Despite the loss against Rice, Kansas’ defense was on fire.
Junior Ben Heeney had 13 tackles in the first half and finished the game with 18, a career high. To break down the tackles: 11 of those tackles were solo stops and 2.5 were tackles for loss (losses of 12 and 8 yards, respectively). This was the sixth time during Heeney’s career that he had a double-digit total in tackles.
“He’s playing faster than everyone else,” said Charlie Weis.
It’s true. Heeney has been playing faster than the opponents dating back to last season, where he recorded his first sack in the last game of the season against Kansas State. Since that game, Heeney has recorded a sack in both games Kansas has played. The sack he had in the game at Rice was a loss of 8 yards. He’s ranked conference wide and nationally for his attacks on the offense, averaging 11 tackles per game. That places him tied for first in the Big 12 and is tied for twelfth on the national level.
Heeney isn’t the only Jayhawk playing well on defense, either.
Sophomore Isaiah Johnson and junior Dexter McDonald both had stellar performances against the Owls. Johnson recorded seven tackles during the game and made his first career interception while McDonald also picked up his first career interception during the fourth quarter. His pick gave Kansas two interceptions in a game for the first time since the Texas game last season.
McDonald isn’t just out for interceptions; he’s out to wreck havoc on opposing offenses. So far this season, he has five pass breakups, three of which were at Rice. He leads the Big 12 in passes defended and is sitting at the top of the national charts for the same thing.
Looking at the defense as a whole:
- 22 different players have had at least one tackle.
- Three of those players (Ben Heeney, 22; Isaiah Johnson, 13; and Victor Simmons, 12) have more than ten tackles.
- Three players have recorded interceptions (Johnson, Keon Stowers, and McDonald).
- Nine different players have recorded tackles for loss (Heeney, Simmons, Keba Agostinho, Ben Goodman, JaCorey Shepherd, Jordan Tavai, Michael Reynolds, Tedarian Johnson and Darius Willis).
- Four players have recorded at least one sack during the season (Reynolds, Heeney, T. Johnson, and Goodman).
- Kansas also leads the Big 12 in pass defense and pass defense efficiency.
How is it possible Kansas has performed so well on defense?
“There are very few communication problems,” said Weis. “They played great.”
“The defense, after two games, everyone’s like where has that defense been?” pondered Weis. “Look at the coverage in that game. We haven’t seen anything like that since I’ve been here.”
Well, that defense is here now, and they’re here to stay.