University of Kansas

KU football’s improved pass defense to be tested Thursday

Kansas cornerback Marnez Ogletree (right) and his teammates have shown improvement defending the pass this season.
Kansas cornerback Marnez Ogletree (right) and his teammates have shown improvement defending the pass this season.

Kansas will face the nation’s top passing team on Thursday, and it’s not particularly close.

Through three games, Texas Tech is averaging 548 passing yards per game, 89 yards better than Cal, the nation’s second-best team.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’ve actually played pretty good defensively in passing defense this year,” KU coach David Beaty said. “We’ve improved that. That was a big area for us to improve.”

Two consecutive poor efforts offensively have somewhat hidden the fact that KU’s pass defense has been much better in 2016.

The Jayhawks’ 135 pass yards allowed per game ranks fifth nationally, while opponents are getting just 4.8 yards per attempt (tied for fourth). Through three games, KU also has 20 passes defended, which is more than halfway to last year’s season total of 35.

The maturation from players like Brandon Stewart, Marnez Ogletree and Derrick Neal has led cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry to say he’s been pleased with how his guys have performed. The cornerbacks will have their biggest test Thursday, though, as Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes leads the nation with 498 passing yards per game and also has gained 11.3 yards per pass attempt.

“He’s a special player,” Beaty said. “He understands that offense so well — you can see that so well on the video. He knows where everyone’s going to be.”

Beaty complimented Mahomes a few times during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference, saying the junior knows exactly what to do when he’s blitzed by defenders and also has been a tough player to sack.

“You’ve got to hit him with more than one guy a lot of times,” Beaty said. “He can make you miss, and he can get the ball off at a moment’s notice. So he’s got a lot of things about him that make him really difficult to contain.”

KU had one of the worst pass defenses in the nation last season. The team ranked 124th out of 128 FBS teams in passing yards allowed per game and 122nd in yards per attempt.

“This is going to be a great challenge,” Beaty said, “to see where we really are when it comes to that.”

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell