Years at KU: 2004-2007 (redshirt in 2003)
Career Stats: 1,353 rushing yards, 23 rushing TDs, 323 receiving yards
Best Season: 2007; 13 games, 1,125 rushing yards 16 rushing TDs, 213 receiving yards
Accolades: 2007 Second-Team All Big-12
Brandon McAnderson’s career was not dissimilar from Jon Cornish’s, which ended a year earlier. His freshman campaign featured three attempts for four yards and a touchdown. His next two years were slightly better, mostly serving at fullback and special teams, breaking triple digits with 102 yards and one touchdown as a sophomore and then 122 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. But like Cornish, McAnderson had an impressive senior year that would cement his legacy at Kansas.
Cornish’s senior year featuring a rushing performance that no other Jayhawk had accomplished. McAnderson’s was still impressive from a yardage perspective (1,125 yards on 190 carries) but where he excelled was finding the end zone. Which, from an offensive perspective, getting in the end zone is kind of a big deal. McAnderson got into the end zone 16 times in 13 games as a senior, which is one shy of June Henley for the most in a single season in KU history. His 23 touchdowns for his career is tied for fourth (part of a four-way tie) all time, despite McAnderson only having 246 carries for his career. Everyone else in the top eight—except for Chip Hilleary—had at least 450 carries. For those counting at home, that means McAnderson averaged a touchdown every 10.7 carries. Henley averaged a touchdown every 20 carries.
It would be easy to label McAnderson as a back that only pounded up the middle for three yards at a time, given the touchdown numbers, except for the fact that he also averaged an efficient 5.9 yards per carry in 2007 and 5.5 ypc for his career. There are a few clips in this compilation that show McAnderson’s ability to break tackles and allude defenders.
There were plenty of weapons on that Orange Bowl team, including Jake Sharp, who split carries with McAnderson (147 carries to McAnderson’s 190). Still, McAnderson averaged a slightly better ypc, more receiving yards in the same amount of receptions (though Sharp is known as more of the dual back) and, of course, led the way for touchdowns. He was a critical piece of the most successful team in Kansas history.
Nov. 3, 2007 vs Nebraska: 25 carries for 119 yards and 4 TDs, 1 reception for 36 yards
The game before, McAnderson ran all around and through Texas A&M for 181 yards and 2 TDs. It was his highest yardage total of his career, and against a better team. So it’s a great candidate, but I have to go with the Nebraska game a week later, both for individual and team reasons.
Let’s start with the individual reasons. At the time, McAnderson’s four rushing touchdowns were a school record. It has since still only been duplicated twice in the past 12 seasons. And his 25 carries were, at the time, a personal best that he then matched the next week.
Now for the team reasons. Kansas’ 76 points were the most scored against Nebraska in the program’s 117-year history. It was also the Jayhawks’ second win against the Huskers in its last 39 games.
So yeah, it had to be this game.
Brady McCollough wrote a great feature on McAnderson and his father in 2007 for the Kansas City Star. In it, he showcases a lot about McAnderson’s personality and what made him an exceptional teammate, and ultimately a team captain as a senior (along with the great note that McAnderson’s father told him to ask for more carries early in his career but he refused).
From the Star:
McAnderson’s leadership style is not to yell at guys during games. Instead, he pulls them aside at practice and offers them words of encouragement or help in the film room.
“I tell guys the truth all the time,” McAnderson says. “We have a lot of talent on this team, guys that have super talent that haven’t been able to tap into that potential yet.”
McAnderson tells sophomore running back Angus Quigley, “There’s nothing I can do that you can’t do physically. You’re an amazing talent, but you have to get your head right.”
He does the same thing with Sharp, whom some would see as his competitor for carries.
“I always felt like Jake was the starting tailback,” Brandon says.