University of Kansas

Kansas game report: TCU 24, KU 23

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (left) was congratulated by offensive lineman D’Andre Banks after Willis scored a touchdown in the second half Saturday against TCU at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence.
Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (left) was congratulated by offensive lineman D’Andre Banks after Willis scored a touchdown in the second half Saturday against TCU at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. along@kcstar.com

First quarter

The key: KU’s defense created two turnovers, with Brandon Stewart stepping in front of a Kenny Hill pass and Dorance Armstrong forcing a Hill fumble on a speed rush around the edge. KU’s offense capitalized on the second miscue, as Taylor Martin’s one-yard touchdown gave the Jayhawks their first opening-quarter points since Week 1 against Rhode Island.

Second quarter

The key: TCU quarterback Kenny Hill wisely kept on a read-option play, sidestepping would-be tackler Derrick Neal before making his way to the end zone for an 18-yard score. The late second-quarter score ensured TCU would head into half with a 14-10 lead.

Third quarter

The key: After feeling pressure around him, KU quarterback Ryan Willis decided to run, showing surprising speed as he ducked under one defender, evaded another, then spun off two TCU players for a 21-yard touchdown run. The ensuing extra point gave KU a 23-14 lead late in the third quarter.

Fourth quarter

The key: A fluke play helped TCU rally from its nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit. While scrambling on third and 12, Hill was brought down by the face mask, which drew multiple flags from the officials. He also fumbled before going down, though, and he alertly got up, picked up the football, then ran 34 yards down the sideline to the KU 40 after most Jayhawks thought the play was dead. The penalty tacked on 15 extra yards, and TCU scored a touchdown two plays later to pull within two.

The grades

Offense

C+

KU’s offensive line easily had its best performance of the year, opening up holes in the run game that hadn’t been there previous weeks. Receivers Steven Sims and LaQuvionte Gonzalez contributed multiple highlight-reel plays while using their speed to break off big gains. The Jayhawks still had four turnovers, though, and had too many drives stall in the red zone late when touchdowns could have ended TCU’s hopes at a comeback.

Defense

A+

Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen has quietly built one of the Big 12’s best defenses. Dorance Armstrong once again provided consistent pressure. Brandon Stewart had two interceptions. The Jayhawks forced four turnovers and consistently rattled Hill, who was the nation’s third-leading passer coming in. The Jayhawks played so well it would have been tough to know that three of their top players (Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen, Marcquis Roberts) were forced to sit out with injuries.

Special teams

D

The coverage units continued to play with great energy, and Matthew Wyman boomed numerous touchbacks, but the kicking game let KU down late. Wyman missed three fourth-quarter field-goal attempts that could have helped seal a victory.

Coaching

A

KU coach David Beaty’s biggest mistake was not calling a timeout immediately after TCU’s third-down play before its late field goal, as the hesitation cost KU 19 seconds that might have helped its last-minute drive. Still, the Jayhawks played with emotion, they didn’t have many penalties, and coaching decisions like switching tackles Hakeem Adeniji and D’Andre Banks and going to a base 3-3 defense all turned up gold during Saturday’s upset bid.

Takeaways

Player of the game: Brandon Stewart had two of the biggest plays, coming down with a pair of interceptions as part of a four-forced-turnover day for the Jayhawks.

Reason to hope: The Jayhawks’ defense, offensive line and receivers all showed progress in a losing effort.

Reason to mope: KU found a way to lose a close game it was in position to win. Missed field goals, dropped passes and even a quicker timeout could have changed the outcome.

Looking ahead: The Jayhawks will play at Baylor at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday.

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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