Staying alive: Kansas survives late scare, hangs on to beat Iowa State 14-11
photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World
It was hard to tell in the moments immediately after Kansas’ 14-11 win against Iowa State on Saturday what the prevailing emotion was among the players flooding the field.
There was plenty of jubilation — and plenty of relief.
“That was just a grinder of a win,” junior wide receiver Luke Grimm said. “It’s good to be on the good side of it.”
In a game that featured all manner of bizarre outcomes, some big and others small, it was a missed 37-yard field goal attempt by the Cyclones with 32 seconds remaining that handed the Jayhawks their first 5-0 start in 13 years.
The victory not only means they’re likely to return to the national rankings for the first time in October 2019, incredibly, it means they’re one win away from reaching bowl eligibility as well.
“I don’t know if this team could have ever done anything like that a year ago, overcome all those things,” coach Lance Leipold said. “To find a way and get it done is, I think, it says another thing about this team.”
Those things Kansas had to overcome to escape David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium with an unblemished record included a woeful offensive performance, the loss of redshirt sophomore running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. to a serious injury late and a series of penalties .
Saturday’s game was the first time this season things didn’t look particularly easy for Kansas, which finished with 213 yards, including 112 on the ground, but still never trailed. It also committed seven penalties for 56 yards, and it converted an uncharacteristic three of 10 third-down attempts.
Junior quarterback Jalon Daniels completed just seven of 14 passes for 93 yards, and he ran only eight times for nine yards against an Iowa State defense that entered having allowed just 14.5 points, 266 total yards and 75.8 rushing yards per game.
In fact, Kansas gained just 43 yards and three first downs in the second half, when Daniels completed only two of four passes.
That’s where the defense came in. A maligned unit that allowed 59 points to the Cyclones a year ago, it held them to 313 yards, including 26 on the ground, and 5-for-18 on third down. It had five sacks shared among four players and eight tackles for loss.
Crucially, it held Iowa State to field goal attempts on three of its final four drives, including two in which the attempts failed, and was able to stop its opponent on a potential winning series that ended when freshman kicker Jace Gilbert missed a tying attempt wide left.
“The whole game, I was preaching to the defense that this game is going to come down to us,” junior linebacker Rich Miller said. “There hasn’t been too many games where we were the ones that had to step up and make the final play or whatever, so I told them, just be prepared for it. No matter what happens, we’ve got to be prepared for it. … We just did what we had to do, did our best and came out on top.”
Hishaw, who left the game in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a right leg injury, was taken via ambulance to the hospital. He was fighting for additional yards on a second-and-14 play with 9:20 left when he was tackled and fallen upon by five Iowa State players.
He scored the game’s first touchdown when he lunged for the end zone at the end of a 4-yard run with 11:30 left in the second quarter that had to be reviewed by officials before it was upheld.
Iowa State sophomore quarterback Hunter Dekkers, who went 30-for-48 for 287 yards and a touchdown, was intercepted on third-and-12 by sophomore cornerback Cobee Bryant, who snagged a ball that redshirt senior wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson did not know was headed for him.
The Jayhawks turned that turnover, recovered at Iowa State’s 19-yard line, into a 14-0 lead after Daniels ran 2 yards into the end zone with 5:25 left before halftime.
But things changed quickly on the next drive with the Cyclones facing third-and-8 from their 27-yard line. A pass interference penalty on Bryant gave them a new set of downs, and on the ensuing play, Dekkers and redshirt senior wide receiver Dimitri Stanley connected for a 53-yard reception on a post route that moved Iowa State to Kansas’ 5-yard line.
It took the Cyclones three more plays to overcome a false start and get into the end zone, with Dekkers connecting with redshirt junior tight end Easton Dean over the middle for a 9-yard touchdown reception. The extra-point snap was high, however, and redshirt senior quarterback Blake Clark, the holder, ran the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion to trim Kansas’ lead to 14-8.
A 35-yard field goal by Gilbert with 5:27 remaining in the third quarter, one play after Kansas senior safety Kenny Logan Jr. broke up a pass in the end zone, kept Iowa State afloat.
Bryant seemingly had another interception at the Kansas 3-yard line with 12 minutes to play but a review determined Bryant didn’t secure the ball before hitting the turf.
Then, facing fourth-and-1 from the Kansas 20-yard line, the Cyclones turned to Gilbert to give them a chance to get to overtime. He entered Saturday’s game 14-for-15 on extra points and 5-for-5 on field goals, but he earlier missed 38- and 45-yard field goal attempts off the right post.
His try failed and the Jayhawks survived to enter a showdown with TCU (4-0) next week in a battle of unbeatens.
“To continue pushing through that and the defense, having trust in the defense that they’re going to shut them down — and they did,” Grimm said. “Giving up 11 points, that’s pretty good.”