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Monday Morning Wheaties - K-State

5 min read

Saturday’s 31-27 loss to 23rd-ranked Kansas State was one of those that you know the Kansas Jayhawks walked away from thinking they should have won.

Heck, there were probably even a decent chunk of Wildcats — players, fans and coaches — who felt like Kansas deserved to win.

But they didn’t.

The reasons for this were simple – little mistakes at the worst times absolutely devastated KU. That’s not to say the Jayhawks were perfect the rest of the game, but they made enough plays and played with enough consistency, fight and swagger to put themselves in position to win. Until the end.

That may sound a lot like moral-victory talk. But KU coach Lance Leipold and others talked after the loss about this one being yet another sign that the Jayhawks are closing the gap with their in-state rivals.

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.

KU running back Devin Neal smiles big while he runs off the field during the Jayhawks' showdown with Kansas State. [Chance Parker photo]

Picture on the box

• Junior Running Back Devin Neal – We’re getting dangerously close to that territory that has Neal as one of the two or three best players on the field any time KU suits up no matter who Kansas is playing or who’s on the other roster. Neal, a Kansas kid himself, was spectacular in this one, rushing for 138 yards on 18 carries and scoring 3 TDs as well. His first touchdown, which tied the game and ignited the KU sideline and the stadium, as well, was a terrific individual run and very similar to the one he had a week earlier against Texas Tech that nearly sparked that comeback. Neal’s blend of patience, power, shiftiness and vision is elite and rare is the Devin Neal carry that does not lead to something positive for the Jayhawks. Being a native Kansan and having played so well, you know this one hurt a little more for Neal than a lot of guys. But he was there in the postgame with his positive vibes and talk about continuing to put in work to get better and help this team get over the hump. That’s a leader. And, at this rate, he’s bordering on becoming an outright KU legend.

A full bowl

• Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Austin Booker – We almost put Booker in the nighttime snack category but that’s merely because the expectations are so high for him now, that even a 6-tackle, 2-tackles-for-loss, 1-sack game seems pretty good but not great. Guess what. It was great. He wasn’t able to get home every time he came off the edge, but he was relentless in his pursuit of K-State QB Will Howard and tied for the team lead in tackles. Booker’s an all-Big 12 player with an NFL future and he continues to show it — and show up — week after week after week.

• Junior cornerback Mello Dotson – Another week, another interception for the KU cornerback, who leads the team with 4 picks on the season. This one didn’t go for a touchdown, like two of his previous three had, but it was big all the same. And it was made even bigger by the fact that Mello continues to battle through injuries to be out there on the field.

• KU’s entire offensive line – You can’t play a freshman QB making his first career start and almost get a victory without solid O-Line play. And the Jayhawks got just that in this one. KU out-gained K-State 396-331, out-rushed the Wildcats 234-166 and consistently gave freshman QB Cole Ballard a chance to read what was happening and make plays — be them throws or runs — to keep the Kansas offense moving. Mike Novitsky, Michael Ford Jr., Dominick Puni, Bryce Cabledue, Ar’maj Reed-Adams and Kobe Baynes all deserve big time props for giving Ballard help and, for the most part, keeping him clean so he could try to pull off the victory.

• Freshman quarterback Cole Ballard – Speaking of Ballard, yeah, the interceptions weren’t great, but even four-year starters throw picks. This was a kid making his first ever college start in the greatest atmosphere we’ve seen at Memorial Stadium in 15 years, under the lights, against an in-state rival and he did enough to put KU in position to win. Incredible stuff by the young player with all kinds of poise and promise. If not for a muffed punt by the KU special teams, another missed PAT that led to two points for Kansas State instead of one for KU and a couple of poorly timed penalties on the KU defense, the Jayhawks would’ve won and Ballard would’ve been an instant legend. Instead, he’ll have to settle for feeling pretty damn good about his outing and staying hungry to make sure it comes in a winning effort next time.

Nighttime snack

• Freshman punter Damon Greaves – The Australian punter was only needed three times in this one and his average was just 39.7 yards per kick, but he seemed to deliver all three times, including on a booming 48-yard punt that kept the Wildcats’ special teams from doing any more damage than they did.

• Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Gage Keys – This was probably Gage Keys’ best game at Kansas, and it was the follow-up effort to weeks of building toward it. He finished with just two tackles and a QB hurry, but he was so physical all night at the point of attack and that really showed up in the two solo tackles he made. His timing in stepping up his game while starter Devin Phillips has been dinged up has been perfect for the KU defense.

Drink the milk

• Junior wide receiver Luke Grimm – Back from injury with a vengeance, Grimm brought plenty of fire and passion to the field and also made one hell of a catch for a 33-yard gain to set up a KU touchdown in the first half. His ability to run the route at top speed, locate the ball, contort his body to give himself a chance to stay inbounds and then complete the catch is impressive and always has been. It comes from him being such a competitor and he showed up in this one, finishing with 44 yards on 3 catches, both of which led the Jayhawks.

More from Saturday's 31-27 KU loss to No. 23 K-State...

• Photo Gallery

• Moments That Popped

• 'That's Not On Rich'

• Notes & Numbers

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