The Kansas Jayhawks made a trip to the Pacific Time Zone for the first time in 21 yards this weekend, and they’re leaving with a 3-0 record in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 31 years.
It was anything but clean and easy, but KU fended off the Nevada Wolf Pack on Saturday 31-24, finishing off a perfect record in nonconference play this season.
“[We did] not play our sharpest, we had too many penalties, but first of all credit to coach Wilson and Nevada for coming ready to play and playing hard, and playing downhill and physical all day long,” Jayhawks coach Lance Leipold said, adding: “I’m proud of our kids for persevering and finding a way.”
Kansas cruised down the field on the first drive of the game, taking an early 7-0 lead after a nine-play, 75-yard drive that saw junior quarterback Jalon Daniels go 5-of-5 passing for 60 yards, plus the first of three touchdowns on the night for junior running back Devin Neal from three yards out.
The Jayhawks scored just three more points the rest of the half, however, with numerous penalties and inconsistent execution stunting the offense. The defense, meanwhile, gave up 10 points to the Wolf Pack, including a touchdown with 25 seconds left in the first half to send the game to break deadlocked at 10.
Both offenses broke out in the second half, scoring a combined 35 points in the second 30 minutes of game time, but those same inconsistencies and miscues continued to plague KU. For the game, the Jayhawks committed seven penalties for 53 yards.
Luck wasn’t necessarily on the Jayhawks’ side in their narrow win, in fact fumble luck was working against KU to a severe degree. Nevada fumbled five times in the game and recovered each one of them.
“Sometimes, they’re going to go your way and sometimes they’re not,” Leipold said.
Despite the penalties and a few bad breaks on loose balls, the Jayhawks still had nearly 180 more yards of total offense, 10 more first downs and a better efficiency rate on third-down conversion attempts than the Wolf Pack.
Daniels finished the game 21-of-27 passing for 298 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Senior tight end Mason Fairchild was the game’s leading receiver, tallying five receptions for 74 yards. He was one of seven Jayhawks to catch a pass in the win.
Neal continued his red-hot start to the season in the win over Nevada. He had 17 carries for 89 rushing yards and three scores in the victory, while he also caught a pass and picked up 59 yards through the air. The Lawrence native is up over 300 yards rushing for the season and is averaging 144.7 yards from scrimmage per game.
“Great teams win ugly games, and this was definitely an ugly game,” Neal said. “We’ve just got to get back to the drawing board, clean up what we messed up on, self-inflicted wounds, penalties, on the offensive side there were a lot of penalties, a lot of missed execution, but like I said, get back on the drawing board and looking forward to playing a really good BYU team.”
Kansas is one of five Big 12 teams that is 3-0 to start the season, and this is the first time since the 1991-92 seasons that the program has started 3-0 in consecutive years. The Jayhawks will return home to host the BYU Cougars in their conference opener next Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
For more on the Kansas Jayhawks’ 31-24 win over the Nevada Wolf Pack, check out 580 Sports Talk Monday from 2-6 on 580 WIBW.