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WRNL Interrogates: Blue Wings Rising

Let’s get a bit more intel on the Jayhaws

Duke v Kansas Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

Thanks to our friend Andy Mitts from Blue Wings Rising for answering our questions on the Jayhawks. So let’s dive right in!

1) Alright, 4-0. Give us the feelings in the fan base right now. Is it party central, riding the highs or is there some oh wait we got way more work to do ahead?

It’s a little bit of both. Kansas fans are definitely enjoying the ride that is this offense, but they also have a justified reason to be excited. I think it helps to keep the fanbase somewhat grounded that the team is still talking about the extra attention and accolades as something extra.

But the consistent message of “we have more work to do” from Jalon Daniels and Lance Leipold that is echoed by every player is a double-edged sword. While it has kept a large portion of fans from being too obnoxious, recognizing the need to continue to build, it has also given some obnoxious fans even more ammunition to say “this team is doing it right, so of course it’s going to work”.

Those of us that have been here the whole time really have an appreciation for the differences between this program and the one we’ve had under the last few coaches/ADs. While it all looks really good right now, college football is a fickle thing, and it can all come crashing down at any moment.

2) Iowa State did not face Jalon Daniels a season ago but they did in 2020. Iowa State sacked him 4 times that day and picked him off once. Since that day he is a whole new man. What has been the biggest change in Daniels to make him the face of this turnaround?

This may sound crazy, but I don’t actually know how much different Daniels is from that first game, except that he is definitely more mature of a player and making better decisions. But we saw lots of flashes in that game, not only for Daniels but also for guys like Luke Grimm and Daniel Hishaw.

The big difference in the offense has been the offensive line. Les Miles and company were woefully ineffective at developing offensive lineman or even building a competent offensive line from the guys that were there. Leipold, with the help of Scott Fuchs, has taken this room and made it legitimately 9 deep and a legitimate source of strength. They’ve only allowed one sack all season long, and that was on a perfectly timed corner blitz late in the game against Duke.

3) Jalon Daniels is leading the team in rushing and passing and is clearly the star of this Jayhawk squad. Who are some other names on this team that Iowa State fans should be on the lookout for on Saturday?

How much time do we have? There are plenty of other players around the team to keep an eye on, so I’ll try to group them by position group.

Running backs legitimately go four deep, with Devin Neal and Daniel Hishaw both liable to break off big runs, but Sevion Morrison and Ky Thomas have both shown big play ability this year as well. But the one-two punch of Neal and Hishaw coupled with Daniels’ ability to run has made it a legitimate nightmare for defensive coordinators.

Receivers don’t have a ton of names that will immediately jump off the page, but Lawrence Arnold and Luke Grimm have solidified themselves as the main options for Daniels to look for. But it’s been the blocking from the receivers that has been a star, including some fantastic lead blocks from Texas-game hero Jared Casey. If you see a big running play, chances are there were at least 2 excellent receiver block, and Casey usually is escorting guys down the field.

On the defense, Kansas has several standout guys, so much so that Kenny Logan has just been another guy on this defense. That’s not because he has taken a step back, but the rest of the defense has flashed extremely well. Cornerback Cobee Bryant definitely gambles in his coverage, but he has great ball instincts and has scored twice this season. Marvin Grant has laid some huge hits from the safety position. Craig Young has been fantastic as a coverage linebacker.

But it’s the defensive line that has been phenomenal, especially against the pass. Lonnie Phelps has been an absolute beast, picking up where Kyron Johnson left off last year. Malcolm Lee, Sam Burt, Jereme Robinson, and Caleb Sampson all have taken moments starring for a really deep rotation of defensive lineman.

4) Lots of chirping coming out of Manhattan towards you guys. We feel so blessed to have to go through that next week as well. Should we just go throw rocks at them or is that a waste of rocks?

Just take care of Adrian Martinez, and Wildcat fans will throw rocks at each other. Seriously, good luck in Farmaggedon.

5) Memorial Stadium should be a sellout or close on Saturday. A lot of Iowa State fans are making the trip. With this new found success and they added people in the stadium and tailgating. Where should Iowa State fans hit up before the game?

There are tons of great spots down on Mass Street, and some great bars to hit up before and after the game too if you are so inclined. It’s hard to pick one spot to go to, but if you are there and looking for some good breakfast, make sure to visit The Roost. Other great options are Johnny’s Tavern, Jefferson’s, Madd Greek, Burger Stand, or many other great options.

But even visiting fans should be able to enjoy a lot of the Homecoming festivities. There will be a DJ on the hill before the game, and a ton of different pregame festivities.

6) It is time! Who wins and why?

In a development that probably surprises nobody, I have the Jayhawks in this one. I’ve been saying it all year on the Ten12 Podcast that this looks like a “normal” Matt Campbell Iowa State team, but I’m not sure the personnel is there to do that effectively, especially on the offense. The slow methodical drives that Iowa State seems to like are both not what ISU excels at, and also something that gives the Kansas defense lots of opportunities to get a disruptive play that will stall out the drive.

The Kansas offense is absolutely electric, and while I understand that John Heacock is a wizard, it’s hard to imagine that he has seen an offense that has THIS many options and uses THIS much misdirection all the time. They will find times to be successful, but Andy Kotelnicki has shown the ability to adapt effectively throughout the game.

Ultimately, the Kansas defense gives up some points. But the offense scores enough to keep the pressure on Hunter Dekkers to keep ISU moving, and ultimately a bad read or a blown-up play where he holds the ball a bit too long leads to a crucial turnover, and the Jayhawks take this one home. Give me 38-35, Kansas.