LAWRENCE, Kan. (KU Athletics) Coming off a 27-26 victory over TCU, Kansas football will host Iowa State on Nov. 3 for the Jayhawks' Salute to Service game at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Kickoff between the Jayhawks and Cyclones is slated for 11 a.m., with FSN carrying the television broadcast.
KU-ISU BROTHERLY LOVE
Kansas sixth-year senior long snapper John Wirtel has bounced back after having two-consecutive seasons cut short due to injury. Wirtel, who has started the first three games for KU for six-straight seasons, handles 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.
Freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr., was honored by the Paul Hornung Award and the Big 12 Conference after turning in 175 all-purpose yards in helping lead Kansas to a 27-26 win over TCU. Williams scored the game-winning touchdown on a 28-yard catch and run, his second TD of the day. Williams became the first true freshman in Big 12 history and just the third player in the FBS in 2018 to have a 100-yard rushing game and 100-yard receiving game to his credit as he collected a career-high 102 receiving yards on a career-best seven receptions, including two touchdowns, in the win over TCU. Williams added 33 yards on the ground on 11 carries and 40 yards in kickoff returns.
Junior defensive back Hasan Defense has made his presence felt since making the move to safety from cornerback, as he has had his hand in forcing four turnovers. Defense recorded two interceptions off of Heisman Trophy candidate Will Grier of West Virginia (10.6.18) and then snagged another interception in KU's game at Texas Tech (10.20.18) and also picked up a fumble against the Red Raiders, nearly returning it for a touchdown. Behind the the stellar play of Defense, Kansas' defense continues to lead the Big 12 and the FBS in turnovers gained with 23 on the season.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Hasan Defense has collected three interceptions and one fumble recovery on the season, and he turned those turnovers into yards. Defense has racked up 125 yards in interception returns, which ranks third all-time in KU single-season history and is the most since 2007 when Aqib Talib tallied 195 return yards on five interceptions. Defense has recorded interception returns of 28, 60 and 37. In addition, he returned his fumble recovery seven yards, narrowly missing the end zone.
Eleven different Jayhawks have snagged a total of 13 interceptions, with three being returned for touchdowns. Junior CB Hasan Defense leads the way with three picks. Seniors LB Joe Dineen Jr., CB Shakial Taylor and LB Keith Loneker Jr., juniors S Mike Lee, S Bryce Torneden, S Jeremiah McCullough and CB Elmore Hempstead Jr., sophomores S Davon Ferguson and S Ricky Thomas and freshman CB Corione Harris have each gotten in on the action. Taylor (55 yards), Torneden (39 yards) and Lee (31 yards) have each made their way to pay dirt following their interception as the Jayhawks lead the Big 12 in defensive touchdowns with three.
With 1.0 tackle-for-loss in KU's win over TCU, Joe Dineen Jr., took sole possession as Kansas' career record-holder for TFLs. Dineen turned in a Big 12-best 25.0 TFLs in 2017, which also marked a new KU single-season record. Fellow senior Daniel Wise is right behind Dineen with 39.5 career TFLs, ranking fifth in Jayhawks history.
ON THE COME UP
The KU defense has made huge strides in comparison to a year ago (after 8 games), as the Kansas defense currently leads the Big 12 conference in five categories and the FBS in turnovers gained.
Category // '17 FBS Rank // '18 FBS Rank // Improvement
Turnover Margin // 121 // 2 // +119
Turnovers Gained // 117 // 1 // +116
Interceptions // 115 // 3 // +112
Fumbles Rec. // 76 // 2 // +74
Def. TDs // N/A // 6 // N/A
Senior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr., is approaching several career milestones. He currently ranks tied for second in career receiving yards (2,336) and career touchdown receptions (18) and ranks third in career receptions (191).
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 third-highest rushing contest in the Big 12 thus far with his 163-yard performance in KU's win over Rutgers. Williams has collected 653 yards on 99 carries, good for 6.6 yards per carry and four touchdowns.
FLIPPING THE FIELD
Sophomore punter Kyle Thompson is having a strong 2018 season as he has booted the ball 50 times, averaging 43.7 yards per punt. He has recorded 13 punts of 50 or more yards, including a career-long 65-yarder at Baylor in the Big 12-opener. Additionally, he has dropped 20 punts inside the 20-yard line. Thompson is first in the Big 12 Conference and ranks 28th in the FBS.
Through the first seven games of his career, Kansas freshman running back Pooka Williams Jr., has posted the third-best rushing output of any first-year player in KU history with 653 rushing yards. Additionally, Williams ranks fourth in rushing among the top true freshman running backs in Big 12 history through the first seven games of his career.
Pooka Williams Jr., is the first player in FBS history (with records dating back to 1996) to have a 40+ yard rush in each of their first four games. Williams is also the first Kansas player (records dating back to 1996) of any class to have four-straight games with a 40+ yard-carry. The only Kansas player with a streak of three-consectuve games with a rush of 40+ yards is Khalil Herbert in 2017. Additionally, Williams and Memphis' Darrell Henderson are the only players in the FBS to post a four-game streak with a 40+ yard rush in 2018.
Kansas has put together a +16 turnover margin through eight games of the 2018 season, which leads the FBS. The Jayhawk defense and special teams have combined to force their opponents into 23 turnovers, including six in consecutive wins over Central Michigan and Rutgers, after producing just nine turnovers by its opponents in all of 2017.
2018 PLAYER HONORS
As the 2018 season rolls along, the following is a cumulative list of honors earned by Kansas players:
--CBS Sports Defensive Player of the Week (Oct. 7)
Joe Dineen Jr.
--Lott IMPACT Trophy Player of the Week Nominee (Oct. 28)
--Senior CLASS Award finalist (Oct. 24)
--Lott IMPACT Trophy Quarterfinalist (Oct. 18)
--Sports Illustrated Midseason First Team All-American (Oct. 16)
--Senior CLASS Award top 30 candidate (Sept. 26)
--Lott IMPACT Trophy Player of the Week Nominee (Sept. 18)
--Lott IMPACT Trophy Player of the Week (Sept. 11)
--Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week (Sept. 10)
--Big 12 Co-Special Teams Player of the Week (Oct. 29)
Pooka Williams Jr.
--Big 12 Newcomer of the Week (Oct. 29)
--Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll (Oct. 29)
--Midseason True Freshman of the Year by The Athletic (Oct. 16)
--ESPN Midseason Freshman All-American (Oct. 15)
--Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Week (Oct. 1)
--Big 12 Newcomer of the Week (Sept. 10)
--ESPN True Freshman of the Week (Sept. 10)
A trio of seniors in wide receiver Jeremiah Booker, linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., and defensive tackle Daniel Wise were 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).
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.
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.
Kansas will travel to in-state rival Kansas State for the annual Dillons Sunflower Showdown on Saturday, Nov. 10. Game time is slated for 11 a.m., with a live broadcast on FOX Sports Net.