Week 5 preview: Kansas has chance to measure progress, growth vs. Iowa State
photo by: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
It was just shy of a year ago when Kansas coach Lance Leipold fully recognized the significant undertaking that lay before him.
The Jayhawks had taken their lumps earlier in Leipold’s first season and headed north to Iowa State hoping to demonstrate some level of progress. Instead, they found themselves down 38 points at halftime and limped to a woeful 59-7 defeat, their latest drubbing in a decade full of them.
Those memories may not be erased on Saturday, when Kansas welcomes Iowa State to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, but the wounds may finally heal. The Jayhawks, riding a wave of excitement and encouragement following their unlikely 4-0 start, will attempt to corral the Cyclones for the first time since 2014.
Junior quarterback Jalon Daniels, who has been the catalyst to Kansas’ resurgence following a series of remarkable performances, said a different mindset this season has helped give everyone the belief needed to earn a victory.
“Our coaches put a big emphasis on going in with that winning mentality — not being hopeful to win but going in with that ‘we’re going to come out with a win’ mentality,” Daniels said. “(We have) confidence in the system, confidence in everything that we’re doing.”
Kansas isn’t the only team that looks significantly different this season. Iowa State, which lost two offensive stalwarts after last season in quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Breece Hall, also has revamped its defensive scheme under coordinator Jon Heacock.
The Cyclones have embraced more of a nontraditional 3-3-5 look meant to slow down their opponents’ passing attacks.
“You have two multiple-looking groups going against each other, and it’s going to be about the group that can play with the most discipline and can play fast,” said Kansas offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki. “I like how our guys are preparing. It’s a challenge — a new challenge, for sure.”
The game marks a return to Big 12 play for the Jayhawks, who dipped their toes into the conference waters three weeks ago with an overtime victory at West Virginia.
A win on Saturday will likely propel them into the national rankings for the first time in 13 years, and it will match their best start since their brief run atop the Big 12 under former coach Mark Mangino.
“This group knows how competitive it is and where we’ve been in the past and where we’re going to have to be to keep moving forward,” Leipold said.
Kansas Jayhawks (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (3-1, 0-1 Big 12)
• David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, 2:30 p.m.
• Broadcast: ESPN2
• Radio: KLZR 105.9 FM / KLWN 1320 AM
• Opening line: Kansas +3.5; over/under 58.5
• Series history: Kansas leads 50-45-6
Points per game: Kansas 48.5; Iowa State 29.8
Points allowed per game: Kansas 27.3; Iowa State 14.5
Yards per game: Kansas 474 (247.5 rushing, 226.5 passing); Iowa State 398.8 (133.5 rushing, 265.3 passing)
Leading passer: Kansas’ Jalon Daniels (70.1%, 222.5 yards per game, 11 TDs, 1 interception); Iowa State’s Hunter Dekkers (71.6%, 257.3 yards per game, 10 TDs, 5 interceptions)
Leading rusher: Kansas’ Jalon Daniels (81.5 yards per game, 8.6 yards per carry, 4 TDs); Iowa State’s Jirehl Brock (88.3 yards per game, 5.5 yards per carry, 2 TDs)
Leading receiver: Kansas’ Lawrence Arnold (48.5 yards per game, 13.9 yards per catch); Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson (100.8 yards per game, 11.2 yards per catch, 5 TDs)
Leading tackler: Kansas’ Rich Miller (31); Iowa State’s O’Rien Vance (22)
What to watch for
1. Discipline and focus: Leipold said he doesn’t want his players to play with less aggression, especially on defense, but he recognized that seven penalties for 83 yards in the win over Duke a week ago are not sustainable if the Jayhawks want to continue winning. Even last season, when everyone was still acclimating to the new coaches and schemes, Kansas averaged just four penalties for 33.7 yards per game.
2. Deep rotations: Kansas’ long-awaited depth has been evident through four games as it has rotated several players at key positions. Notably, six linebackers played at least 20 snaps against Duke. “Obviously, we’re going to continue to need that depth,” said defensive coordinator Brian Borland, who used 23 players on defense a week ago.
3. Dekkers in control: Iowa State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback, Dekkers is completing 71.6 percent of his passes while throwing 25.3 per game and already has thrown for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. He replaces Purdy, who started for parts of four seasons and is now the San Francisco 49ers’ backup. Kansas has some familiarity with Dekkers as he entered in mop-up time a year ago and threw five passes.
Spotlight on …
Mello Dotson and Cobee Bryant: Kansas’ sophomore cornerbacks face a challenge in Iowa State redshirt senior wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson, who is averaging nine catches for 100.8 yards a game and has already caught five touchdown passes. Hutchinson set a school record last season with 83 catches and enters Saturday ranked 11th in the FBS in receiving yards per game. Dotson and Bryant each missed portions of the win against Duke with injuries so how they try to slow Hutchinson will be crucial to Kansas’ success.
Inside the numbers
27: Touchdowns scored this season by the Jayhawks, who are tied with Ohio State for the most in the FBS.
7: Punts by the Jayhawks, the third fewest behind Minnesota’s three and Georgia’s six. Daniels, with a quick kick against Duke, has one of those seven.
14.5: Points surrendered per game by Iowa State, which leads the Big 12 and is 17th in the FBS. It allowed a combined 27 points over its first three games.