Kansas looks to bounce back in front of its home crowd whenthe Jayhawks welcome Louisiana Tech to Memorial Stadium for an 11 a.m. game onFox Sports 1 (FS1) Saturday. A bowl team and the nation's highest scoringoffense a season ago, the Bulldogs (1-2) dropped their conference opener toTulane last Thursday and are also looking to get back on track under new headcoach Skip Holtz.
Kansas (1-1) has been among the nation's leaders in pass defense, havingallowed just one passing touchdown with three interceptions through two games.Kansas running back JamesSims continues his climb up the career rushing charts and moved intofifth place with another 100-yard performance in KU's loss to Rice lastweekend. The Jayhawks and Bulldogs will be meeting for the fourth time, withKansas leading the all-time series 2-1, all in Lawrence.Â
Kansas is 4-3-2 all-time in games played on Sept. 21st, withthe first game dating back to an 1895 match-up against Midland in Atchison,Kan., which KU won 28-0. Most recently, Kansas dropped a 39-16 decision toBowling Green in Lawrence during the 2002 season, Mark Mangino's first year ashead coach. Kansas had won two straight on Sept. 21st, with wins over IndianaState (1985) and New Mexico State (1991).ÂKansas-Louisiana Tech Connections
The Jayhawks and Bulldogs have both dipped into the Texashigh school and national junior college ranks and share a number of potentialconnections in both areas. Kansas junior right tackle ZachFondal is among the most connected, as a former teammate at NavarroJunior College to LA Tech's Mitchell Bell (OL), Eddie Johnson (WR) and ThomasMcDonald (WR). Bell and Fondal were one-time Arkansas commits and both visitedKansas last fall. Kansas junior defensive lineman KeonStowers went to Georgia Military Academy, as did LA Tech's Tre Carter(OL), Kevin Gary (WR) and Terome Grant (WR). Bulldog corner Josh Ross and KUoffensive lineman NgaluFusimalohi both played at City College of San Francisco. LouisianaTech defensive lineman Devon McKinney played at Pierce College in California,as did Kansas players Brandon Holloman (DB), MarquelCombs (DL) and MarcusJenkins-Moore (LB). Current Jayhawk defensive quality controlassistant TyGreenwood was previously the defensive coordinator at Pierce.
In the high school ranks, there's an age gap, but KU's AlexMatlock and LA Tech's IK Enemkpali are both from Plugerville (Texas)HS. Bulldog offensive lineman Jens Danielson is from Wichita, Kan., and went toAndover Central High School. Although he went to high school in Houston, KUredshirt freshman DB GregAllen grew up in New Orleans. Among other connections, Kansasassistant defensive backs coach ScottVestal was a graduate assistant at Louisiana Tech.
Louisiana Tech scorched opponents at the rate of 51.5 pointsper game during the 2012 season, but is breaking in a new coach and startingquarterback in 2013 and haven't yet been able to match that pace. Gone areSonny Dykes, who took the head coaching job at California, and Colby Cameron,the 2012 WAC Offensive Player of the Year who graduated, and in their place arenew leader Skip Holtz and Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young. This year's team isaveraging 18.7 points per game, with Young throwing for nearly 150 per contest.He's been efficient at quarterback, completing 52.9 percent of his passes andhasn't thrown an interception in three games. Young left last Thursday's gamewith an injury and freshman signal caller Ryan Higgins was his replacement.
The favorite target early in the year has been Sterling Griffin, a graduatetransfer who played for Holtz at South Florida. The Bulldogs lost their topthree receivers from a year ago and Griffin has attempted to fill part of thevoid with 11 catches for 103 yards. In all, Young has hit 12 differentreceivers for at least two catches through the first three games. Running backKenneth Dixon averaged nearly 100 yards per game last year, while running formore than 1,000 yards as a freshman All-American, but has seen his per-gameproduction cut in half during the early portion of the 2013 slate, whilebattling a knee injury. Tevin King was the Bulldogs' starter in 2012 beforesuffering an injury of his own and has led the Bulldogs with 96.3 yards pergame and 7.0 yards per carry. Â Â
The Louisiana Tech offense took the biggest hit in theoff-season with eight starters lost, but the defense wasn't far behind withseven starters lost. Among this year's leading tacklers, only defensive backLe'Vander Liggins, was among last year's top-10 tacklers and he's fifth among2013 tackling leaders with 17 through three games. Liggins is tied for the teamlead as one of three Bulldogs with an interception this season. Graduatetransfer Daniel Cobb, who played for Texas Tech in KU's overtime loss to theRed Raiders last year, has set up shop in the opposing team's backfield with ateam-leading eight tackles for loss. IK Enemkpali, a 2012 First Team All-WACselection, has been equally disruptive for opponents with a team-best 4.5 sacksand an interception from the defensive line. The Bulldogs recorded six sacks intheir Conference USA debut against Tulane last Thursday but gave up 370 yardsin the process. Sophomore defensive back Kentrell Brice is the Bulldogs'leading tackler with 26 total stops. ÂLouisiana Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz
Holtz is in his first season as Louisiana Tech's head coachfollowing a three-year stint at South Florida and previous head coaching stopsat East Carolina and Connecticut. Holtz has participated in 15 postseason gamesin his coaching career, including seven as a head coach and eight as anassistant coach. Of the seven games as head coach, five occurred in theFootball Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and two occurred in the Football ChampionshipSubdivision (FCS). Holtz and Kansas head coach CharlieWeis share Notre Dame as their alma mater.ÂTop Performers - Offense: JamesSimsTop Performers - Defense: BenHeeneyTop Performers - Special Teams: TrevorPardulaIt's Not You, It's Me ,P/K, Jr., 6-5, 212, San Jose, Calif. Turningthe Tide on Defense ,LB, Jr., 6-1, 230, Hutchinson, Kan.Â Fearthe Beard ,HB, Sr., 6-0, 200, Irving, Texas Developinga Pass Rush
Sims recorded his 12th career 100-yard rushing game as heput accumulated 109 rushing yards on 19 carries at Rice. With his 109 yards,Sims now has 2,685 yards for his career which ranks No. 5 all-time in Kansashistory. He passed David Winbush (2,608) and Kansas greats John Riggins (2,659)and gale Sayers (2,675) on the KU all-time rushing chart in KU's outing atRice. Sims' 12th 100-yard game moved him into a tie with Jon Cornish on the KUall-time list for 100-yard games. Sims also had three catches for 14 yards inthe game.ExtendedRange
Heeney was all over the field for the Jayhawk defense as heset a new career-high with 18 tackles at Rice. Heeney tallied 11 solo stops andalso had 2.5 TFLs for a loss of 12 yards, one sack for a loss of eight yardsand a career-best two pass breakups. The 18 tackles marked Heeney's sixthdouble-figure tackling game of his career. His sack for a loss of eight yardsmarked the third-straight game he has recorded a sack.ÂTheSimsÂ
Pardula punted six times for 278 yards, turning in a 47.8yards per punt average. He recorded a career long punt of 59 yards and alsodropped two punts inside the 20-yard line. Additionally, Pardula kicked off forthe Jayhawksâ€"notching touchbacks on all three of his kickoffs. Â
Kansas junior cornerback DexterMcDonald has made breaking up look easy â€" passes anyway. Throughtwo games the Kansas City, Mo., native has five break-ups, including three atRice. Coupled with his first career interception against the Owls, McDonaldleads the Big 12 Conference and is tied for the national lead with San JoseState's Bene Benwikere in passes defended with 3.0 per game. McDonald has beena key component to the Jayhawks' pass defense, which ranks third nationally inpassing yards allowed per game (122.5) and second in team passing efficiencydefense (75.70).Â
Kansas'pass defense comparison to two-time defending National Champ Alabama didn'tlast very long, but it wasn't the Jayhawks moving down the list. Kansas wasrunner-up a week ago in the national rankings for fewest passing yards allowedper game and remained in the top five while the Crimson Tide fell to No. 92.Kansas hasn't faced a Heisman contender, but the Jayhawks are a much improvedunit and rank third at 122.5 yards per game, behind Washington State (99.7) andVirginia Tech (106.3). KU limited South Dakota to 67 yards through the air inthe season-opener, the best passing defensive effort since allowing just 66yards passing to K-State on Nov. 7, 2009. Kansas' pass defense continued tolook sharp in game two as the Jayhawks picked off two passes and combined fornine pass break-ups, while limiting Rice to 178 yards and no touchdown passes.Last season, KU surrendered a program worst 289.2 passing yards per game andhas allowed 220 yards per game or more in each of the last nine seasons.Kansas' largest, single-season improvement in pass defense was 85.4 yards from1973 to 1974, a little more than half of the difference (166.7) from last yearto the current tally through two games.Â
BenHeeney'scareer-best 18 tackles against Rice helped push the junior up the Big 12 andnational tackling charts. Heeney's 11.0 tackles per game are tied for the Big12 lead and rank tied for 12th nationally. The 18 tackles were the most sincecurrent Denver Broncos linebacker Steven Johnson recorded 18 tackles againstTexas Oct. 29, 2011, and earned Heeney honorable mention among linebackers bythe College Football Performance Awards on Monday. Heeney, KU's top returningtackler and 2013 Rotary Lombardi Award watch list member, burst onto the scenein 2012 with 112 tackles in his first season as a starter for the Jayhawks. Histally included 66 solo stops and he led KU with 12.0 tackles-for-loss with onesack. Heeney earned second team All-Big 12 honors following the 2012 seasonfrom the conference coaches, the Associated Press and Phil Steele Magazine. Hewas listed as a preseason first team All-Big 12 member entering the 2013 seasonby Athlon, Lindy's and The Sporting News. Additionally, Heeney was named to theCollege Football Performance Awards watch list for the top linebacker in theNCAA.
Kansashas recorded back-to-back games with three sacks and reaching back to the finalgame of 2012, the team has logged three sacks in three consecutive games. Thatnumber ties the team's single game high from the last two seasons. Linebacker BenHeeney has a sack in each of the first two games and Buck MichaelReynolds got to the quarterback twice against Rice. The last time KUrecorded three or more sacks in consecutive games was the end of the 2010season when KU sacked Missouri four times, then opened the 2011 campaign withthree sacks against McNeese State. The last time it happened in the same seasonwas 2009, during a three-game stretch to open the season againstÂ Northern Colorado (3 sacks), UTEP (6 sacks), and Duke (5 sacks). Â
TheJayhawks have received some much needed relief in the area of special teamswith the emergence of redshirt freshman kicker MatthewWyman and junior college transfer punter TrevorPardula. Wyman nailed a 45-yard field goal in the season opener - thelongest by a Jayhawk kicker since Jacob Branstetter's 46-yard make at KansasState on Nov. 7, 2009. Pardula, who serves as KU's kickoff specialist, has sixtouchbacks through two games and needs just one more to match last season'sentire total. Pardula booted a career-best 59-yard punt against Rice and ranksninth in the nation in punting at 45.7 yards per punt.
KUsenior running back JamesSims had an outstanding 2012 season as he ranked first in the Big 12and 17th in the NCAA in rushing yards per game. Sims also ranked third in theBig 12 and 33rd in the NCAA in all-purpose yards. Sims rushed for 100 yards ormore in six games last season. After missing the first three games of the 2012campaign, Sims eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in six-of-seven outings vs.Big 12 foes. In 2012, Sims recorded a career long rush of 64 yards (vs. Texas),a career-long reception of 51 yards (vs. Oklahoma) and a career-long TD run of59 yards (vs. Baylor). Additionally, he logged his career-best rushing gamewith 176 yards vs. Texas. Last weekend, Sims notched his 12th career 100-yardrushing effort at Rice to tie Jon Cornish on KU's career 100-yard games listand moved past Gale Sayers and John Riggins into fifth on the Kansas careerrushing totals chart. With two touchdowns this season, Sims also moved intosecond on the KU career rushing touchdowns list. Here's a look at where heranks on those three charts:Â