No. 6 Oklahoma rolls into Kansas to face slumping Jayhawks
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By DAVE SKRETTA
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Oklahoma features the nation’s second-highest scoring offense, another Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback and could break its own record from last year in yards per play.
Kansas at least avoided a shutout last week at TCU.
Now, two programs at wildly different levels meet Saturday when the sixth-ranked Sooners roll into Memorial Stadium to take on the slumping Jayhawks. They are five-touchdown favorites to romp in their final tuneup before facing No. 11 Texas in the annual Red River rivalry game.
“Lincoln Riley's done a great job taking the reins from a great coach in Bob Stoops,” said first-year Kansas coach Les Miles, who has plenty of experience with the Sooners from his days at Oklahoma State. “They’ve had a great run with quarterbacks and receivers that can fly, and have height and ball skills, not to mention the quality rushing attack that really kind of matches their ability to throw.”
In other words, the Sooners (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) have no offensive weaknesses.
That was certainly on display last week, when Jalen Hurts threw for 415 yards and three scores in a 55-14 victory over Texas Tech. Oklahoma also pumped out more than 200 yards rushing and four TDs and its defense held the Red Raiders to a mere 120 yards passing.
The scary thing for Kansas? Riley thinks Oklahoma can be even better.
“We’re still not playing nearly as consistent as we need to,” Riley said. “This last week was probably the highest percentage of a game we’ve been able to do that at a pretty good level, but we’re still making too many mistakes to play as good as we’re capable of.”
Miles would love to have that challenge to overcome.
Instead, the Jayhawks (2-3, 0-2) needed a pair of fourth-quarter scores to avoid a shutout in a 51-14 loss to TCU last week. Carter Stanley threw for 84 yards and the offense managed just 75 on the ground for a whopping total of 159 yards total offense.
Making matters worse, star running back Khalil Herbert apparently walked away from the team.
“I had the opportunity to visit with him (last) Friday night at length. It's really his business and it's something that I'm not going to comment on,” Miles said.
HURTS SO BAD
Oklahoma’s quarterback, who is averaging 435 yards total offense per game, sounded a big froggy earlier this week because of an illness.
“It’s nothing major,” he said. “I’ll be OK.”
SPEAKING OF HURTS
It’s not just Hurts’ ability to throw the ball that has made Oklahoma’s offense so dynamic this season. He also enters the game among the top 25 rushers with 443 yards so far.
“It is a whole other element of the game,” Jayhawks safety Bryce Tornedon said. “Obviously you’ve got to add that to the game plan, which makes things a little bit more difficult. But I think we’re going to be prepared.”
Jeremiah Hall has embraced Oklahoma’s unique H-back position as a threat to run, catch and block in its potent offense. The redshirt sophomore, who almost quit football as a youth when he was stuck on the offensive line, even caught a touchdown pass against Texas Tech.
“I don’t get the ball very often,” he said. “So every time I get the ball and make a play I’m like, ‘Yeah, I want it more.’”
Herbert’s decision to transfer, and some uncertainty surrounding fellow Kansas running back Dom Williams, could mean even more work for Pooka Williams. That could create some scary flashbacks for the Sooners, who watched him run for 252 yards and two touchdowns last season in Norman.
Freshman running back Velton Gardner had 61 yards rushing against the Horned Frogs, making a big statement with Herbert and Williams out. The highlight was a 45-yard touchdown run that broke up what had been a shutout.
“He’s a big runner, has great change of direction and a big smile on his face after he came off the field,” Miles said. “He’s a guy that will have a long and very capable career.”
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Updated October 4, 2019