to believe, but true.

So it's only about figuring out a way to win each week -- are we better than what we saw against Duke?

Of course we are.

Is it impossible to win each and every game we play this year?

As we learned in 2007, we absolutely can win each & every game -- it's a matter of preparing (and getting psyched up) for each & every game.

This team is good enough -- it's just a matter of getting better each & every week.

Clarence Haynes 12 years, 1 month ago

There seems to be a lot of experimentation on the defensive side. Hopefully Mangino et al will put it all together during the next couple of games and in time for the challenging part of the schedule.

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