Kansas faces No 6 Oklahoma St and prolific offense
By the time Kansas got to Joseph Randle to try to persuade him to stay in his home state to play football, it was too late.
He was already committed to Oklahoma State.
''That's like cheating on your girlfriend-type stuff. It really is,'' said Randle, who is averaging 115 yards rushing this season. ''I didn't ever really pay much attention to their program because I was already sold to this one.''
On Saturday, the Jayhawks (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) will visit Randle and the sixth-ranked Cowboys (4-0, 1-0) in a matchup that looks like a mismatch on paper.
Only two teams in the country have given up more yards rushing than Kansas' 252.5 per game, and that's only the scratching the surface of a defense that's been horrendous so far. The Jayhawks rank next-to-last in the Bowl Subdivision in total defense (545 ypg) and dead last in scoring defense (44.3 ppg). The passing defense is 108th out of 120 teams, giving up 292.5 yards per game.
That doesn't bode well against an Oklahoma State offense that's third in the nation in total offense (571.5 ypg), second in passing (415.5) and sixth in scoring (46.8 ppg).
Maybe - just maybe - all those numbers make this a trap game for the Cowboys, with road trips to No. 11 Texas and Missouri up next.
''Those are the things I worry about every night. They have to stay focused on each team, each week,'' coach Mike Gundy said. ''You'll see teams that somebody thought on paper one was better than the other, and the other team won. It's all about avoiding distractions and staying focused.''
Gundy tried to get away from the eye-popping statistics by ignoring the results of Kansas' 66-24 road loss against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets' triple-option offense amassed 604 yards rushing, skewing the Jayhawks' season stats.
That was Kansas' only road game and its only game against Top 25 competition so far this season.
''Our guys are really upbeat,'' Jayhawks coach Turner Gill said. ''We still do a very good job of instilling a culture in our football program that everybody believes in. I think we're making some good progress.
''Obviously it's not going as good as far as wins, but again I feel very good about where we're at and where we're going.''
Containing Randle - the younger brother of standout former Kansas running back John Randle - is priority No. 1 for the Jayhawks.
''We cannot allow them to get their running game going. If they get their running game going, they can do what they want when they want,'' Gill said. ''If you don't stop their running game then you're going to have a lot of difficult things to try and stop.''
But the Jayhawks can't exactly ignore All-American receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden, who ranks second in the nation with 398 yards passing per game.
''When you bring all of that together, that's what makes their offense so special,'' Kansas cornerback Greg Brown said. ''That's why they are a top 10 team.''
Randle grew up in Wichita and had some familiarity with the Kansas program because of his brother's time there just a few years before he was due to pick a college. But the Cowboys got to him early, and he decided to head down a path blazed by fellow Wichita native Barry Sanders - the 1988 Heisman Trophy winner - instead of following after his brother.
Randle, who had a rushing touchdown a year ago as a backup against the Jayhawks, said there is no division of loyalty among his family now.
''That's cut off,'' he said. ''My whole family is Oklahoma State Cowboys now.''
If there's a glimmer of hope for the Jayhawks, it's that they jumped out to a 20-0 lead against Texas Tech last week before losing their Big 12 opener. They also have a strong run game, built around James Sims and Brandon Bourbon, and have given opponents trouble out of the wildcat.
''At the end of the day, we feel that we're a better team,'' Oklahoma State defensive end Cooper Bassett said. ''Although they're going to make plays and they're a good team, we feel that we're a good team. We should be making plays.
''We're going to stay focused and we're going to stay sharp, and hopefully we come out Saturday and put it on them and get the win.''