Earlier this week, Kansas co-offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau spent time watching film of Kansas State’s defense. As the footage played out on the screen in front of him, Kiesau searched for the right word to describe the Wildcats’ defensive unit. He never quite found it.
“They don’t do much,” Kiesau said, “and it’s a compliment to them. They just are very poised.”
In other words: the Kansas State defense is simple, bland and also very good.
“They’re very well coached,” Kiesau said. “They play a couple fronts, a couple coverages, and they’re really good at it. And then you add their intensity and their effort to it, and that’s what makes them (good).”
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On Saturday afternoon, the Jayhawks, 3-8, will attempt to solve Kansas State’s vaunted defense, which ranks tied for first in the Big 12 in scoring defense (21 points per game) and third in total defense (355.4 yards per game). The Jayhawks are coming off a 44-7 loss at Oklahoma, a disappointing performance on a cold and rainy afternoon that featured zero points from the KU offense.
Kiesau is hoping to remedy that as Kansas closes out the season at 3 p.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The Jayhawks will not play a bowl game for a sixth straight season, so for a group of seniors, this will be it.
“It’s going to be emotional,” said senior left tackle Pat Lewandowski. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. When that clock hits zero, I don’t know. I might break down.”
For Kansas, the offensive line could be a key as the Jayhawks try to ignite a dormant rushing attack. Last week, the Jayhawks were limited to just 19 rushing yards on 36 carries. Kiesau called the combination of Oklahoma’s defense — and the miserable conditions — the “perfect storm.”
The passing game, which had emerged under junior quarterback Michael Cummings, was a non-factor. And the Jayhawks were dominated in the trenches. From a purely physical standpoint, Kansas State presents a better matchup for the Jayhawks’ offensive line.
“I think we still have the ability to run the ball,” Kiesau said. “It’s just the last couple opponents, it really hasn’t matched up for us.”
Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State
WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
TV: Fox Sports 1
Other story lines
▪ THE JAYHAWKS’ PASSING GAME: Last week, junior quarterback Michael Cummings was held to 84 yards passing against Oklahoma. It was the first time Cummings has thrown for fewer than 235 yards passing since taking over the starting job in October. The Kansas passing game appeared on the ascent, with Cummings throwing for 332 yards in a loss to TCU, and then came a wet and rainy afternoon at Oklahoma. If Saturday’s contest features better weather, Cummings should have a better opportunity to excel.
▪ BEN HEENEY’S FINAL GAME: Earlier this week, Heeney, a senior linebacker and captain, shaved off his trademark beard. He had kept some semblance of a beard for the better part of two seasons, and it was the first time that many teammates had seen him clean-shaven. He hopes it brings good luck at K-State. Heeney, who ranks second in the NCAA in solo tackles (7.3 per game), enters the game with 121 tackles on the season.
▪ JIMMAY MUNDINE APPROACHES RECORDS: Mundine, a senior tight end, enters Saturday with 84 career receptions, just 14 shy of the career record for KU tight ends. The current record belongs to Derek Fine, who had 98 career catches before having a brief career in the NFL. That record could be out of reach. But Mundine, who has 43 receptions this season, also needs just four catches to surpass Fine’s single-season record for catches by a KU tight end.