LAWRENCE — Kansas sophomore D.J. Beshears says he is a wide receiver, even though he only caught two passes for six yards on Saturday night.
KU coach Turner Gill grouped Beshears with the running backs, which was only natural after the guy rushed for two touchdowns.
Quarterback Jordan Webb? He wasn't even going to try and put a label on Beshears.
"I guess we gotta bring out a couple slashes for D.J.," Webb said. "He's an all-around football player."
After Kansas' 42-16 victory over New Mexico State, the questions finally didn't revolve around the identity of this young team. They focused instead on how to explain the role of Beshears, who turned the game in KU's favor early in the second quarter with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and accounted for all three of its touchdowns in the first half.
There was no psychoanalysis of the Jayhawks as a team because they did exactly what they were supposed to do in a football game for the first time this season. Favored by 23, they won by 26. They pounded the Aggies of the Western Athletic Conference because they had bigger and faster players, which had to be a refreshing feeling for a young team and its fans after an unpredictable first three games of the Gill era.
KU (2-2) put up 501 yards of offense, held New Mexico State to 275 and at least made a claim that it may be coming together heading into Big 12 play.
"Knowing you can do something gives you more confidence," Gill said.
Especially for a team that's starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback, a freshman at running back in James Sims and features an offensive line that is still learning. The Jayhawks will head to Waco, Texas, for the conference opener at Baylor with a blueprint for success involving a cast of playmakers that refused to let this game against an inferior opponent become another North Dakota State.
Beshears may have been the star early, but Sims stood out in the second half with a couple touchdown runs. Sims finished with 164 total yards, including 115 on the ground for his second 100-yard game.
The Jayhawks showed once again that, if their offensive line will cooperate, they can be a competitive — especially with a Big 12 schedule that doesn't include Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Webb played another efficient game, completing 17 of 27 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. Seven Jayhawks have scored touchdowns this season, so it's hard to dispute that Webb has some playmakers around him.
The Jayhawks played with the same up-tempo look that they utilized to upset Georgia Tech. Gill and KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long have figured out what they feel is the best way for this group to play. The Jayhawks don't have a ton of team speed, so they have to create their own pace — although KU looked plenty fast against the 0-3 Aggies.
New Mexico State looked like it was going to hang around in the second quarter when it tied the game at 7. But Beshears made sure that worry wouldn't settle in among the announced 46,719 fans when he burst untouched up the right side of the field for a 96-yard kickoff return.
Beshears said he told his blockers that if they made their blocks he would "take it to the house," and, apparently, such statements are not all that bold coming from him.
"He is electric with the ball in his hands," Webb said. "He wants to get in the end zone every time he touches it."
Beshears, a native of Denton, Texas, is a physical runner despite his 5-foot-8, 174-pound frame. And, just think, he may not have been playing offense if former KU coach Mark Mangino was still around. Beshears came to KU a wide receiver, but Mangino lifted his redshirt last season and moved him to cornerback.
Well, Beshears is playing everything but defense now.
"We'll line him up all over the place," Gill said. "That's kind of our plan going through the rest of the season."
Four games in, it feels like Gill has at least found the right pieces. In Beshears' case, it doesn't matter where Gill places him.
"I'll do whatever it takes to win," Beshears said.