#22 KU Will Face Duke on Saturday

Todd Reesing (Steve Puppe photo)

Kansas football is slowly moving up the national polls. After beating UTEP, 34-7, last Saturday, the Jayhawks jumped from No. 24 to No. 22 in the Associated Press Poll.

KU (2-0) hopes to continue rising with a victory over Duke (1-1) on Saturday. Kickoff is 11 a.m. (CT) on VERSUS. This will be the first meeting between the two schools.

The Jayhawks have some momentum after their commanding victory over the Miners. Aside from blowing some scoring opportunities in the first half and giving up a late touchdown to UTEP, the Jayhawks looked impressive in winning just their first non-conference road game since 2003.

KU's offense amassed 576 total yards, while the defense was even more stellar, holding UTEP to just 208 yards and seven first downs. Kansas had seven players post tackles for loss, led by senior defensive end Maxwell Onyegbule's two sacks (KU had six sacks overall). KU also had six quarterback hurries, three passes broken up and an interception by Justin Thornton.

"Overall, it was a good effort," KU coach Mark Mangino said.

The Jayhawks will need another good effort against Duke, which has some momentum of its own after the Blue Devils' 35-19 victory at Army last Saturday. Duke rallied from a 10-7 halftime deficit, as senior cornerback Leon Wright capped the scoring by returning two interceptions for touchdowns within a 16-second span late in the fourth quarter. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Renfree also sparked Duke in the second half with 7 of 8 completions for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, though, will start against Kansas. He's within five touchdowns of matching the school record of 55 career touchdown passes.

While this is still a program in transition under second-year head coach David Cutcliffe and a team which played eight true freshmen in its first two games, Duke seems to be on the verge of turning the corner.  Duke, which went 4-8 last year (1-7 in ACC), is tied for first in the ACC for the fewest penalties per game. The Blue Devils have committed just eight penalties in two games to rank tied for 12th in the NCAA. Duke also ranks fifth in the nation in kickoff return yardage defense, allowing only 14.33 yards per return this season. And the Blue Devils are just one of 21 teams in the country without an interception thrown through the first two weeks of the season.

"You can see they are a team that is getting better," Mangino said. "They are a team that stays on track. They do not panic. They stay with their game plan. Their offense is deliberate. They are always trying to get better at the plays they run, which you can see is part of their coaching philosophy. ... On the defensive side of the ball, they are sound fundamentally. They have a good-looking defensive tackle named Vince Oghobaase. He is a big, strong guy who comes off the ball well. They are smart and play good, sound, fundamental defense."

After last week's road game, the Jayhawks are looking forward to being back home at Memorial Stadium.

"We will have our fans behind us," said freshman receiver Bradley McDougald. "We are looking to have a big turnout."

The Jayhawks are also looking to improve and punch in scoring opportunities in the red zone.

"There is no question that we left points on the board (against UTEP)," said senior quarterback Todd Reesing. "We got down to the red zone and were not able to convert touchdowns. That is my fault for not getting the ball where it needs to be sometimes and guys not executing. ... We did not feel like we played our best game on offense. That was on me. I did not have my best game. I can't wait to get back out there and get that passing game back to where it needs to be."

Despite his imperfections, Reesing still completed 25 of 41 passes for 260 yards and one touchdown. Cutcliffe is certainly well aware of Reesing and KU's high-powered offensive and defensive attack. He knows the nationally ranked Jayhawks will pose a stern challenge.

"They're very physical in both lines - really physical - and I think they're one of the top 15 teams in the country," Cutcliffe said. "So, how do you beat a top-15 team? It's probably the most basic formula in football: take care of the ball, play great in the kicking game and find a way to make some big plays while the game progresses."

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