Jayhawks open Big 12 play at Baylor

Sep, 15, 2018; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; ©Kelly Ross

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KU Athletics) Coming off back-to-back wins, Kansas football will travel to Waco, Texas to face Baylor in the Jayhawks' first conference game of 2018 on Saturday, September 22. The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CDT on FS1 and will be available to stream live on FoxSportsGo.com.

ON THE COME UP
Though it is a relatively small sample size, through one quarter of the 2018 campaign the KU defense has made huge strides in comparison to a year ago. The Kansas defense currently leads the Big 12 conference in seven categories, most notably total defense (15th in FBS). The Jayhawks rank second in the league and 25th nationally in scoring defense (15.7 ppg).

CATEGORY // '17 FBS RANK // '18 FBS RANK // IMPROVEMENT
Pass Efficiency Def. // 124 // 2 //+122
Turnover Margin // 102 // 1 // +101
Interceptions // 93 // 2 // +91
Turnovers Gained // 83 // 1 // +82
Total Defense // 96 // 15 // +81
Scoring Defense // 105 // 25 // +80
First Downs Defense // 86 // 24 // +62
Fumbles Rec. // 42 // 2 // +40
Def. TDs // N/A // 1 // N/A

POOKA MAGIC
Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr., has had an impressive start as he is the first freshman in Jayhawk history to rush for back-to-back 100-yard rushing games to open his career. Williams owns the top rushing contest in the Big 12 thus far with his 163-yard performance in KU's win over Rutgers. Williams has collected 288 yards on 32 carries, good for 8.7 yards per carry and three touchdowns.

KANSAS FRESHMEN RUSHING RECORDS
RK // YDS // PLAYER // GAME (DATE)
1. // 237 // June Henley // Iowa State (10-16-1993)
2. // 216 // Kerwin Bell // K-State (11-1-1980)
3. // 178 // June Henley // Oklahoma (10-23-1993)
4. // 177 // Tony Sands // Oklahoma St. (11-12-1988)
5. // 163 // Pooka Williams Jr. // Rutgers (9-15-2018)
6. // 160 // Clark Green // Oklahoma St. (11-16-2002)
7. // 157 // Kerwin Bell // Colorado (11-15-1980)
8. // 156 // Kerwin Bell // Iowa State (10-18-1980)
9. // 148 // June Henley // Nebraska (11-6-1993)
10. // 143 // Kerwin Bell // Syracuse (10-4-1980)
11. // 131 // Clark Green // SW Mo. St. (9-14-2002)
12. // 125 Pooka Williams Jr. // Central Michigan (9-8-2018)

OPPORTUNISTIC DEFENSE
Kansas has put together a +12 turnover margin through its first three games of the 2018 season, which leads the FBS. The Jayhawk defense and special teams have combined to force their opponents into 13 turnovers, including six in consectuvie wins over Central Michigan and Rutgers, after producing just nine turnovers by its opponents in all of 2017. KU has had 10 players have a hand in the turnovers forced thus far with Joe Dineen Jr., (INT, FR), Bryce Torneden (INT, 2FR), Shakial Taylor (INT, FF) Kyron Johnson (FR, FF) and Mike Lee (INT, FF) have all been a part of multiple forced turnovers. Kansas leads the Big 12 and ranks second in the FBS in both fumbles recovered (6) and interceptions (7).

FBS TURNOVER MARGIN
Rank. Team // Lost // Gained // Margin // AVG
1. Kansas // 1 // 13 // +12 //4.00
2. Virginia Tech // 1 // 7 // +6 // 3.00
3. Fresno State // 4 // 12 // +8 // 2.67
North Texas // 2 // 10 // +8 // 2.67
5. Ohio // 2 // 7 // +5 // 2.50

BALL HAWKS
Seven different Jayhawks have snagged an interception, with three being returned for touchdowns. Seniors LB Joe Dineen Jr., CB Shakial Taylor, juniors S Mike Lee, S Bryce Torneden, S Jeremiah McCullough, sophomore S Ricky Thomas and freshman CB Corione Harris have each gotten in on the action. Taylor (55), Torneden (39) and Lee (31) have each made their way to paydirt following their interception as the Jayhawks lead the FBS in defensive touchdowns with three.

FIRST DOWN IMPROVEMENT
Kansas head coach David Beaty has put an emphasis on the Jayhawk offense improving its first down efficiency and through three games in 2018 the Jayhawks have shown an upward climb. Overall, Kansas has run 94 first down plays and is averaging 6.3 yards per play. Overall, KU had 50 percent of its first down plays go for four or more yards.
1st Downs no >3 yds 4 Yds < total avg
vs. Nicholls 29 18 11 116 4.0
at Central Michigan 33 17 16 214 6.5
vs. Rutgers 34 13 21 275 8.1
Totals 96 48 48 605 6.3

SIMSATIONAL
Senior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr., is approaching several career milestones. He currently ranks third in career receptions (171) and is fifth in both receiving yards (2,120) and touchdown receptions (16).
KANSAS CAREER RECEPTIONS
RK Name Number years
1. Kerry Meier 226 2007-09
2. Dezmon Briscoe 219 2007-09
3. Steven Sims Jr. 171 2015-Present

KANSAS CAREER RECEIVING YARDS
RK Name yards years
1. Dezmon Briscoe 3,240 2007-09
2. Kerry Meier 2,309 2007-09
3. Willie Vaughn 2,266 1985-88
4. Mark Simmons 2,161 2002-05
5. Steven Sims Jr. 2,130 2015-Present

KANSAS CAREER RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNS
RK Name tds years
1. Dezmon Briscoe 31 2007-09
2. Kerry Meier 18 2007-09
3. Willie Vaughn 17 1985-88
Bruce Adams 17 1972-74
T5. Steven Sims Jr. 16 2015-Present

LASSITER AND LONEKER TAKE 2
Kwamie Lassiter II and Keith Loneker Jr., are each following in their father's footsteps by suiting up for the Jayhawks, sort of. Kwamie II is finding success as KU's punt returner and seeing time as a wide receiver, while his father, Kwamie Lassiter, was a hard-hitting safety who teamed up with the late Keith Loneker Sr., to lead the Jayhawks to the 1992 Aloha Bowl title. The elder Lassiter went on to have a 10-year NFL career where he collected 25 interceptions, including nine in 2002. Keith Jr., also followed his father's path to KU, and like Kwamie II it is on the opposite side of the ball as his Dad. While Keith Sr., played tackle on the KU offensive line and then spent three seasons in the NFL before going on to a successful acting career, Keith Jr., has found his niche at linebacker. The Lassiter and Loneker sons are having strong 2018 seasons as Lassiter ranks fourth in the Big 12 in punt returns at 10.3 yards per return, while Loneker ranks second on the team and fifth in the Big 12 in tackles with 8.0 per game and leads the Jayhawks in tackles-for-loss with 2.5.

GO JOE
Senior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., hit the ground running in 2018 as he leads KU with 40 total tackles, including 26 solo stops. Dineen now has 18 career games with 10 or more tackles. He currently leads the Big 12 and FBS in solo tackles (8.7 per game) and leads the conference and ranks third in the nation in total tackles (13.3 per game). Dineen finished as the nation's leader in solo tackles in 2017, while ranking third in both total tackles and tackles-for-loss. Dineen was named the Lott IMPACT Trophy Player of the Week on Sept. 11 following his 14-tackle, one-interception performance against Central Michigan and is again in the running for the award following his 10-tackle, one fumble recovery-outing against Rutgers. He is a candidate for the national award honoring college football's Defensive Player of the Year who best exemplifies the IMPACT acronym: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity.

FLIPPING THE FIELD
Sophomore punter Kyle Thompson had a strong start to the 2018 season. Thompson has booted the ball 20 times, averaging 43.1 yards per punt. He has recorded six punts of 50 or more yards, including a career-long 62-yarder against Nicholls in the season-opener. Additionally, he has dropped 11 punts inside the 20-yard line. Thompson is second in the Big 12 Conference and ranks 30th in the FBS after three weeks of action with his 43.1 yards per punt.

BEHIND THE LINE
Joe Dineen Jr., is climbing the Kansas tackles-for-loss chart after turning in a Big 12-best 25.0 in 2017. Dineen's 25.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage marked a new KU single-season record. He now has 35.0 TFLs in his career, which ranks sixth on KU's all-time chart. Fellow senior Daniel Wise is right behind Dineen with 33.5 career TFLs, ranking tied for eighth in Jayhawks history. Kansas' career record holder, Willie Pless, notched 41.0 TFLs in his four seasons in the Crimson and Blue.
Tackles-for-Loss No. Years
1. Willie Pless 41 1982-85
2. Nick Reid 40 2002-05
Jim Zidd 40 1977-79
4. Ben Heeney 35.5 2011-14
5. Joe Dineen Jr. 35.0 2014-Present
Algie Atkinson 35 1998-2001
7. Dorance Armstrong Jr. 34.0 2015-17
8. Daniel Wise 33.5 2015-Present
Jake Laptad 33.5 2007-10
10. Mike Butler 33 1973-76

KANSAS BAYLOR CONNECTIONS
Kansas has 25 players on its roster from the state of Texas, including Waco area native sophomore OL Chris Hughes of Harker Heights.

BIG 12 ROAD WOES
Kansas hasn't won a Big 12 road game since Oct. 4, 2008 when the Jayhawks defeated Iowa State, 35-33, in Ames - a streak of 38-consecutive true road losses (Kansas defeated Missouri in 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium and since then, has lost 41 conference games played outside of Lawrence, with losses at Arrowhead to Missouri in 2009, 2010 and 2011).

2018 PLAYER HONORS
As the 2018 season rolls along, the following is a cumulative list of honors earned by Kansas players:
Joe Dineen Jr.
--Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week (Sept. 10)
--Lott IMPACT Trophy Player of the Week (Sept. 11)

Pooka Williams Jr.
--Big 12 Newcomer of the Week (Sept. 10)
--ESPN True Freshman of the Week (Sept. 10)

CAPTAINS
The vote is in and a trio of seniors in wide receiver Jeremiah Booker, linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., and defensive tackle Daniel Wise have been selected by their teammates to serve as permanent team captains for the 2018 season. Booker and Wise are each filling the role for the second-straight season, while Dineen is in his third season as a designated leader of the team. Dineen is in rare company when it comes to three-time captains as he is only the third player in KU's 128-year history to serve as a captain three-consecutive seasons joining QB Zac Wegner (1998-99-2000) and linebacker Banks Floodman (2003-04-05).

SIXTH TIME iS THE CHARM
Kansas sixth-year senior long snapper John Wirtel looks to bounce back after having two-consecutive seasons cut short due to injury. Wirtel, who has started the first three games for KU in each of the last five seasons, is back to handle the long snapping duties for the Jayhawks. After sporting jersey No. 68 during his first five seasons, Wirtel is wearing No. 39 in 2018. His brother, Steven, is the long snapper at Iowa State and also sports No. 39.

THE GRADUATES
In 2018 Kansas fields a team with 11 players on it who have already earned their undergraduate degrees. KU is one of 16 FBS schools with 11 or more graduates suiting up in 2018:
No. of Grads School
19 UAB
17 Clemson
15 Arizona State
15 Pittsburgh
14 Baylor
14 Northwestern
14 SMU
12 Alabama
12 Akron
12 Houston
12 Maryland
12 Temple
12 Virginia
11 Kansas
11 Old Dominion
11 Penn State

THE MAYOR GIVES BACK
A native of Lawrence, Kansas, senior Joe Dineen Jr., has always known the benefits of giving back to his community, but roughly two years ago he became passionate about one cause in particular - childhood cancer. Due to his devotion to raising awareness and funds to fight the disease, for the second year in a row Dineen was nominated to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team and named to the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, which honors college football's top community servant.

Dineen's dedication to helping the cause started when Cole Hayden (son of Shanda Hayden, Assistant Athletics Director for Academic and Career Counseling) was diagnosed with cancer. Since the diagnosis, Dineen has led his teammates in a number of activities to help benefit those diagnosed with the disease, by visiting kids at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, participating in the Hilltop Hustle 5K (in which all proceeds were donated to Children's Mercy in honor of Cole), and taking part in a local baseball game that raised funds for childhood cancer research. Most recently, Dineen put together the first-ever "Cole's Christmas in July" in which he and his teammates donated toys that were gifted to Cole before his passing to kids in Children's Mercy.

WATCHING THE JAYHAWKS
Five Jayhawks found their names on Preseason Watch Lists as the various Awards announced the players they have their eyes on to open the season. Senior defensive lineman Daniel Wise led the way for KU as he was named to three watch lists including the Bednarik Award (top defensive player), Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player) and the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman). Senior linebacker Joe Dineen was also sited three times as he was also tabbed by the Bednarik Award in addition to the AFCA Good Works Team (community service) and Wuerffel Trophy (community service). Senior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr., was recognized by the Biletnikoff Award (top receiver) and the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award (top offensive player from Texas), while senior tight end Mavin Saunders was on the John Mackey Award Watch List (top tight end). Junior offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji joined Wise on the Outland Trophy Watch List.

UP NEXT
Kansas will host its 2018 Big 12 Conference home-opener on Saturday, Sept. 29 when it welcomes Oklahoma State to Lawrence. KU-OSU will kick off at 11 a.m., at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, with a live broadcast on FOX Sports Net. The game will be the centerpiece of the University of Kansas' Homecoming weekend.