Jayhawks, Cyclones trying to build on Big 12 wins

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              Kansas running back Khalil Herbert (10) stiff arms TCU linebacker Jawuan Johnson, right, during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach David Purdy was downright stunned that Brock Purdy was still available when he gave the promising quarterback from an Arizona high school a scholarship offer.

“It wasn’t like he was quietly heralded. He was a guy that won a lot of awards,” Beaty said. “You turn on the tape and you saw a lot of ability in terms of spinning it. He can flat throw it, great release, compact. You could tell he commanded the offense. The other thing is he can move. In this day and age, there’s so many freaks playing on the other side of the ball you’d better be able to move.”

All of which presented Beaty with a pair of problems: The first is that Purdy decided not to play for the Jayhawks, and the second is that he ultimately chose Big 12 rival Iowa State.

Now, the true freshman will be leading the Cyclones (4-3, 3-2) into Memorial Stadium on Saturday to face the Jayhawks (3-5, 1-4), who are coming off a rare conference win over TCU.

“When Brock came in, you could see a spark, production go up. You couple that with Matt Campbell and his staff, I mean, it spells trouble,” Beaty said. “They’ve done as good a job as I’ve seen.”

Indeed, the Cyclones’ winning streak has hardly come against the dregs of the Big 12. They beat Oklahoma State on the road, thumped then-unbeaten West Virginia and won a close game with Texas Tech. Two of those teams were ranked when they played.

The challenge for Campbell’s team is to keep the momentum from their second consecutive perfect October going into November. And the Cyclones’ coach thinks it’s entirely possible.

“You see a lot more capable bodies and capable young men that are helping and impacting our team than there was a year ago,” he said. “It’s a credit to the multitude of guys who have stepped up.”

As for Kansas, the challenge is to turn one conference win into two.

The Jayhawks relied on turnovers and a big game from freshman running back Pooka Williams to beat the Horned Frogs last week. But they haven’t won more than one Big 12 game in a season since 2008, when Mark Mangino led them to an 8-5 record and their most recent bowl game.

“We still have a chance to go to a bowl game and we’re not going to quit, and I love that about this football team,” Jayhawks linebacker Keith Loneker Jr. said. “I’m so happy to be a part of a group of guys that believe in that.”

STOPPING POOKA

Williams averages 93 yards per carry, and his 175 all-purpose yards and two TDs against TCU helped the Jayhawks spring an upset win last week. “He’s just dynamic when he has the ball in his hands,” Cyclones linebacker Willie Harvey said. “You have to focus on him.”

SPEAKING OF STARS

Cyclones running back David Montgomery has four straight 100-yard rushing games, including 189 yards against the Mountaineers and 125 against the Red Raiders. He is at his best after first contact, too, and that’s a big reason why he leads the Big 12 in yards rushing.

TURNOVER TIME

After ranking near the bottom nationally in turnovers last season, the Jayhawks are No. 1 this season. They’re also second in turnover margin. “That confidence in what they’re doing allows them to be very aggressive and make plays on the ball,” Campbell said.

GETTING DEFENSIVE

The Cyclones’ defense ranks in the top 10 nationally in yards per carry and yards rushing, and linebacker Marcel Spears Jr. is coming off a game in which he picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown against the Red Raiders.

PEYTON’S PLACE

Jayhawks quarterback Peyton Bender had the best game of his career against TCU, not only with his arm but with his grit. He lowered his head for a key first down late, and the Jayhawks rallied around the senior when the outcome was hanging in the balance. “There’s still some stuff we need to improve on,” he said. “We’ll go back and look at the film, diagnose it and get ready to go.”