One of the most highly anticipated Kansas football games in years started with disappointment for the Jayhawks, who found out in the hours before kickoff that starting quarterback Jalon Daniels would not start the game because of lingering back tightness.
That position was nothing new for KU, of course. The 24th-ranked Jayhawks, who fell to No. 3 Texas, 40-14 on Saturday, have had to play without Daniels in each of the past two seasons and back-up Jason Bean has played plenty of meaningful games for the Jayhawks during the past few seasons.
Still, the blow of losing your starting QB — especially one with as much charisma and leadership skill as Daniels — is a tough blow at any point, but especially right before kickoff.
Daniels practiced all week and was expected to start, but evidently the back tightness kept him from feeling comfortable enough to do so and Bean got the nod. Daniels was officially ruled out at halftime, with Kansas trailing 13-7.
There was a short video that surfaced before Daniels started Game 2 of Bean telling him that he would always be there for him and always be ready. It was a cool look at the dynamic that exists between these two teammates who have competed for and shared the same spot for the past three years.
Moments like that, and countless others like it that the rest of the team has seen in practice and elsewhere, gives you a good idea why the Jayhawks have become so comfortable playing with Bean when they have to.
Here’s a look at the rest of the “Moments That Popped” during Saturday’s battle of the unbeatens in Austin, Texas.
• Hishaw and Neal start together: On the game’s first snap, both Daniel Hishaw Jr. and Devin Neal lined up in the KU backfield, flanking starting QB Jason Bean, who started in place of the injured Jalon Daniels. With both rushing options out there, not to mention Bean’s presence as a run threat, the Jayhawks gave Texas a tough look to open the game. The ball went to Neal, who ran left and crossed midfield on a 26-yard gain. Later in the quarter, KU used the same look and ran Hishaw to the right for a big gain, as well. There has been plenty of talk of late about making sure Hishaw gets a few more touches, and the first series made it clear that the Jayhawks were ready and willing to do that.
• Devonte’ Graham cameo: He didn’t have anything to do with Kansas football during his four years in Lawrence, but he is one of the most beloved recent Jayhawks and he was on the KU sideline for this one. After starting his NBA career with Charlotte and New Orleans, Graham was recently traded to San Antonio, which is a short drive from Austin, making it easy for the former KU point guard to attend Saturday’s game.
• Cornell Wheeler INT: Not only was Wheeler’s interception just before halftime a huge play for KU’s ability to stay in the game — the Jayhawks trailed just 13-7 at the break — but it also was the first interception thrown by UT QB Quinn Ewers this season and in his last 240+ pass attempts. Wheeler, who had a great preseason camp, has started to make his presence felt on the field the last two weeks and the INT surely elevated his confidence just a little more.
• Bean bomb to Wilson: With KU trailing 20-7 early in the third quarter, Jason Bean found Trevor Wilson wide open behind the Texas defense for a 58-yard touchdown reception that pulled the Jayhawks back within a single score and, temporarily, put the momentum back on the Kansas sideline. The play was big for two reasons, beyond the obvious 7 points. For one, it allowed Wilson to atone for a dropped pass on third down earlier in the game. For two, it allowed Bean to loosen up a little, as he sprinted toward the end zone to meet up with his wide receiver with the kind of energy, joy and emotion that he showed during the Oklahoma State game last year, when he led Kansas to bowl eligibility. Neither the momentum nor Bean's demeanor lasted much longer, but both were big in the moment.
• Lance Leipold’s approach after the loss: During his postgame radio interview with Brandon McAnderson in Austin, Leipold acknowledged that the Jayhawks will have plenty to look at and even more to work on from the film of Saturday’s loss to the Longhorns. That’s pretty standard stuff. But his emphasis on ensuring that his players keep their heads up and don’t let the disappointment of falling short vs. UT impact next week’s home game against UCF is yet another sign of a competent football coach who has been there and done that. For years, we saw Kansas football teams spiral downward and become powerless to stop it. But Leipold sounded determined to eliminate all talk about that before leaving Texas on Saturday, putting the focus squarely on bouncing back against UCF and not on feeling sorry for themselves for the outcome against UT.
• Third-down woes: KU entered the day leading the nation in third-down conversion percentage but did not enjoy one successful third-down conversion against the Longhorns. KU finished the day 0-for-8 on third down, compared to 9-for-15 for Texas. As a result, the Longhorns ran 86 plays, keeping the KU defense on the field for nearly 40 minutes (39:41) in the hot Texas sun.
• No Daniels = No Fun: Jason Bean is a capable back-up. And he’s had some great moments for the Jayhawks. Heck, he even had a couple of them on Saturday. But there’s no denying that taking Daniels out of the lineup significantly limits what the KU offense can do and takes away a lot of the Jayhawks’ swagger. With Daniels, the KU offense is inventive, exciting and explosive. With Bean on Saturday, it too often looked like an absolute grind to get much going. His final stat line (9-for-21 for 136 yards and a touchdown) illustrates that. So, too, does the fact that the Jayhawks’ snap at the Texas 29-yard line late in the 4th quarter was the deepest they had taken a snap all day. KU’s wide receivers had just four receptions all day and only one of them — Trevor Wilson’s 58-yard TD catch — brought any kind of juice to the game.
• KU’s inability to get pressure on Ewers: After KU’s initial drive stalled after crossing midfield, Texas marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead on a 30-yard Quinn Ewers touchdown run. Ewers completed all four passes he attempted on the drive and a couple of them came in the face of KU sending pressure to disrupt him. The Jayhawks haven’t shown a ton of blitz stuff so far this season and it made sense to see it against the Longhorns. But if you’re going to go you’ve got to get there and the Jayhawks missed a couple of opportunities to do that early in the game. Credit defensive coordinator Brian Borland for quickly adjusting, though. The Jayhawks brought very little extra pressure on UT’s next three series and the Longhorns managed just two field goals and a missed field goal on those possessions.
• Linebacker play: There were plenty of miscues by the KU linebacking corps in this one, but the thing that might show it the best was the final line of Texas running back Jonathon Brooks. He finished with 217 yards and 2 TDs on 20 carries, good for an average of 10.9 yards per carry. Not only did KU’s linebackers struggle to make tackles, they too often weren’t even in position to do so. Open gaps, missed assignments and poor eyes took the Jayhawks out of too many plays and allowed Texas to get whatever it wanted and dictate the way the afternoon went. KU’s linebackers also were responsible for several of the KU defense’s several missed tackles, which plagued the defense all day. In all, Texas finished with 661 yards of total offense.
• Howdy, Hishaw: The Jayhawks’ first score of the game came on a wild play that featured a sweet read and move by Jason Bean on an option run to the left side. After stringing out the play and deciding to keep it, Bean cut inside and turned upfield for a big gain. As he was hit from his right side, the ball came out. But right there, waiting by the Texas sideline, was running back Daniel Hishaw Jr., who scooped up the fumble and cruised into the end zone to cut the UT lead to 10-7. While Bean deserves a ton of credit for making the big play possible, it doesn’t happen if Hishaw quits on the play after not getting the option pitch. Instead, he kept running with Bean and was in the perfect spot at the perfect time to make a play for Kansas.
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