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Archive for Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Wrecking Crew next test for Whittemore

October 15, 2002

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Bill Whittemore's streak of three consecutive 300-yard games will be put to the test Saturday when Kansas University plays host to Texas A&M at Memorial Stadium.

A&M's Wrecking Crew defense led by former Kansas defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz has finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense and scoring defense in three of the past four seasons.

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"Texas A&M has always taken pride in their defensive play, and this year is no exception," KU coach Mark Mangino said Monday during the Big 12 teleconference.

The Aggies (4-2, 1-1 Big 12 Conference) lead the league and rank fourth nationally in rushing defense, allowing an average of 75.3 yards per game. A&M, coming off a 41-0 victory against Baylor, ranks fourth in the league and 12th nationally in total defense with an average of 284 yards allowed.

It makes for a tough matchup for the Jayhawks (2-5, 0-3), 23-point underdogs who rank last in the league and 93rd in the nation in total offense.

Whittemore has been KU's best and sometimes only weapon. The Fort Scott Community College transfer ranks fourth in the league in scoring with 10 touchdowns and accounts for 247.4 of KU's 338.6 yards-per-game average.

"If I had my way, we wouldn't run him as much as we do," Mangino said. "It's been out of necessity. But I think as our pass protection gets better and the tailback run game development improves, he will do a little bit less running.

"The fact of the matter is, he can. The only thing I would like to see him do is slide more and run out of bounds more. I know he doesn't like to do that because he's a great competitor, but we just don't want him getting hit as much as he is."

Whittemore carried the ball 27 times Saturday in KU's 53-29 loss to Colorado. It was the most carries by any KU player this season.

The quarterback leads KU with 495 yards rushing, 90 more than freshman running back Clark Green. No signal caller has led Kansas in rushing since Nolan Cromwell ran for 1,124 yards in 1975.

With five games remaining, Whittemore could threaten KU's single-season record of 17 rushing touchdowns set by tailback June Henley in 1996.

"When you have a highly competitive kid like Bill, he wants to get that extra yard," Mangino said. "He wants to get the ball in the end zone, and I appreciate that and his teammates respect him for that. We all do. But he takes a lot of hits and it will catch up with him, whether he's taking a vicious hit or repeatedly taking hits.

"He went into the training room Sunday, and he didn't have any serious injuries, but he was sore, real banged up. I'm going to talk to Bill again today about helping the team by taking less hits. That's something he has to learn to understand."

Whittemore has completed 111 of 224 passes for 1,237 yards with seven TDs and five interceptions.

First in the Big 12: Kansas junior cornerback Remuise Johnson leads the league with five interceptions. ... Freshman Greg Heaggans leads the league with an average of 30 yards per kick return.

Last in the Big 12: KU ranks last in the league in scoring defense (37.1 points per game), rushing defense (261.3 yards per game), passing defense (151.82 yards), total defense (460.1 yards), pass efficiency (99.7 rating), pass defense efficiency (134.3 rating) and opponent first downs (149).

Missouri kickoff set: Television networks passed on the Kansas-Missouri football game on Oct. 26 in Columbia, Mo., and MU officials announced Monday the game would start at 1 p.m.

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