Illinois State, an NCAA Div. I-AA school, quickly realized Saturday night that the higher-level football programs boast a different breed of players.
``The guys are a lot better than I had ever seen,'' ISU running back Aveion Cason said. ``And they hit kinda hard, too.''
Although Cason rushed for 128 yards on 15 carries, Kansas thrashed the Redbirds, 63-21.
Cason, a sophomore who sat out last season while meeting NCAA eligibility requirements, gained most of his yardage on an 80-yard TD run with 8:32 remaining in the first quarter that cut ISU's deficit to 14-7.
Cason's scamper was on ISU's first play after Kansas took a 14-0 lead.
``I'm really proud that I got a hundred yards, considering the strength of Kansas' defense,'' Cason said.
ISU has lost eight consecutive games to Div. I-A opponents dating to 1991.
``Some of our young players lost confidence, and that's too bad,'' Redbirds coach Todd Berry said. ``We needed a few more games to get our confidence up before we played a team like this.''
Illinois State popped St. Francis, a school with dual membership in the NAIA and NCAA Div. II, 47-3, in its season opener last week.
On Saturday night, quarterback Kevin Glenn completed 12 of 18 passes for 112 yards. But the sophomore signal-caller also tossed three interceptions, with two of the miscues returned for touchdowns in the second quarter.
``Our defense hadn't stopped them yet,'' Berry said. ``But those picks Kansas had were big. We saw some defensive schemes that we aren't used to seeing against other teams we face, and it confused our guys a few times.''
ISU allowed 293 rushing yards (507 total yards) despite KU's starters being yanked late in the second quarter.
``One of our biggest fears was their running backs,'' Berry said. ``I didn't know if we could tackle them or not.''
Illinois State will meet Southern Illinois in its homecoming game next Saturday. The Redbirds have no more Div. I-A opponents on their schedule.