LAWRENCE — The Kansas Jayhawks are sticking to their story: They played better defense against Texas A&M after making some personnel changes, despite the Aggies scoring 45 points and racking up 521 yards.
OK, so let's go with that story. It was KU's first game with former running back Toben Opurum starting at defensive end and cornerback Chris Harris starting at free safety, which means there were obviously going to be some kinks to work out. And the Jayhawks did register two sacks, bringing their season total to six.
Today, when KU takes the field at Iowa State looking for its first Big 12 victory, it will need this story to be true, because the Jayhawks' offense will undoubtedly be hindered without the services of its top two quarterbacks, who are out with injury. If there was a time for this defense to play to whatever its ceiling is, that time is now.
For Kansas' seniors, especially, the clock is ticking.
"It's definitely really difficult right now knowing my time is running out," Harris said. "We've got five more games. I definitely explained that to all the seniors to try to wake everybody up. Our time is almost up."
Harris is KU's most experienced and versatile player in the secondary. He says the coaches felt he could make more of an impact at safety, a position where the Jayhawks were in need of more speed.
"It was like I was a dead person at corner," Harris said. "I wasn't getting any action. The K-State game, they weren't even looking at me. They were just going the opposite way."
Senior defensive end Jake Laptad has also been eerily quiet this season. Laptad, who came in with 16 1/2 sacks for his career, tallied his first sack against the Aggies last week.
"It felt really good," Laptad said. "I've been wanting that the whole year. I feel like I've been close. I just haven't been able to get the quarterback down or get there in time."
Now, Laptad has a fresh face on the other side of the line in Opurum, whom KU coach Turner Gill says will play defensive end for the rest of this season.
"He's handled that move extremely well," KU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said. "To go from running back to linebacker to defensive end, I think he's got a chance to be a really good player at that position."