EVANSTON, ILL. Kansas University's running game sputtered for the second time in three weeks Saturday, and this time the Jayhawks couldn't overcome it.
"One of the differences today was Northwestern ran the ball reasonably well, and we did not," said KU football coach Mark Mangino, whose team finished with 47 yards on 26 carries in a 20-17 loss to the Wildcats.
It was KU's worst performance since Kansas State limited the Jayhawks to 41 rushing yards in a 64-0 loss in 2002.
This game was much closer, but the Jayhawks could not move the ball on the ground all day. Junior backup Clark Green led KU with 25 yards on six carries, and starter John Randle had 18 yards on 12 carries.
The Jayhawks (2-1) struggled despite the fact that Northwestern starting defensive end David Thompson and his backup, David Ngene, each missed the game because of injuries. The Wildcats (1-2) lost their top end, Loren Howard, to an ankle injury in the preseason.
"We feel that our defense is strong enough that we can have guys out and still have the backup players step up," said NU linebacker Nick Roach, who had nine tackles. "Everyone is going to play with the most amount of effort that they can, no matter who it is."
Texas Christian had rushed for 157 yards in a 48-45 overtime victory over the Wildcats in the season opener, and Arizona State rushed for 143 in a 30-21 victory last week.
"I can't say enough about our defense," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said. "They battled all day."
Kansas had 174 yards rushing last week in a 63-14 blowout of Toledo, but the Jayhawks had a modest 102 yards on 36 carries in a 21-3 victory over Tulsa in the season opener.
|Here's a look at KU's worst games in terms of rushing yards:
"We know our running game will get going," said quarterback Adam Barmann, who kept KU in Saturday's game with 294 yards passing. "It's just a matter of time. ... I'm not worried about our running game at all."
Kansas had only 15 rushing yards on 14 attempts in the first half.
Starting right tackle Travis Dambach didn't play in the second half, but Mangino declined to specify whether the sophomore lineman was injured or merely ineffective. He did, however, acknowledge that changes were made.
"We had to go with some guys that could pick up the slack," said Mangino, who replaced Dambach with red-shirt freshman Cesar Rodriguez. "We weren't getting it done in some areas."
Sophomore David Ochoa started in place of senior right guard Tony Coker for the third straight game. Coker, who missed the first two games because of a preseason ankle injury, went down with 1:04 left in the third quarter and did not return.
Kansas, in fact, had three second-string linemen -- Ochoa, Rodriguez and reserve left guard Matt Mann -- in the game at crunch time. All three were in for a third-and-15 play from the Northwestern 26. Barmann's incomplete pass led Mangino to settle for a 43-yard field-goal attempt, which Johnny Beck missed wide right with 23 seconds left.
Kansas will try to regroup for Saturday's Big 12 Conference opener against Texas Tech at Memorial Stadium.