Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech was one of the weirdest games in a while for the Kansas football program.
As injuries mounted, guys stepped up behind the starters, the Jayhawks fought to the end and walked away with heartbreak following a 16-13 loss decided in the final seconds.
Even with multiple players going down, including starting QB Jason Bean, the Jayhawks could have won. Some might say they still should’ve. So there was frustration there.
At the same time, there were things to feel good about. Cole Ballard played a solid game as the third-string walk-on QB. KU erased a 13-0 fourth-quarter deficit with three scoring drives and nearly forced OT. On and on the ups and downs of the good and bad went.
In the end, though, a loss is a loss and No. 19 KU fell to 7-3 on the season and 4-3 in Big 12 play. We’ll look ahead to what’s next — 6 p.m. Saturday vs. Kansas State — soon enough.
For now, though, these are your weekly Wheaties.
You’ve seen the tomahawks on the back of the Florida State helmets, the buckeye tree leaves on the Ohio State helmets and the paw prints on the back of the Clemson helmets.
Each Monday, after every KU football game, we take one last look back at the game that was and hand out different amounts of the iconic breakfast cereal to the Jayhawks’ top performers.
So, be sure to come get your Monday morning Wheaties and feel free to hit up the comments section — subscribers only for now — with any players you feel we might’ve missed.
Picture on the box
• Freshman quarterback Cole Ballard – An argument could be made that Kansas would have won if Ballard had received just a little more help from his guys and coaches. Play calls were head-scratching. Passes were dropped. But, through it all, Ballard was relentless in his competitiveness and fight. And it also brought the Jayhawks a victory. Not bad for a freshman walk-on who was playing high school football just a year ago. The son of Colts GM Chris Ballard, it’s clear that the younger Ballard has been around the game and picked up all kinds of good habits about how to play, prepare and conduct himself. For that alone, he deserves to be on the front of the box this week. Add in the fact that he nearly led KU to an improbable victory and it’s an even bigger no-brainer.
A full bowl
• Junior running back Devin Neal – Gotta give a guy serious love on the day he passes KU legends John Riggins and Gale Sayers on the all-time rushing list. Neal, who is now alone in fifth place on KU’s rushing chart, did so much more than that, though. His 60-yard TD run early in the 4th quarter, single-handedly breathed life back into the KU sideline and KU’s stadium, and it featured that signature style we’ve seen from the Lawrnece native, with Neal making one cut — seemingly without slowing down — and getting up the field. This time, nobody caught him and, by game’s end, he had carried the ball 19 times for 137 yards and a TD. That was just six more carries than teammate Daniel Hishaw Jr., but 102 more yards, most of it thanks to the big TD run. The attempted touchdown pass that never had a chance was more of a play-call issue than anything Neal did wrong. So, we’ll stick with the positives from his day here, of which there were plenty.
• Senior safety Kenny Logan – Logan led Kansas with 9 tackles and did a great job supporting the run and helping KU keep Texas Tech quiet for nearly the entire second half. But it was his big hit on a third-down play with 2:40 remaining in the game that knocked the ball loose and forced Tech to punt that was his biggest contribution of the day. Had Logan not been able to knock that ball out, it appeared as if it would’ve led to a Tech first down and may have iced the game. Instead, Logan lowered his shoulder and broke up the pass, leading to one final possession for the Jayhawks, who scored a game-tying field goal on the ensuing drive.
• Junior safety O.J. Burroughs – Burroughs’ first-half interception was huge. Even though it didn’t lead to points — even though it should’ve based on the offense’s 98-yard drive with Ballard at the helm — it kept the Red Raiders from adding to their lead and also, according to linebacker Rich Miller, was the moment where the KU defense believed it could get things turned around and keep the Jayhawks in the game. In addition to the pick — a diving grab near the goal line that Burroughs had to go a long way to get — the junior safety who has had a stellar season as a tackler, recorded two pass break-ups and three tackles, two of the solo variety.
• Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Tommy Dunn Jr. – After missing last week’s win at Iowa State, Dunn was back on the field and clearly his old self again. He was one of the handful of Jayhawks who matched Texas Tech’s physicality and if you watch him — No. 92 — you see that his strength is on another level. His solo stops are ferocious and he just throws ball carriers to the ground like rag dolls. Dunn finished with 3 tackles – 2 solo – but his presence in the middle helped KU stay in the game in the final three quarters after the Red Raiders hit KU early with some success on the ground. Dunn had help plugging the middle, but he was often the easiest of the bunch to spot in large part because of how physical he plays.
Drink the milk
• Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Doug Emilien – It was a subtle moment and didn’t really matter to the outcome of either the play or the game, but it was awesome to see Emilien sprinting down the field on Devin Neal’s 60-yard touchdown run to be there to block in case Neal needed help getting to the end zone. That’s the kind of effort that used to be extraordinary and now is expected in this program. But it still stands out because of the high visibility of the play and the fact that Emilien, who calls his game “grimy,” did throw his body at a defender giving chase right at the goal line.
• Senior quarterback Jason Bean – He didn’t have a great day when he was out there, but, man, if you saw the injury, you have to give the guy credit for trying to go back out there. The way he was dragged down with his knee bent underneath him, it looked like it could be a serious and catastrophic injury, yet, there was Bean a play or two later, trying to gut it out for his team. He went down awkwardly after his return and appeared to hit his head on the turf. That ended his day and Lance Leipold said after the loss that it was, in fact, a head injury that kept Bean out. But no one should ever question his heart, fight or toughness again after watching him try to fight through that first hit.
More from Saturday's KU-Texas Tech football game...
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