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Opinion: For shot at upset, KU must run at UT

November 1, 2013

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Scott Vestal, assistant defensive backs coach for a Kansas University football team trying to stop its Big 12 losing streak at 25 Saturday in Austin against Texas, carries no illusions about the enormity of that task.

“Their offensive line is as improved as any in our league,” Vestal said. “Last year, frankly, they were not as good as they are this year and they’re coming off the ball with bad intentions.”

Big, quick and nasty, not necessarily in that order.

“They have some big guys at tight end who can move pretty good,” Vestal said of a Longhorns offense that lines up with two tight ends most of the time.

And then there is junior Joe Bergeron, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back who blends so much strength and speed, running behind all of those mobile behemoths.

Bergeron’s combined rushing totals from his first two games against Kansas: 20 carries for 168 yards and three touchdowns.

Oh, by the way, Bergeron is the Longhorns’ third-string running back.

He plays behind sophomore Johnathan Gray and junior Malcolm Brown.

Keep looking at that glass. Surely, somewhere a vantage point makes it look half full.

Is it at all comforting that, because Texas runs the ball far more than it passes it, the clock will move faster? The shorter a game, the better the chance of an upset.

Didn’t do it for you? OK, try this: Texas needed a controversial call to escape Ames with a one-point victory against Iowa State. The Cyclones share a shortcoming with KU. They, too, have encountered offensive line troubles. But in the Texas game, ISU had received ample blocks to rush for 201 yards and pass for 262.

Iowa State totaled 463 yards of offense by attempting 27 passes and rushing 50 times. Quarterback Sam Richardson accounted for 83 rushing yards.

Love those numbers and the guy who has the best shot of triggering something similar for KU is true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart.

James Sims, Darrian Miller and Brandon Bourbon all will run better when facing a defense that must account for a running threat at QB, especially one who can sidestep a sack and fling a long pass on the money, a pair of highlights from Cozart’s uneven performance last Saturday against a Baylor squad that tends to bring out the worst in everybody.

KU’s highest point total against a Football Bowl Subdivison opponent came in a 34-19 loss to Oklahoma. KU rushed 39 times for 185 yards, a 4.7 average, and passed just 13 times.

It was the O-line’s best performance. Big men prefer run-blocking to pass-blocking because they would rather plow forward than get plowed backward. Once they get in a rhythm run-blocking they get into it, feel like they’re in a brawl, start growling.

The running game faded as the Sooners’ game wore on, but with Cozart playing a more prominent role and adding a dimension, who knows?

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