While Todd Reesing, Jake Sharp, and Dezmon Briscoe were up to their usual tricks in Saturday's 34-7 victory at UTEP, it was a true freshman and a defensive unit that emerged as key players on the 2009 KU squad.
After yielding just three points in an opening-game victory against Northern Colorado, the KU defense was pitching a shutout Saturday until a missed tackled led to a 75-yard touchdown score. If you take out that one play, the Jayhawk defense allowed just 119 yards through he air and four on the ground. Four? If took the ball, ran to the line of scrimmage and fell over, I would gain almost two yards. (Yes, I'm short).
Now, it's not like KU played two teams from the SEC, but most pundits, and fans, thought the squad would have given up more than 10 points through the first two games. You know Reesing is happy to see the defense play well. He told reporters so after the game.
"(The defense) really played lights out ... seeing those guys play well is awesome," he said.
UTEP's senior quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, who has thrown for more than 6,000 yards and 58 touchdowns in his career, was inconsistent all day, completing just 14-of-24 passes for 184 yards. Their rushing game was worse, averaging just .2 yards per carry.
If the defense plays half as well as it has so far during Big XII play, there is no reason to think the Jayhawks won't be playing at Arrowhead Stadium twice in a row at the end of the season. The player who could lock up that chance is true freshman Toben Opurum. Through two games he has rushed for 143 yards and three scores on just 24 carries. If he were to provide Sharp that kind of insurance as backup, it hurts my head to think of the possibilities of this team.
During KU's Orange Bowl season of 2006, the duo of Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharp, to go along with the potent passing attack, made the 'Hawks one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the country. Last year, when Sharp struggled, there was no one to pick him up.
Oburum, a Plano, Texas native, has risen from obscurity for most football (even KU) fans, and could be an important fixture within this KU offense.
So, sure Reesing threw for 255 yards and a score, Sharp had 100-plus and three more scores, and Briscoe flew out of the gates for eight catches for 149 yards, but Opurum and the defense should share the game ball for this victory -- one that tied head coach Mark Mangino for second-most victories as a KU head coach.
After dismantling its first two opponents by a combined score of 83-10, KU will face the ACC's Duke Blue Devils in Lawrence next week. Duke will come into town with a 1-1 record and probably more than a few scared devils.
Not even Coach K can save them from the 2009 Jayhawks.