'Hawks vs. 'Boys

Jordan Webb (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

With KU out of bowl contention, the Jayhawks take on Oklahoma State Saturday at Memorial Stadium playing for pride, playing to be the spoiler, and playing to send off 20 seniors in style during their final home game.

Kickoff is 11 a.m. (CT) on Fox Sports Net.

"We've got 20 guys that I think have done a lot of great things for this program both on and off the football field," KU coach Turner Gill said. "It's their last time having an opportunity at Memorial Stadium to play and also to play well."

Gill is hoping his Jayhawks (3-7, 1-5 Big 12) build off their last three games with an impressive performance against the No. 12 Cowboys (9-1, 5-1).  KU's defense was especially sound in last week's 20-3 loss to Nebraska, holding the Huskers to their third lowest scoring total of the season.

KU now needs more offensive spark as it recorded just 87 total yards against Nebraska, its lowest mark since posting 67 yards in a loss to Texas in 2001. Junior quarterback Quinn Mecham struggled and got poor protection from the offensive line, completing just 3-of-13 passes for 15 yards and one interception.

But Mecham will start his fourth straight game against the Cowboys as the Jayhawks hope for a better outcome.

"I think it's very, very important for us to score touchdowns because you're not going to win this football game by kicking field goals and not maintaining possession of the ball on offense," Gill said. "They are a team that really believes in trying to get as many plays run, so we've got to make sure that we score touchdowns."

KU is facing a powerhouse team in Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' only loss this season came on Oct. 23 to Nebraska at home (51-41). They've since won three straight, including a 33-16 victory at Texas last Saturday.

OSU, which sits atop the South Division and one game ahead of Oklahoma and Texas A&M, is gunning for its first Big 12 Championship game and first BCS bowl. The Cowboys have been one of the biggest surprises in college football after losing starting quarterback Zac Robinson, two NFL first-round picks, and nine defensive starters. If they beat Kansas, they'd match a school record with 10 victories.

Oklahoma State boasts the No. 1 total offense in the country, recording 547.50 yards per game, while ranking No. 2 nationally in scoring offense (45 ppg). Quarterback Brandon Weeden is first in the country in passing yards per game (339.10), while running back Kendall Hunter ranks fourth in rushing yards per contest (135.6).

Weeden's favorite target is Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Blackmon, who ranks No. 1 in the nation with 158.89 receiving yards per game.

Gill certainly knows this will be one of the toughest games of the year for Kansas.

"Their offense is very, very explosive," Gill said. "At every one of those positions (QB, running back and receiver), they have a guy there that can make plays and be playmakers, so we're going to have a tough time to try and slow them down. That's what you're going to do because you can't stop them, you going to try to slow them down. We've put together a great game plan to make sure we have an opportunity to be successful and have a chance to beat Oklahoma State."

KU could have some success on offense against OSU's defense. The Cowboys rank just 85th in the country in total defense, allowing 407.80 yards per game. They rank 68th nationally in scoring defense (27.20 ppg).

"Their defense has done some good things in some areas, in some areas it's still average," Gill said. "I hope that we can exploit that. But they're playing very, very well right now, so we're going to have to play an extremely well-executed game."

The KU seniors are looking forward to their last hurrah at Memorial Stadium.

"When I first got here I thought Senior Day was so far off, and actually time flew by and now it's here and I'm getting ready to play my last game at Memorial Stadium," senior receiver Johnathan Wilson said. "It's a bittersweet moment. The games stand out, obviously, my freshman year when we went to the Orange Bowl. Just the atmosphere of running out of those gates and seeing the crowd and the support we got, that's mostly what I'll remember about playing at Memorial Stadium."

A victory over OSU on Saturday would give Wilson and the 19 other seniors something else to remember. Whether KU wins or loses, Gill will always have fond memories of his first senior class at Kansas.

"This is a great group of guys and they're going to definitely be some people in my heart and my mind for the rest of my life," Gill said.

HOMECOMING FOR YOUNG

This game marks a homecoming for Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young. He served as defensive coordinator at KU under Mark Mangino from 2002-2007.

"I loved it up there," Young said. "It's a great place to live; great people. Our football program was really down when I got there and when I left, it was about as high as it's ever been. It'll be fun going back."

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