KU survives late-night scare, outlasts Nevada 31-24

photo by: AP Photo/Andy Barron

Kansas' Devin Neal avoids being tackled by Nevada's Ezekiel Robbins as he carries the ball in 4th quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Reno, Nev.

Reno, Nev. — The environment, the timing and the opponent were all unusual for Kansas football. The method of victory was unconventional, too.

After a near-perfect opening drive that culminated in a Devin Neal touchdown, KU could not continue its stellar offensive pace. The Jayhawks had to overcome copious penalties, five unrecovered fumbles and general sloppiness, as they needed a relentless Neal and a gradually steadying Jalon Daniels to win a second-half shootout Saturday night at Nevada, 31-24.

Despite the late-night scare, at the conclusion of a game that ended after 12:45 a.m. Central Time, the Jayhawks advanced to 3-0, winning their first three games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1991 and 1992.

Neal accounted for 148 total yards and three rushing touchdowns.

The momentum from the first drive of the game — which included a perfect 5-for-5, 60-yard statline for Daniels — did not carry over into KU’s next offensive possession, which saw the Jayhawks commit two penalties and Daniels throw a ball directly to defensive back Aedan Seiuli for a near-interception.

KU’s defense had four times as many near-takeaways in the first quarter alone, with Mello Dotson unable to haul in a potential pick on an errant Brendon Lewis screen pass and the Wolf Pack managing to retain possession on three separate fumbles. That drive ended in a Brandon Talton field goal to put Nevada on the board at 7-3.

By way of response, the Jayhawks tacked on a Seth Keller 44-yard field goal after a 13-play stop-and-start drive, and couldn’t muster much more on offense for the remainder of the quarter. Instead, the Wolf Pack put together a meticulous 10-play, 75-yard drive just before halftime, keyed by a 20-yard Lewis scramble on third-and-3 to set up a Sean Dollars touchdown run.

The Wolf Pack did not take advantage of their opening possession in the third quarter and went three-and-out, but then KU saw a promising drive come to an end when Dwight Togiola hit Daniels’ arm hard on a long windup, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Drue Watts. Daniels briefly went into the medical tent after clutching his right forearm but returned for the next series.

Finally, after another quick defensive stop, the Jayhawks got the touchdown drive they had been seeking since the first quarter. It almost ended midway through when Daniel Hishaw Jr. put the ball on the ground, but Jared Casey fell on the fumble, and following a nice play up the seam from Daniels to Mason Fairchild, Hishaw punched in a go-ahead touchdown with five minutes to go in the third quarter.

That lead evaporated immediately following a disastrous defensive play for KU on which Austin Booker jumped offside, Mello Dotson got beaten on a deep ball down the right sideline and despite interfering with the receiver Dalevon Campbell, Dotson still allowed a 53-yard reception. Lewis scrambled for the tying score two plays later.

But KU immediately responded with a mirror image of that same drive, as Daniels hit Devin Neal out of the backfield for a 59-yard catch-and-run, aided by a Fairchild block, that produced another short-range touchdown.

The Wolf Pack caught two breaks to open the fourth quarter when Booker jumped again on a fourth down, then Ashton Hayes had a goal-line fumble on a breakaway run recovered by teammate Spencer Curtis. KU tried its hand at a goal-line stand but saw Lewis rush for his second score of the night.

The teams continued to trade blows, though, and Daniels returned to his early-game form, delivering a strike to set up an acrobatic Quentin Skinner sideline catch and hitting Fairchild over the middle, leading to Neal’s third and final touchdown.

The Jayhawks broke a streak of five straight scoring drives by forcing a three-and-out. They could have been set up deep in Nevada territory with a fumble recovery, but Hayden Hatcher touched the ball while out of bounds. Still, the Wolf Pack had to punt, and from there KU could lean on its strength in the run game and drain clock.

Nevada tried to string together one last drive from its own 1-yard line, but Kenny Logan Jr. dragged down Jamaal Bell on a fourth-down end around to secure the win.

Kansas will return home for its Big 12 Conference opener at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against BYU.

How they scored

First quarter

9:46 — Devin Neal 3-yard run. Seth Keller PAT good. Nine plays, 75 yards, 4:14 TOP. Kansas 7, Nevada 0.

Second quarter

14:49 — Brandon Talton 42-yard field goal. Nine plays, 24 yards, 4:00 TOP. Kansas 7, Nevada 3.

8:55 — Keller 44-yard field goal. 13 plays, 47 yards, 5:54 TOP. Kansas 10, Nevada 3.

0:25 — Sean Dollars 3-yard run. Talton PAT good. 10 plays, 75 yards, 4:55 TOP. Kansas 10, Nevada 10.

Third quarter

5:07 — Daniel Hishaw Jr. 1-yard run. Keller PAT good. 11 plays, 84 yards, 4:41 TOP. Kansas 17, Nevada 10.

3:33 — Brendon Lewis 6-yard run. Talton PAT good. Four plays, 65 yards, 1:34 TOP. Kansas 17, Nevada 17.

3:00 — Neal 1-yard run. Keller PAT good. Two plays, 75 yards, 0:33 TOP. Kansas 24, Nevada 17.

Fourth quarter

10:37 — Lewis 2-yard run. Talton PAT good. 14 plays, 75 yards, 7:23 TOP. Kansas 24, Nevada 24.

6:20 — Neal 3-yard run. Keller PAT good. Nine plays, 75 yards, 4:17 TOP. Kansas 31, Nevada 24.

Game Stats

Kansas 7 3 14 7 – 31

Nevada 0 10 7 7 – 24

Kansas | Nevada

First downs 24 | 14

Rushing yards 143 | 150

Passing yards 298 | 113

Total offense 441 | 263

Fumbles lost 1 | 0

Interceptions 0 | 0

Penalties-yards 7-53 | 3-30

Individual Stats

Rushing: Kansas – Neal 17-89; Hishaw 9-48; McDuffie 5-13; Team 1-(-1); Bean 1-(-2); Daniels 7-(-4); Nevada – Lewis 11-58; Hayes 10-56; Dollars 14-38; Bell 2-(-2).

Passing: Kansas – Daniels 21-27, 298; Nevada – Lewis 15-22, 113.

Receiving: Kansas — Fairchild 5-74; Arnold 5-46; Grimm 4-55; Skinner 4-50; Neal 1-59; Scott 1-8; Emilien 1-6; Nevada — Bell 5-21; Dollars 4-6; Curtis 2-14; Campbell 1-53; Latu 1-9; Jackson 1-7; Crocker 1-3.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.