Jayhawk defense among nations worst squads

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Kansas safety Bradley McDougald, No. 24 is called for pass interference against Kansas State wide reciever Chris Harper, No. 3 during the first half of their matchup. This Kansas defense, which allows more than 50 points a game, is the worst in the country. (Photo Courtesy of Orlin Wagner)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Needless to say, Kansas has not had the season it was hoping for so far this season. They are currently 2-5 and have lost their last five games after beating McNeese State and Northern Illinois.

Although that record hurts, their defense is hurting more. They are ranked last in the 120 FBS teams in total defense.

In the seven games they have played this season, they have allowed 3,856 yards. That gives them an average 7.6 yards given up per play.

“There’s still some inexperience,” said Kansas head coach Turner Gill. “I think a majority of it is in the secondary, where guys are making mistakes and people are capitalizing on it. Every team makes mistakes, but [our opponents] have been able to exploit that on the defensive side.”

He said it is necessary for the team to keep working and stay motivated. The coaching staff is attempting to mix things up in practice and create scenarios that could occur in the game such as third down situations, goal line situations and red zone situations.

Kansas is coming off of a tough 59-21 loss to in-state rival Kansas State. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein got his offense into the end zone seven times. He had a career-high 195 throwing yards.

Junior cornerback Greg Brown said the loss to Kansas State was tough for the team, but all of the losses this season have been.

“As a team, we have to put it past us and just move forward,” Brown said. “I know it’s not something you can just brush off, losing to a rival team like that. We just have to let it go and keep going with our season and try to turn it around.”

He believes the defense has to execute plays more and utilize playmaking abilities. The team has the least amount of sacks (6) and interceptions (2) in the Big 12.

Although first year defensive coordinator Vic Shealy said the defense has many improvements to make and that Texas’ complicated offensive scheme will be a challenge for the young Kansas defense.

“With such young players, it’s hard for them to go out there and master fundamentals and master their scheme if they’re still learning the fast rate,” Shealy said. “As long as they continue to work hard in practice, we’re going to continue making improvements.”

But, he said there have been many players on the defense who have stepped up as leaders, especially linebacker Steve Johnson. Johnson leads the Big 12 in tackles.

“He is a great leader and has played tremendously,” Shealy said. “He has been consistent in many ways.”

Although the defensive statistics for the Jayhawks aren’t pretty, they have had a rough schedule for the past five games. Each team they played was ranked and unbeaten at the time the Jayhawks played them.

“We’ve played some great offenses,” Shealy said. “It’s difficult to improve sometimes when you keep facing some of the finest offenses in the country and so I think Texas presents another big challenge for us.”

Kansas’ 47-17 loss to Oklahoma was somewhat considered a success for the Jayhawks. They held the Sooners to fewer points than Texas did.

But perhaps the worst statistic for Kansas is that they have allowed 46 touchdowns so far this season.

“It is really just all about us maintaining focus, staying together and continuing to execute each and every series,” Johnson said. “We need to take it one week at a time and try not to do other people’s jobs for them.”

Texas tight end Blaine Irby said the Longhorns have noted how aggressive the Jayhawks are.

“When we’re watching them, their linebackers and their D-line really fly to the ball,” Irby said. “Watching the past couple of games on film it really seems like they bring a lot of emotion. So we’ve got to match that emotion. We’ve got to bring the game to them.”

The Jayhawk defense is determined to end this five-game losing streak against a young, inexperienced Texas offense.