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Friday, September 16, 2016

Gameday Breakdown: Kansas football at Memphis

Kansas wide receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr. (5) avoids a tackle from Rhode Island safety Nas Jones (27) after a catch during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr. (5) avoids a tackle from Rhode Island safety Nas Jones (27) after a catch during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

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Kansas (1-1) at Memphis (1-0)

11 a.m. Saturday, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium • Game-time forecast: 82 degrees, 70% chance of rain • TV: ESPNU

Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog and follow our coverage team on Twitter: @KUSports, @BentonASmith, @TomKeeganLJW, @mctait and @nightengalejr

Keys for Kansas

1. Establish some rhythm on offense

Whether it’s via quick strikes from junior quarterback Montell Cozart (71.4 completion percentage this season) to any number of capable Kansas receivers or by getting back to rushing the ball with senior running back Ke’aun Kinner, the Jayhawks just need to resemble an Air Raid offense, get rid of the three-and-outs and pick up some first downs. Last week against Ohio, KU went kaput with the ball throughout the first half and fell behind 25 points as a result. A first-quarter touchdown would help the Jayhawks get comfortable on the road, but at the very least they need to come out and move the ball down the field with productive drives more regularly. It’s probably going to take more than 21 points (KU’s total versus Ohio) to snap the program’s 38-game losing streak away from Memorial Stadium.

2. Win the red zone

KU didn’t even run a play inside Ohio’s 20-yard line a week ago, so visiting the red zone a few times against Memphis would be an ideal starting point. The big-play capabilities of junior receiver and returner LaQuvionte Gonzalez and sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. are nice to have, but the Jayhawks also need to prove they can produce sustainable drives and finish those off with touchdowns. Defensively, after a rough start a week ago, KU recuperated on Ohio’s final five drives to the red zone, limiting the Bobcats to 12 points in that span, with the help of a third-quarter Fish Smithson interception in the end zone. Memphis scored three touchdowns in its four red-zone appearances against Southeast Missouri State in its opener and only came up short when taking a knee in the closing seconds.

3. Don’t let a deficit keep you down

Hey, this is a road game, and even if Memphis isn’t from a Power 5 conference, KU has obviously had its issues as a visiting team. So chances are the Tigers are going to take a lead, and most likely do so early. Assuming that happens, the Jayhawks can’t dwell on the deficit or the mistakes that led to it. Last week that type of mentality compounded KU’s issues, costing the team a victory. Second-year Kansas coach David Beaty has confidence in his players to rally, and they should follow his lead.

“I never felt like we were out of it,” Beaty said of the Ohio loss, “and I certainly didn't think our kids felt like they were out of it. The explosive nature of our offense, I think is the thing that our kids know and understand, so that was good to see.”

Mega Matchup

Memphis passing attack vs. Kansas secondary

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Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller (3) gets past Navy safety Lorentez Barbour (2) to score a touchdown on an 11-yard pass reception in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

As Kansas takes the field for its non-conference finale, its defensive backs might finally feel like they’re up against a Big 12-type of offense. The Jayhawks had few issues in limiting Rhode Island and Ohio to a combined 216 passing yards, as KU enters its first road game with two interceptions and and 16 pass break-ups already on its résumé. Memphis, however, figures to have a more competent passing attack, with junior quarterback Riley Ferguson behind center. The one-time Tennessee QB completed 26 of 40 throws for 295 yards and three touchdowns (two interceptions) in his Memphis debut. Junior receiver Anthony Miller established himself as Ferguson’s favorite target in the Tigers’ opener, catching nine passes for 103 yards versus SEMO. Freshman tailback Darrell Henderson contributed 39 receiving yards and two touchdowns on three catches.

5 Questions with Bazie Bates IV

1. Does Memphis seem a little more pass-happy than the first couple of KU opponents?

“It is nice to go back to a team that’s kind of pass-happy, but, you know, we weren’t as sound on the run game last week. We’re probably gonna see more running than they intended on. Basically just going out there this week, if we’re going against a pass team, everything’s gotta be sound from our stances to our back pedals to our breaks, to our man coverage and to our eyes. Just listen to coach (Clint) Bowen and coach (Kenny) Perry, whatever they’re telling us.”

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Kansas safety Bazie Bates IV (24) looks to the student section after intercepting a pass during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. At left is Kansas linebacker Courtney Arnick (28).

2. You’ve already had a lot more opportunities to make plays than last year — your first season at KU. What has made you a different player?

“It’s just about trust. Everybody has gone through a whole year together. You go through the whole offseason talking about what you guys want to do together as a group and I’d probably just say trusting each other, teaching each other. Outside of coach Perry and coach Bowen teaching us, Fish, if he sees me doing something wrong he’s gonna coach me up and likewise. The play’s gonna come, ’cause basically just trust and everybody needs to trust the other man, trust in the coaches and just trust in the game plan.”

3. Was it difficult for you last year when you weren’t able to come in and makes as much of an impact as you probably hoped you could?

“Yeah, it is difficult, but it’s a humbling experience. I guess that’s really the only thing you can do. If you don’t learn from it then you’re really just wasting time. And I feel that myself and a lot of the other teammates, we learned a lot from last year. Even though last week didn’t go as we hoped, we just have to improve on what the mistakes were and then just go out there and do what we need to do.”

4. Individually, where do you feel like you’ve made the most progress from a year ago?

“Last year coming from juco I kind of just wanted to do my own thing at times, but at the end of the day coaches know best. Like I said, got humbled last year and just need to learn to trust your coaches and everything that they’re saying. And just go out there and do it.’

5. What kind of lasting effect did a winless 2015 season have on you all as players?

“Last year, that was some things that no one has gone through, from the head man all the way down to the training staff. No one’s been a part of that. It is kind of difficult, because you do put in the same work everyone else does, and then you don’t really get the outcome that you wanted. Then to finally get that ‘W,’ the hard work that we put through all the offseason and the spring finally paid off.”

Jayhawk Pulse

Dating back to a Sept. 12, 2009, KU road win at UTEP, when Mark Mangino coached the Jayhawks and captains Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Jake Sharp and Darrell Stuckey suited up for Kansas, the program has lost 35 consecutive true road games — and the losing streak away from Lawrence adds up to 38 when including three neutral-site defeats to Missouri. Considering the rest of this year’s schedule consists of Big 12 opponents, with trips to Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas State on the slate, could this be KU’s best chance to end the skid in 2016? Considering the Jayhawks are 20-point underdogs, a more competitive showing than expected could at least provide signs that the streak will end in the foreseeable future.

Tale of the Tape:

KU run game vs. Memphis run D – Memphis

KU pass game vs. Memphis pass D – KU

Memphis run game vs. KU run D – KU

Memphis pass game vs. KU pass D – Push

Special teams – Memphis

Comments

Olympia Wilson 5 years, 9 months ago

Is our Run D, better than there running game? That shocks me.

Marc Frey 5 years, 9 months ago

I would like to see the offense speed up a bit. This standing at the line for 15+ seconds to get a play in slows the pace.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 9 months ago

SEMO lost by 18. I would hope that we at least beat the spread.

John Fitzgerald 5 years, 9 months ago

I would love to think we have a chance this game but unfortunately last game Beaty took 5 steps back. Not having the talent because of a past coaches short falls and not having a full team of scholarship players is a good excuse. But not having your team prepared on offense or defense is not a good excuse and exudes laziness. I think Beaty can do this job but I also think he needs to pull his head out of his ass. My prediction is 56-13 Memphis.

Jerry Walker 5 years, 9 months ago

" But not having your team prepared on offense or defense is not a good excuse and exudes laziness." -- John Fitzgerald

That statement turned your objective analysis into an over-emotional whine. One label that does not describe Beaty and staff is "lazy". Perhaps you should heed your own advice.

John Fitzgerald 5 years, 9 months ago

Why so angry, Jerry? Are you angry that my opinion doesn't match yours? Let's grow up buddy. I do appreciate you responding to my comment though. Maybe I was a little rash but last game hurt. Mainly because I thought we should have and could have won. KU can't afford to miss those opportunities. And trust me, Beaty knows that game was his fault. So, chill out there bud.

Also, exuding laziness doesn't mean I'm calling him lazy. It means it makes them appear that way. By no means do I think Beaty is lazy. Figured I'd take you back to school there for a minute. Have a good one bud!

Jerry Walker 5 years, 9 months ago

Who's angry? It was a rash statement and good on you for admitting it.

Pius Waldman 5 years, 9 months ago

John it appears you are a mite restless. Lets hope our Jayhawks perform well and just maybe bring home a victory. Yes it has been a losing situation but why not hope for a win.

Randy Bombardier 5 years, 9 months ago

I totally believe we can win this game. It is no longer about personnel as much as it is about execution. We have game changers in our personnel and we now have a offensive system that can put up points. The defense has created quite a few turnovers AND because said defense now practices against an offense that employs the predominant system in the conference the remainder of the season is by far about execution. That said, I see no reason why we should not be competitive in every game unless the players still do not believe. If they get their confidence back with this game it will make the rest of the season much more interesting. If we continue to flounder its all on the players. One thing I would like to see is confidence without trash talk, stupid gestures (I'm tempted to name names but I won't) or excessive celebration. I'd like to see our players act like they now expect to succeed.

Humpy Helsel 5 years, 9 months ago

Dang, I didn't think I drank the whole glass of Kool Aid, but I guess I gulped down a half of glass. I didn't think we were this bad. What? 20 point dogs! Guess I slurped it down and didn't even get a good taste. Come on Hawks! Maybe not a win, but how about some hope.

Brad Sherp 5 years, 9 months ago

Thunderstorms expected in Memphis tomorrow. A sloppy/wet field will give us a puncher's chance.

Edward Daub 5 years, 9 months ago

I am done making predictions after last week. I predicted a "close and tough" game versus Ohio. Boy , was I wrong! And now a chance of wet conditions makes it even muddier?

I think I will just ask questions from now on. The answers will come from the game.

Will Gonzalez be returning punts today? Stay tuned!

Robert Brock 5 years, 9 months ago

Aren't the Hawks closing in on the all-time NCAA record for consecutive road losses?

Andy Godwin 5 years, 9 months ago

"Memphis run game vs. KU run D – KU" - I think Benton must know or have seen something that the rest of KU fans have missed while watching the first two games or that Memphis will just rely on the pass. KU's defensive line is not dominating (including rushing the quarterback) the running game and relies on their safeties and linebackers to make the tackle. Yes, Wise had a better game against Ohio, but as a collective unit the defense has not shown they can stop the run, even against Rhode Island. For the season KU's defense has given up 499 yards on 97 carriers for an average of 5.1 yards per carry. If I were an offensive coordinator, I might make KU demonstrate they can indeed stop the run because 5.1 yards/carrier is not very good. Hope Benton is correct with his prediction.

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