LAWRENCE (AP) — The offensive scheme that Kansas put in place last Saturday night against McNeese State seemed like that of a high school team: Run early and often, and occasionally chuck it deep.
It was exactly what Turner Gill wanted to see.
The Jayhawks rolled up 301 yards on 55 carries with a mixture of several talented running backs, and the result was a 42-24 victory over their Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Call it a simplified offense. Or just call it effective.
Kansas only threw the ball 10 times, completing seven, but three of sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb’s completions went for 56, 48 and 25 yards — and all for touchdowns.
Webb also said that Kansas wants to run the ball as much as possible, but the offense will pick its spots in the passing game. Webb said the goal is to use play-action to draw the defense down.
“We get shots over the top and it’s just up to me to hit them and the receivers to catch them,” said Webb, whose other four completions average just 4.5 yards. “If you can run the ball as effectively as we did, it makes the defense tired, wears them down, they can’t tackle in the fourth quarter.”
Sophomore running back James Sims ran 19 times for 109 yards and a touchdown, but his ability wasn’t really in question after leading the Jayhawks on the ground as a freshman. He ran for more than 100 yards three times last season, when he wasn’t even the starter.
This year’s crop of freshmen gave Kansas the same kind of pop that Sims provided last year.
Darrian Miller was first of the bench and ran for 64 yards, while Tony Pierson ran for 73 yards, including a 47-yard jaunt on his first collegiate carry.
“I feel like we were both pulling for each other to progress and get better during the first game,” Miller said. “I went in first and I came back and Tony asked me how it went, and I told him he was going to do good no matter what, and his first carry was for 47.”
Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell expected the ground game to perform well because the offensive line is the most experienced position group, and the running backs perhaps the most talented, but even he was surprised by the 301 yards the Jayhawks churned up.
“Coach Grimes has done a great job developing those guys,” Mitchell said of offensive line coach J.B. Grimes. “We want to be a run-first, throw-second team.”
Up next is Northern Illinois, which gave up 303 yards rushing and 409 yards of total offense in a 49-26 victory over Army last weekend. Most of those yards came long after the outcome was decided, Army’s lone touchdown before the fourth quarter coming on a 14-yard TD run.
The Jayhawks work out of a traditional spread look, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pound the ball against the Huskies when the two teams meet Saturday.
“We’re going to be able to run the ball this year,” Webb said. “It’s something we’re really trying to stick to. We’ll see this week.”