Texas to try to take advantage of woeful Kansas defense

Christian Corona

Kansas’ defense is about as bad as it gets. The Jayhawks have the country’s second-worst pass defense, the second-worst rush defense and are dead last in total defense, giving up more than 550 yards per game.

So why is Mack Brown comparing his team’s game against Kansas to last year’s 28-21 loss to Iowa State?

“People will not give Kansas credit this week,” Brown said. “Everybody thought since Iowa State had lost to Utah [68-27] and Oklahoma [52-0], they couldn’t possibly beat us.”

But the Cyclones found a way to beat the Longhorns on their home turf last October. Now, the Jayhawks bring their statistically atrocious defense to the 40 Acres as Texas looks for its first home win in conference play.

With Malcolm Brown growing into the feature back role and Fozzy Whittaker wreaking havoc out of the Wild formation and in the kick return game, the Longhorns are more apt to take advantage of Kansas’ 119th-ranked rush defense than its 119th-ranked pass defense. Brown, who set career-highs in yards (135), touchdowns (2) and yards per carry (7.1), has a great chance to top those marks this week while Whittaker will try to take a kickoff return to the end zone for the third consecutive game.

“The way we ran the ball against Oklahoma State showed promise,” Brown said. “Fozzy is playing really well. Cody Johnson is a great fullback. We’ll have trouble replacing him next year. But Malcolm Brown is a big-time back as well.”

With the inexperience and uncertainty at quarterback, it’s a good thing for the Longhorns they can run the ball. David Ash made his first career start against Oklahoma State but struggled against the nation’s 89th-ranked pass defense, going 22-for-40 passing for just 139 yards while committing three turnovers.

The freshman from Belton took all the first-team reps in practice last week after learning he would be the full-time starter against the Cowboys. But Ash and McCoy are back to splitting practice reps, with both taking the same number of snaps with the first team. Brown said a decision on this week’s starting quarterback would made either Thursday or Friday. Unless the quarterback play improves, Texas’ brilliant backfield could face more defenders creeping up to stuff the run.

“You can see teams loading the box on us,” said co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. “When they do, we’ve got to be able to take advantage of the throws outside and hit some of the plays and try to get the ball downfield.”

Despite the unimpressive numbers posted by the Kansas defense, some Longhorns players aren’t so sure the Jayhawks are as bad as their stats say they are. Kansas’ last five opponents were all ranked and unbeaten when they faced the Jayhawks.

“I’ve watched [Kansas] play and I don’t think they’re that bad,” said sophomore guard Mason Walters. “In the Big 12, someone’s got to be at the bottom. But I think they’re a good team. I think there are certain things we can exploit. Hopefully we do a better job of that than we have in the last couple of weeks.”

Kansas has faced top-notch quarterbacks this season — Texas Tech’s Seth Doege, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Kansas State’s Collin Klein — a group that includes three of the country’s top five passing yards leaders. Georgia Tech exploited holes in the Jayhawks run defense, racking up over 600 rushing yards in a 66-24 win over Kansas Sept. 17.

“They’ve played some very good teams,” Harsin said. “I think they have some talented skill players in the back half. I like the way those guys play. I think their linebackers are physical. And they do enough up front to give you problems.”

Kansas has proved vulnerable to high-octane passing attacks and hard-nosed ground games. But Texas’ two-headed monster at running back has been much more effective than the one at quarterback and is capable of keeping the Jayhawks run defense where it is now — near
the bottom.

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: Kansas giving Texas chance for big night