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WRNL Interrogates: Rock Chalk Talk

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We talked with Andy Mitts from RCT about the game this weekend.

Kansas v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images
  1. Pooka Williams has been the obvious bright spot on offense for KU this year. What’s the key to him continuing his success this weekend?

Variety. He hasn’t been very successful when they just run him into the middle of the line, and while his most successful runs seem to be to the outside, most teams have been able to key in on him in the obvious situations. In order to really get him going, they need to continue to mix him in on both the outside and inside, because eventually the defense is going to be caught flat-footed and anticipating the wrong thing for just half a second too long.

But variety in his personal game isn’t quite enough. Khalil Herbert is a fabulous change-of-pace back (although the split seems to be pretty equal for the most part) that gives a completely different look to the defense. Getting both RBs going will open things up for both of them and for the rest of the offense.

2. Peyton Bender also had a nice game against TCU. He’s struggled a bit through most of his career, but do you think last week can be a real turning point for him? Or is that more of an anomaly?

Absolutely an anomaly. He ended up looking a lot better because Pooka made great plays on a few of his passes. He had a bad first half, and then was serviceable enough in the second half to allow the key offensive playmakers to do their thing and keep them in it.

And ultimately, if TCU had scored on their last drive, I absolutely had no confidence that Bender would have been able to lead them down the field to a game-winning score.

3. Joe Dineen is the unquestioned leader of this KU defense that is absolutely destroying the rest of the league in forcing turnovers. Who else is responsible for these shenanigans?

There are actually quite a few other guys that have been huge. Daniel Wise has been an absolute beast on the defensive line, getting pressure whether it shows up in the box score or not. While Hassan Defense and Corione Harris have a tendency to get beat deep at times, they have come up huge, especially in the red zone. And Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden have been phenomenal against the run, and are probably some of the hardest hitting guys in the Big 12. And of course, Keith Loneker rounds out the LB corp and is nearly as productive as Dineen has been.

If it wasn’t for the propensity to give up deep passing plays, this KU defense would probably be in the running for the best defense in the conference. There is a ton of talent that can turn the game if they get going late.

4. With KU winning three games so far, is there a chance David Beaty makes it to 2019 season? Do KU fans want that?

I think Beaty only stays on if he makes a bowl game, which would require winning 3 games against Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas. I don’t see that happening.

While you can point to the number of wins that they have this season as improvement, you also have to consider that this is coming on the shoulders of a lot of seniors who are making a final push to not be the laughingstock of the conference. Also, the recruiting situation is unbelievably in worse shape than Charlie Weis left it, and the Jayhawks dropped a game that they should have won against Nichols State to open the season. If he does come back, I’ll be shocked, angry, and my family might have to have me committed for my own safety.

5. What’s the general mood around the program right now? Have the three wins so far relieved any of the fan apathy we’ve seen over the last few seasons?

The apathy has been a side effect of the crushing disappointment and anger that has resulted from following this team. When the only way to be a fan is to be constantly defeated, it makes it hard to be an active fan, resulting in the look of a fanbase that just doesn’t care. But make no mistake, the fanbase is passionate about this team, despite being jaded by the unending incompetence of the staff. The win against Texas was the glimmer of hope that was needed to resurrect the fanbase, and it raised a lot of hope for improvement. But Beaty was quick to put out those fires quickly, and despite the 3 wins this year, the fact that it has come against two abysmal teams in Central Michigan and Rutgers and then a TCU team that was dealing with a large amount of turmoil off the field means that no one truly believes this is actual improvement. At the very least, any improvement Beaty might have cause would have been dwarfed by the improvement that a competent coach could have gotten out of this squad.

6. What’s going to have to happen for KU to pull the upset this weekend over the red-hot Cyclones?

Turnovers. Lots of turnovers. Kansas is going to give up points, and while they could limit certain aspects of the ISU offense for large stretches of the game, they won’t be able to do it for the entire day. The offense is going to have to be given extra opportunities, and they are going to have to take advantage of them. If KU is down by more than 10 points at the half, it may not even be worth watching the second half.

7. Prediction time. Who do ya got?

I want to say KU wins this game. I really do, especially after I called the win against TCU last week. This isn’t to say that I don’t think it is possible for the Jayhawks to pull it out, but the Cyclones are a much better team defensively than any opponent Kansas has seen, and the offense is too dependent on Pooka to come up with big plays. I think it will be a lot closer than many think, but I’m going to have to take ISU 20, KU 14.