The Kansas Jayhawks are 4-0 to start the season and 1-0 in Big 12 play after fending off the BYU Cougars at home 38-27.
This is the first time since the 1913-15 seasons that KU is opened consecutive seasons with 4-0 records.
It took a full team effort for the Jayhawks to earn the victory, with the defense making its presence known immediately. On the second play of BYU’s first drive, cornerback Cobee Bryant blew up an end-around rush by wide receiver Parker Kingston, forcing and recovering a fumble and taking it back for a touchdown.
Bryant added another interception in the third quarter. Kansas coach Lance Leipold praised his All-Big 12 cornerback’s competitiveness, saying that he wants to win at everything, from football to rock-paper-scissors with his coach.
“For him, the lightest guy on the field likely making the biggest hit of the day to set the tone really said a lot about him,” Leipold said.
That was the first of two defensive touchdowns in the win for Kansas. On BYU’s first drive of the second half, Cougars quarterback Kedon Slovis threw a ball directly into the gut of safety O.J. Burroughs, who couldn’t hold on despite having no BYU players between him and the end zone. Two plays later, though, a twice-tipped pass wound up in safety Kenny Logan’s hands. That interception was taken back for six.
Even with the defense’s heroics, BYU led by three points at the half, and after the Logan touchdown the Jayhawks had scored more points defensively than offensively. From that point forward, however, quarterback Jalon Daniels and the offense found their rhythm.
Daniels didn’t have to put the ball in the air much, only attempting four passes after halftime, largely because the Jayhawks’ ground attack dominated the BYU defensive front.
In the second half, Kansas rushed 25 times as a team for 172 yards, good for nearly seven yards per carry. Devin Neal led Kansas in rushing with 17 carries for 91 yards, but Daniels, Daniel Hishaw and Dylan McDuffie all factored into the ground game, with the former two both going for over 50 yards on the ground.
“When you have guys like that stepping up, it’s great to see,” Leipold said regarding KU’s stable of running backs.
None of the Kansas ball carriers reached the end zone, but Daniels and wide receiver Luke Grimm were able to finish off a couple of long drives with touchdown passes. The first was a five-yard strike to extend KU’s lead to eight points in the third quarter, then just over six minutes later they hooked up again for a 13-yard touchdown strike.
“I thought the throw to Luke Grimm, the second one, was a big-time throw,” Leipold said.
Daniels was perfect in the second half, completing all four of his attempts for 40 yards and two touchdowns. For the game, the Jayhawks quarterback went 14-of-19 passing for 130 yards and three scores, plus another 54 yards on the ground.
Grimm’s only two receptions in the game were his touchdown grabs. Tight end Trevor Kardell also had just one catch in the game, a touchdown late in the first quarter. Six different players caught passes for KU in the win, with wide receiver Lawrence Arnold leading the team in both receptions and yards, tallying four and 34, respectively.
Slovis set his new season high for passing attempts in the loss, throwing 51 times against the Kansas defense. He completed 30 of those attempts for 357 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. While the Cougars were able to air out successfully throughout the game, their running game was a complete non-factor. BYU rushed for nine yards on 22 carries as a team.
BYU outgained Kansas 366-351 on Saturday while the Jayhawks also had more penalties than their opponent for the second week in a row, getting flagged seven times for 70 yards.
“You look at how that team plays, they’re physical, they’re well-coached,” Leipold said, adding: “We overcame some penalties, we were heavy in the penalty deficit again, and we found a way to make plays when we needed to.”
Leipold joked after the game that he’s glad he didn’t know it had been over 100 years since the Jayhawks won four straight games to open consecutive seasons. He added that while the team should be happy about what they’ve accomplished, there’s still too much time left this season to get comfortable.
“If we spend too much time being satisfied, we’ll never get where we want to be,” Leipold said.
BYU suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday, also dropping its first-ever conference game as a Big 12 member. This was also just the second time that Kansas and BYU have ever gone head to head, both of which have ended with Jayhawks wins. The first meeting was in the 1992 Aloha Bowl.
KU will go on the road next weekend, switching from a new Big 12 foe to a departing one. The Jayhawks will visit the Texas Longhorns on Saturday, Sept. 29 in Austin for their final meeting as league rivals. Kickoff for that game is set for 2:30 p.m.
For more on the Kansas Jayhawks’ 38-27 win over the BYU Cougars, check out 580 Sports Talk Monday from 2-6 on 580 WIBW.