Notebook: KU-Nevada pairing came together under odd circumstances

photo by: AP Photo/Andy Barron

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels throw a pass against Nevada during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Reno, Nev.

Reno, Nev. — The Kansas football team won’t play its Big 12 Conference opener until next weekend, but had the league’s expansion timeline unfolded a little differently, KU could have been taking on a familiar foe this week.

Saturday night’s Nevada road game took the place of a previously scheduled home matchup with Houston. That would have been the return trip following the 2022 matchup that the Jayhawks won 48-30 on the road, but the Cougars’ move into the Big 12 this year rendered that game unplayable as part of a nonconference schedule.

That means that KU effectively got stuck with a stand-alone away game in 2022 and an open slot in 2023; it eventually filled that slot with the game against the Wolf Pack. The Jayhawks do not even play Houston as a conference foe this season.

The Houston series would have been completed as played if not for a 2016 amendment to the original 2013 contract that pushed the pair of games back three years from 2019-20, as the Journal-World previously reported — although perhaps that wouldn’t even have resulted in a completed home-and-home, as KU only ended up playing nine games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

The Jayhawks will host Nevada again in 2029 to complete the home-and-home series with the Wolf Pack, a fairly rare arrangement between Power Five and Group of Five schools.

Just how rare is it?

Prior to Saturday, Nevada had not welcomed a Big 12 team to Mackay Stadium since Sept. 25, 2009 (a 31-21 loss to Missouri). It had not hosted a power-conference team, period, since upsetting Purdue in 2019.

KU, meanwhile, had not played a team from the Mountain West Conference at all since it beat UNLV (at home) and Wyoming (on the road) in 2003.

The Jayhawks have, however, not shied away from scheduling road games with opponents in weaker conferences, unlike conference rivals like West Virginia, which has yet to face a Group of Five foe on the road since joining the Big 12 in 2012. KU played games not that long ago in places like Central Michigan, Ohio and Southern Miss — and, of course, Houston. And even with the program’s increased success, the Jayhawks will continue to do so in the years to come, with scheduled games at Fresno State, Louisiana Tech and Hawaii in future years.

Unless, of course, those programs move into the Big 12 — who knows what direction conference realignment might go next.

This and that

KU rotational defensive end Austin Booker and top cornerback Cobee Bryant sat out the first half due to second-half targeting calls in the win over Illinois, after head coach Lance Leipold said he could “count on one hand” the number of targeting calls his players had accumulated in the remainder of his coaching career. Kalon Gervin started in place of Bryant, the 12th start of Gervin’s career over six collegiate seasons.

Wide receiver Tanaka Scott made his season debut after missing the first two games and recorded his first catch in the second quarter. Leipold said he had been dealing with a hamstring injury. Linebacker Taiwan Berryhill Jr. also returned to action after missing the game against Illinois.

Leipold took on Nevada for the third time in his head coaching career after dropping two matchups (home and away) against the Wolf Pack during his tenure coaching at Buffalo.


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