Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 45-42 victory over Northern Illinois on Sept. 10, 2011.
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For the second straight game, Kansas University’s football team wowed its home crowd with an awesome display of running the football.
After rushing for 301 yards on 55 carries in the opener, the Jayhawks tallied 253 yards rushing on 60 carries during Saturday’s 45-42 victory against Northern Illinois.
Several key plays in a game full of fireworks came on the ground and a large chunk of those out of KU’s “Jayhawk” formation.
Three different backs took direct snaps Saturday night, with sophomore James Sims and true freshman Darrian Miller handling the bulk of the between-the-legs passes from center Jeremiah Hatch that didn’t touch quarterback Jordan Webb’s hands first.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of quality players,” KU coach Turner Gill said. “It’s good to have those guys who we can put in there in different situations, who can go play the ‘Jayhawk’ position.”
While KU’s trio of freshmen backs (Miller, Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon) combined to rush for 131 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, sophomore starter James Sims nearly did that by himself. Sims finished with 110 yards and two TDs on 26 carries. The 26 carries were a career-high for Sims. The back-to-back 100-yard games were the first for a KU running back since Jake Sharp during the first two games of the 2009 season. Sims has topped the century mark five times in his first 13 games as a Jayhawk.
“A lot of good things happen when he’s over 100 yards,” Gill said of Sims. “In his two years here, when he’s been over 100 yards, we’ve won the football game.”
Gill said his team realized early that it could lean on the running game for the second straight week. He and KU’s running backs credited the offensive line for a lot of that.
“They were coming off the field talking about how we could run the football against these guys,” Gill said of the O-Line. “They felt very confident going against their defense, and it showed.”
Webb strikes again
The last time Kansas won on its last offensive play of the game came in 2005, when place kicker Scott Webb hit a 34-yard field goal in overtime to beat Iowa State. Saturday, the Jayhawks won on a six-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Webb with nine seconds to play in regulation.
A few Jayhawks were forced to leave Saturday’s game because of injuries, and, following the game, Gill said he had no update on their status. Junior linebacker Tunde Bakare left midway through the game and did not return. In addition, junior defensive tackle John Williams suffered a leg injury and was limited, and freshman receiver JaCorey Shepherd also spent time on the sideline because of an injury.
Senior center Jeremiah Hatch sat out for one play, but immediately returned and finished the game.
After six true freshmen played in last week’s game, two more cracked the rotation against Northern Illinois. Defensive back Victor Simmons, of Olathe, and defensive end, Michael Reynolds, of Wichita, played the first snaps of their KU careers Saturday.
Reynolds was credited with two tackles while Simmons had one.
Red-shirt freshman Andrew Turzilli also played in his first game for the Jayhawks. He did not have a catch.