Jayhawks' defense must pick up slack against A&M

Updated: October 29, 2003, 7:11 PM ET

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- With Kansas' top offensive player sidelined by injury, coach Mark Mangino expects the Jayhawks' defensive players to pick up some of the slack in Saturday's game at Texas A&M.

"If we are out on the field for a long time, that's just too bad," Mangino said. "Defenses have to stay out on the field. If it takes 90 plays, you have to be able to play the whole game."

Mangino especially wants Kansas to perform better after sudden changes of possession -- something the Jayhawks didn't do in last week's 42-6 loss to Kansas.

After quarterback Bill Whittemore went down with a shoulder injury in the first quarter, backup Brian Luke fumbled away the ball on the Jayhawks' next possession.

One play after that, Kansas State's Ell Roberson threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Davin Dennis, who beat cornerback Shelton Simmons in the corner of the end zone.

"The play was a great throw and a great catch," said linebacker Kevin Kane. "It was just a good play, because Shelton was right there with him."

But that's the sort of play that Kansas has to guard against, Mangino said.

"One of the things we need to be able to do as a defense is go onto the field after a sudden change and stop people," he said.

That may be difficult to do on Saturday against Texas A&M's balanced offense.

The Aggies average 202.9 yards rushing and 204.6 yards passing, with Reggie McNeal throwing for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns and redshirt freshman Courtney Lewis running for 748 yards and 10 scores.

"You can't let a guy like Courtney Lewis hurt you by making big plays," Mangino said. "We gave up some big plays early in the season and put ourselves in tough positions, but since then we have become a better ballclub and have not let those kinds of things happen."

McNeal is also a threat to run, with 272 yards and two TDs on the ground. He averages 3.4 yards a carry.

"We need to keep him in the pocket so he doesn't do a whole lot of scrambling," Simmons said. "I think we will be all right and keep him in the pocket."

Defensive tackle Travis Watkins, who broke his foot in preseason practice, is unlikely to play against the Aggies.

"We don't have a decision to make until he is 100 percent capable of participating," Mangino said. "We could use him, because the defensive tackle position is one we are not playing consistently well at."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index