EL PASO, Texas – Senior DE Maxwell Onyegbule and the Jayhawk defense set the tone early as the University of Kansas football team rolled past UTEP 34-7 in front of 31,885 fans Saturday night in the Sun Bowl. Senior QB Todd Reesing guided the offense to over 575 yards of total offense as KU improved to 2-0 for the sixth straight season, while the Miners fell to 0-2.
In the first half alone, Onyegbule had two sacks and four total tackles for loss to lead a defense that finished the half with five sacks, 11 tackles for loss, an interception and a pair of quarterback hurries. UTEP was forced to punt on six of its seven possessions of the period and mustered just three first downs.
With the defense and special teams setting the tone, it gave the offense the breathing room it needed to get in rhythm. As it turned out, it was just what the offense needed after putting just three points on the board for the first quarter and a half.
Kansas opened the scoring with a 21-yard field goal from junior PK Jacob Branstetter. After forcing UTEP to punt on its opening possession, the Jayhawks drove the ball 75 yards on their opening drive with the key play coming on a trick play where senior WR Kerry Meier hit streaking junior WR Dezmon Briscoe for 56 yards through the air.
Kansas punted on its next two possessions then came to life, scoring on its next three.
Starting on its own 29 yard line, Reesing orchestrated an 8-play, 71-yard drive punctuated by a 1-yard touchdown run from senior RB Jake Sharp.
On the Miner’s next possession sophomore CB Daymond Patterson jumped in front of a UTEP pass intended for Jeff Moturi. The ball deflected up in the air and senior S Justin Thornton was able to come down with the interception. The defensive play set up Branstetter’s second field goal, a 25-yarder.
UTEP went three-and-out on its next possession thanks to a QB hurry and a sack from Onyegbule. That, plus a 19-yard punt return from Patterson set KU up on the 40 yard line in Miner territory. Four plays and 40 yards later, Reesing tossed a five yard pass to Sharp and the score was 20-0.
Kansas racked up 250 yards of total offense in the first half compared to just 49 for UTEP. Reesing went 17-of-26 through the air for 134 yards and a TD.
KU opened the second half by moving the ball 76 yards, but the 10-play drive stopped short with an interception. Nevertheless, Kansas’ momentum continued. After a short UTEP possession the resulted in another punt, Patterson came up with another big return, this time for 49 yards. Set up at the 24 going in, Sharp picked up his third TD of the game on a 3-yard run after the 4-play, 24-yard drive.
With the score 27-0 in KU’s favor heading into the final quarter, the Jayhawks tacked on a touchdown by freshman RB Toben Opurum.
UTEP was able to get on the board at the 12:39 mark of the fourth quarter on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Vittatoe to Donavon Kemp. The TD wiped away KU’s attempt at a shutout, but the defense still had to walk away happy.
For the game, the defense held UTEP to just 208 yards and seven first downs. Seven players recorded tackles for losses led by Onyegbule with five. Add to that line six quarterback hurries, three passes broken up and an interception, and it was a good night in El Paso.
Reesing finished 25-of-41 for 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Kansas racked up 576 total yards and outdid the Miners 23-7 on first downs.
Sharp posted his second straight game with over 100 yards rushing, finishing with 16 carries for 104 yards and three total touchdowns (two on the ground). In his season debut, Briscoe hauled in eight catches for 154 yards. Four other Jayhawks had three or more catches including Johnathan Wilson (4-66), Bradley McDougald (3-48), Sharp (6-29) and Kerry Meier (4-15).
The win also improved Mark Mangino’s overall record to 47-41 at Kansas which tied him with Glen Mason as the second-winningest coach in school history. A.R. Kennedy owns KU’s best coaching record at 52-9-4 from 1904-10.
Kansas returns Memorial Stadium next Saturday to host Duke at 11 a.m. The game will be televised by the Versus Network.