The Kansas football team closed out one of the best regular seasons in school history in convincing fashion, winning 49-16 on the road at Cincinnati.
Before we move on, let’s just think about that for a minute.
Not long ago, this was a program that could barely be competitive in road games, let alone win them, and now, in just Year 3 under Lance Leipold, the Jayhawks are putting up 7 touchdowns and steamrolling people.
The win moved the Jayhawks to 8-4 overall and 5-4 in Big 12 play. Now, Leipold and company will await Sunday’s bowl announcement to see who and where they’re playing their final game of this fabulous season.
We’ll have time to get into that a little more as the week moves along. For now, here’s a look back at the players who really stood out during the road win at Cincinnati.
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
• Senior quarterback Jason Bean – I’m not sure you can find a better finish to a season/career and I’m also not sure you’ll find a player more deserving of it than Bean. One week after sitting out a heartbreaking loss to Kansas State and two weeks removed from being knocked out of a loss to Texas Tech, Bean returned with some unfinished business and quickly made up for the time he missed. He finished with 250 yards passing and 2 TDs. He added 90 yards rushing and 2 more TDs. And he flashed his brilliant speed and all-around growth as a QB throughout the game to lead KU to the easy win and an 8-win season. There’s no telling where this program would be right now without Bean. His production, performance and pure heart during these past two seasons have had as much to do with the KU turnaround as anything and it appears now as if he’ll be remembered for that much more than he will for being Jalon Daniels’ back-up. Bean didn’t finish last year’s bowl game the way he wanted. And he wasn’t out there for his final home game as a Jayhawk either. You can bet he’ll be gunning for one final chance to go out on a high note when the Jayhawks get to their bowl game in about a month. Wherever it is and whoever it’s against, Bean will be ready.
A full bowl
• Junior cornerback Cobee Bryant – It’s been a wild season for the KU corner, who continues to be one of the best cover guys in the Big 12 and a player that opposing offenses don’t like to test much. From entire games where he got little to no work to moments when teams tested him and won, Bryant has seen it all this season. But he definitely saved his best for last and his one-handed interception early in this game not only was a career highlight but it also sparked the Jayhawks to start the onslaught and they never looked back from there. The pick was Bryant’s third of the season and he’s now one back of Mello Dotson, who has four, and one in front of Kwinton Lassiter, who has two. As competitive as those three are, you can bet they’ll all enter the bowl game gunning for the title of 2023 interception king.
• Junior running back Devin Neal – 10 carries, 106 yards, 2 TDs and none of those numbers come anywhere close to showing just how dominant Neal was in this one. Averaging 10 yards a pop is incredible, but he almost made it look easy. Neal finished the regular season with 1,209 yards rushing and a whopping 6.6 yards-per-carry average. His ability to get yards when they’re not there and the improvement he’s made with his speed to be able to run away from people when he gets past them has allowed him to make a major jump this season and all of that was on display in this one.
• Senior safety Kenny Logan Jr. – A fitting end to the regular season career of one of KU’s best defensive backs of the past few decades. Logan, who always leads with his heart and high energy, led the Jayhawks with 10 tackles in this one, a couple of them coming in the early going to help the defense get off the field and give the offense extra opportunities to find its flow. Four of Logan’s tackles were solo stops and he added one pass break-up to his stat line. If only he had returned a kickoff for a touchdown — there was one that looked like he almost broke it — this would’ve been the quintessential Kenny Logan game. He’s got one left where the Jayhawks go bowling, and you can bet he’ll be ready to bring it in that one, as well. Logan now leads the Jayhawks with 86 tackles, 30 more than his teammate in second place.
• Junior running back Torry Locklin – His stats don’t really jump out at you — just one catch for seven yards and four carries for 20 — but it’s clear that Kansas has ramped up its Locklin usage in recent weeks and the longtime Jayhawk has been ready. He’s so versatile and so physical that the list of things Andy Kotelnicki can do with him in pretty much any formation is endless. Gotta love to see him stay involved and ready so he can capitalize on the playing time he does get while also making the KU offense an even tougher beast to prepare for and play against.
• Junior tight end Jared Casey – Sure, you probably remember the tight end’s tough-catch touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Jayhawks their first bit of true separation. But do you remember Casey’s kickoff return that was nearly just as big? It came late in the first half, with KU leading 14-10. Cincinnati elected to squib kick the kickoff following its touchdown and Casey collected it at the Kansas 22. Without wasting any time, he ran straight up the field as far and as fast as he could, gaining 22 yards in the process and setting up the Jayhawks with a 1st-and-10 at their own 44 with 22 seconds to play. That brought getting a few more points before halftime into the realm of possibilities and back-to-back deep strikes by Bean to Lawrence Arnold for 30 yards and Mason Fairchild for 26 led to another 7 for the visitors and deflated the home team.
Drink the milk
• Redshirt sophomore QB Ben Easters – You gotta love seeing Easters get a few snaps to close out the regular season. Pretty cool deal. And not only did he get a chance to play in this one, but he also led the Jayhawks on a scoring drive of 11 plays and 61 yards that delivered the Jayhawks’ 7th touchdown of the night. Sure, all 11 plays were rushing plays as the Jayhawks tried to drain the clock, but Easters carried the ball on one of those drives and he was the conductor behind the whole thing. For a guy who has been passed up and bumped into a deep back-up role, it was awesome to see him get some run and have a little fun.