Notebook: Kansas football unveils new-look option rushing attack in OT win at WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Kansas relied on its rushing attack often in Saturday’s 55-42 overtime win at West Virginia, but it looked a bit different than it did in its season opener.
Quarterback Jalon Daniels carried the ball a team-high 12 times for a career-high 85 yards to lead the Jayhawks in rushing for the first time.
Kansas gained 297 yards on the ground in the season-opening win against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Tennessee Tech on Sept. 2. Six of its eight touchdowns were scored on the ground, with running backs Devin Neal, Daniel Hishaw Jr. and Sevion Morrison joining Daniels and fellow quarterback Jason Bean in finding the end zone.
Against West Virginia, Daniels led the way, with Neal carrying the ball 10 times for 42 yards and two touchdowns, plus a 17-yard touchdown catch, and Hishaw finishing with 10 carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
A few of Daniels’ rushing attempts were designed runs, but several of his yards on the ground came off of an option attack that featured Daniels using one of KU’s running backs to confuse the WVU defense and then making the right read from there to turn up the field.
Among Kansas’ other running backs, Ky Thomas ran twice for 4 yards, Morrison gained 7 yards on one carry and Torry Locklin did not have an attempt.
Thomas’ performance Saturday was especially noteworthy given that, while playing for Minnesota last season, he ran for 144 yards and a touchdown in an 18-6 win against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl — a performance that earned him offensive MVP honors.
Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said during the week that just because Thomas had so much success against the Mountaineers while playing for his old school, it was no guarantee he would do so again while with the Jayhawks.
“You go back into learning a new offense and all these sorts of things, and so I think he’s played enough football, he’s smart enough to maybe recognize the differences in what that game was, at least in the offense he was in, to now,” Kotelnicki said.
Wide receiver Tanaka Scott Jr. made his season debut, had one catch for 11 yards and was targeted by Daniels in overtime.
Scott was suspended for the first game after he was charged with aggravated assault with use of a deadly weapon following an incident in Lawrence late last month, though the case was dismissed by the court.
A redshirt freshman from Mobile, Alabama, Scott played in two games last season, almost exclusively on special teams.
Fellow wide receiver Trevor Wilson, a redshirt junior, remains suspended indefinitely after he was also charged in the incident. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7.
Moving the chains
The Jayhawks successfully ran their hurry-up offense before halftime for the second consecutive week.
Taking over at their 25-yard line with 3:11 remaining, Kansas went 75 yards in 10 plays to eat 2:42 and scored when Neal caught a 17-yard pass from Daniels.
Last week, Kansas went 63 yards in seven plays over 1:29 against Tennessee Tech, a drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to tight end Mason Fairchild.
Puni starts again
• Redshirt senior Dominick Puni started at left guard for the second consecutive game. Puni stepped in last week for redshirt sophomore Armaj Reed-Adams, who was considered a gametime decision following a left knee injury.
• Kansas played its first Big 12 game against the same opponent that it faced to conclude the previous season for the second time in three years. The Jayhawks played Baylor to close the 2019 season and open conference play in 2020.
• Former West Virginia coach Frank Cignetti died Saturday, the university announced. Cignetti, who was 84, was hired to replace Bobby Bowden and coached the Mountaineers from 1976-79. He retired in 2005 with a 199-77-1 record that included 20 seasons at Indiana of Pennsylvania.
• The Jayhawks improved to 7-20 in Big 12 openers and 2-10 all time against the Mountaineers. Their only previous win was on Nov. 16, 2013, a 31-19 victory at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Kansas will play a second consecutive road game when it faces future Big 12 opponent Houston at TDECU Stadium on Sept. 17 at 3 p.m.