Here are five things Texas Tech fans need to know about the Red Raiders’ Week 9 opponent: the Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas’ best QB play in a decade
Redshirt senior QB Carter Stanley is on pace to be the first Jayhawks quarterback to break 2,000 yards since Todd Reesing threw for 3,616 yards in 2009. Through seven starts, Stanley has thrown for 1,485 yards, 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Last season, Stanley played in just four games, fewer than half the games he averaged as a freshman and sophomore (17 total games from 2016-17). His improvement also comes off the back of an improved rushing attack, but the progress as a passer is real and a big reason why Kansas almost pulled off another upset against Texas.
Les Miles, the Mad Hatter
The last time Les Miles was the first-year head coach of a program was in 2005 at LSU. Miles took over for Nick Saban, who had led the Tigers to the 2003 national championship. Taking over a Kansas squad that has been one of the worst programs in the FBS for nigh on a decade couldn’t be any further from his last head coaching job.
Kansas is off to a 2-5 start, just one win from tying their best win total since 2009. The Jayhawks haven’t reached a bowl since the Mark Mangino days in 2008, which allows Miles to build the program in a more low-stakes environment. Year 1 is off to a good start for his crew, but the Jayhawks still have a long way to go to bring this program back to respectability.
Pooka Williams’ slight downturn
Sophomore running back Pooka Williams’ production has taken a dip this season. Williams has played in six of seven games, with his yards per rush and projected total touchdowns both down from the marks he posted in 2018. This year, he averages 5.5 yards per carry (7.0 in 2018), having totaled 635 yards to go along with four scores (three rushing, one receiving). He scored nine total touchdowns last season.
After a stellar freshman season, Big 12 defenses have keyed in more heavily on Williams, which has allowed the passing game and Stanley to thrive more. Williams’ down season is still an overall positive for Kansas as he’s still putting up above-average numbers at the running back spot for the Jayhawks.
A defenseless run defense
For all of Kansas’ improvements as a squad, the run defense has not been one of those areas of impressive progress. Through seven games, the Jayhawks allow 223 yards per game on the ground and 2.1 rushing touchdowns per game.
These numbers bode well for SaRodorick Thompson and the rest of Texas Tech’s stable of running backs. Kansas’ run defense has been its biggest Achilles heel so far and is one of the biggest reasons it couldn’t finish the upset against Texas.
One of the things that has led to the Jayhawks’ relative level of success so far this season is their ability to hold on to their possessions, but they haven’t been able to force many turnovers themselves as a defensive unit. On the year, the Jayhawks are turning over the ball just 1.1 times per game. Unfortunately for Kansas, its defense is forcing just 0.7 turnovers per game, putting it in the negative on the turnover differential.
Keith Patterson’s Tech defense is predicated on forcing turnovers, which will prove difficult against a side as disciplined as Kansas’ has been this season.