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The old faces returned to Memorial Stadium as Kansas cruised to a 49-3 victory over Northern Colorado, although they did it in an unusual way.
With all the hype coming into the season on Kansas' air attack, Northern Colorado's defense concentrated on defending the pass as they would routinely drop eight players into coverage. Their strategy didn't bother running back Jake Sharp at all. Running behind wide open lanes that the offensve line created, Sharp grinded his way to 123 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown.
"You take what they were giving us," Sharp said. "They gave us the run, and we capitalized on that," Sharp said.
Not that Sharp was offended with the lack of attention from the Northern Colorado defense.
"Hey, if I am playing a Big 12 team like Kansas or Texas Tech, I am pretty concerned about the pass too."
Sharp wasn't the only one to benefit from Northern Colorado's decision to let Kansas beat them on the ground. Quarterback Todd Reesing started the game with two rushing touchdowns from 1 yard and 13 yards out. Even the freshmen hit the ground running.
Backup quarterback Kale Pick and running back Toben Opurum found success racing past Northern Colorado defenders, giving Kansas fans hope for 2010 and beyond.
"If that is the future, then it looks good so far," Opurum said. "We have a lot to improve on but I think what we did tonight was pretty good."
Opurum said he had trouble sleeping on Friday night as he envisioned what his first college game would be like.
"I just kept thinking about the game and all the plays we were going to run," Opurum said.
Saturday night was also redshirt freshman Tanner Hawkinson's debut at left tackle. Afterwards, Mangino praised the lineman's hands and his pass blocking, but noted that Tanner is not a finished product by any means.
"He missed some cutoff blocks and some second level blocks but not bad for a guy playing his first game there," Mangino said. "He is only going to get better and a lot of it has to do with Tanner's attitude. He will study tonight's tape closer than anybody on the team."
Also cornerback Anthony Davis had a night he would rather forget. He had three pass interference penalties, which resulted in backup cornerback Calvin Rubles seeing increased playing time.
"It is inexcusable and nobody feels worse than him," Mangino said of Davis' penalties. "I think he just panicked a little bit tonight. I think he had leverage on two occasions and all he had to do was play the ball.
"He hit the defender before the ball got there," he added. "There is no excuse for it and I think he will grow from the experience."
Next week, Kansas is off to El Paso to take on UTEP. For Opurum, he might not know if the running game will come as easy as it did tonight, but as for the lack of sleep, at least he knows how to remedy that problem.
"The NyQuill might work," Opurum said. "But it is the second game now so I am kind of getting adjusted to it. I will probably be able to sleep a little easier."