Jayhawks OK against pass

If the glass is half full, Kansas University’s football team intercepted four passes Saturday to add fuel to a 76-39 blowout victory over Nebraska.

If the glass is half empty, NU quarterback Joe Ganz had an admirable first start in his college career, throwing for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

So it wasn’t a great day for KU’s pass defense at Memorial Stadium. But it wasn’t a disaster, either.

“I’d say it was a good day, but we gave up a few big plays in the first half,” KU safety Justin Thornton said. “We eliminate that, and it cuts their yards down dramatically.”

Obviously, KU’s sensational offensive performance made the so-so pass defense irrelevant. But Ganz and NU receiver Maurice Purify did burn the Jayhawks’ secondary more than once, raising concerns with passing teams like Oklahoma State and Missouri still left on the schedule.

“They threw the ball a lot,” KU coach Mark Mangino said of Nebraska. “We did not anticipate them throwing the ball as much as they did. They had not done that all year. I think we were a little bit off-guard.”

Part of Nebraska’s altered game plan might have been inspired by KU’s effort last week in a 19-11 victory at Texas A&M. In that game, the Aggies’ bread-and-butter running game was stuffed to just 74 yards on 27 carries, and Texas A&M had to pass the ball to have any chance at coming back in the fourth quarter.

Still, Kansas (9-0 overall, 5-0 Big 12 Conference) managed to make a positive out of the surprise. After the Huskers (4-6, 1-5) hung around in the first half thanks to big passing plays and solid game management by Ganz, the Jayhawks rattled the inexperienced QB into a slew of quick second-half turnovers.

Thornton, Darrell Stuckey and Mike Rivera all intercepted passes in coverage, and defensive end John Larson added another pick when a Ganz pass was batted at the line by Caleb Blakesley.

Those picks, coupled with a Rivera forced fumble, helped shoot KU’s offensive production to incredible heights Saturday.

But Ganz still had 400-plus yards, and Purify had seven catches for 158 yards and three touchdowns while being covered by all of the Jayhawks’ cornerbacks.

So call it a half-victory for the KU pass defense. Nothing more, nothing less.

“It was definitely surprising that they came out and passed that much,” Thornton said. “But in the first half we made some adjustments, came back out in the second half and was able to put together a pretty good show.”