Oklahoma made it look easy — rushing for more than 300 yards a week ago against Kansas State.
The Wildcats are hoping it doesn’t start a trend because Saturday’s matchup at Kansas has the potential to be another big challenge for K-State.
Sooners running back Brennan Clay and quarterback Trevor Knight gashed the Wildcats all day.
The challenge for Saturday’s game in Lawrence is stopping Kansas running back James Sims — the Big 12’s rushing yards leader.
“They have an extremely talented running back,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said this week. “I think they are very assignment sound as far as their offensive line is concerned. By and large, their schemes are rather consistent with their offensive line. The offensive line has a limited number of schemes and consequently the execution becomes better and better, and that is what you have seen over the course of the year.”
The Jayhawks earned their first Big 12 win in more than two years when they beat West Virginia on Nov. 16, anchored by a 200-yard performance from Sims.
Sims has 1,028 yards and seven rushing touchdowns and ranks second in the conference with 93.5 yards per game. He’s just the third Jayhawk to ever have multiple 1,000-yard seasons and one of Kansas’ all-time rushers.
“He’s a nice back, I know he runs hard, he’s going to come downhill hard,” defensive lineman Marquel Bryant said. “That’s one of our main goals, to stop the run. I feel like early on we were doing great stopping the runs, and I think OU just had a good team.”
K-State was more than frustrated after its defensive performance against the Sooners, especially against the run — something the Wildcats had done well stopping in the last six weeks.
Defensive back Randall Evans said K-State wants to prove its better than that one game against OU. Before that game, the Wildcats had been vastly improved against the run, not allowing a 100-yard rusher during their four-game win streak.
“We want to turn it around bad,” Evans said. “We know (KU) likes to run the ball, we know its their last game, we know they’re going to come with it. We’ve covered all our mistakes so we’ll be well prepared for that.”
Bryant echoed Evans, saying the Wildcats have to put the OU loss behind them, including their lackluster showing against the run.
“We got to forget things, move on, next play, we’ve got to move on to the next game,” he said. “They’re going to come at us, so we’ve got to hit them back.
“Coming off a loss, you know you have to keep moving ahead. We’re ready and preparing for it, we’re preparing ourselves for the run, and the pass, anything they bring.”
The Jayhawks have used a two-quarterback system of sorts lately, going with both Montell Cozart and Jake Heaps.
Bryant said he was surprised to see the Jayhawks use a similar offensive strategy as the Wildcats, who have leaned on Daniel Sams and Jake Waters at QB this season.
However, much of the reason KU shifted to using two quarterbacks is because of Heaps’ ineffectiveness at times.
But Evans said no matter which guy is playing QB, Sims is what makes the offense go, and K-State is prepared for a heavy dose of the senior ball carrier.
“He’s a great, fast guy,” Evans said. “You can’t take his ability away. He likes to hit the holes. We know we can’t underestimate him. We’ve got to make sure we keep him in the pile.”
Senior linebacker Jonathan Truman said the Wildcats have to be careful not to overlook anything the Jayhawks do offensively and not focus solely on Sims. Truman said it will be important for K-State to stay assignment sound and play like it did during its recent four-game win streak.
“We’re all motivated enough, especially coming off a tough loss,” he said. “We just kind of put that behind us and focus on this week and just getting ready to go.”