Week 4 preview: Kansas’ expectations, excitement growing entering game vs. Duke

photo by: Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels looks to throw a pass during a game against Houston on Sept. 17, 2022, in Houston.

The excitement surrounding the Kansas football team is unlike anything Taiwan Berryhill Jr. has experienced.

Berryhill, a junior linebacker from New Orleans, was a freshman in 2020 when the Jayhawks went 0-9. There wasn’t much to celebrate last season, either, when they went 2-10 under first-year coach Lance Leipold.

But amid their first 3-0 start in 13 years, Berryhill and the Jayhawks will return to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning to open a rare three-game homestand with a nonconference matchup against Duke.

Tickets are sold out, votes in the national rankings are being tallied and emotions are riding high — not just among the team but the community at large.

“I’ve been here since a freshman and from freshman year to now, it’s a big difference,” Berryhill told reporters earlier this week. “I’m walking to my car after practice and just a random guy just walked past to just say ‘rock chalk.’

“And this is my third year here and that never happened so you could tell like the electricity, the excitement is back in town for the football team. It’s just a good feeling.”

Kansas will try to secure its fourth win in a season for the first time since 2009, when it won its first five but lost its last seven.

Since then, it has endured a pair of winless seasons and the hirings and firings of four coaches, all of whom failed to generate the buzz the team is now embracing.

“We’re sitting in a spot that this program hasn’t seen in a long time,” Leipold said.

So, too, is its opponent. Under first-year head coach Mike Elko, formerly the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Duke is also undergoing a bit of a renaissance. It went 3-9 last season, including a 52-33 home win over Kansas, but has also won its first three games.

Its defense is its strength and should provide a test for junior quarterback Jalon Daniels, whose play over the first three weeks has been exceptional.

Nothing has proven to be too overwhelming for the Jayhawks, but the growing weight of expectations is unfamiliar.

“I feel like we like to go in every single day with the same mindset,” Daniels said. “We know where we started from. We know what we’ve been building this whole entire offseason — the amount of work and preparation that we put in. We’re just happy it’s finally being able to show out there.”

Kansas Jayhawks (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) vs. Duke Blue Devils (3-0, 0-0 ACC)

• David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, 11 a.m.

• Broadcast: FS1

• Radio: KLZR 105.9 FM / KLWN 1320 AM

• Opening line: Duke +7.5; over/under 64.5

• Series history: Duke leads, 2-1

This season

Points per game: Kansas 53; Duke 36.7

Points allowed per game: Kansas 27.3; Duke 14.3

Yards per game: Kansas 453 (259 rushing, 244.7 passing); Duke 460.3 (205 rushing, 228.7 passing)

Leading passer: Kansas’ Jalon Daniels (67.1%, 188.7 yards per game, 7 TDs, 1 interception); Duke’s Riley Leonard (72.7%, 144.6 yards per game, 5 TDs, 2 interceptions)

Leading rusher: Kansas’ Jalon Daniels (79 yards per game, 8.8 yards per carry, 3 TDs); Duke’s Jaylen Coleman (59 yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry, 3 TDs)

Leading receiver: Kansas’ LJ Arnold (36.7 yards per game, 11 yards per catch, 0 TDs); Duke’s Jalon Calhoun (66 yards per game, 16.5 yards per catch, 0 TDs)

Leading tackler: Kansas’ Rich Miller (27); Duke’s Darius Joyner (23)

What to watch for

1. Dig no deeper: Kansas fell behind 14-0 in each of its last two games. Although it didn’t crawl out of that hole until the third quarter at West Virginia, it did so in the closing minutes at Houston last week. It’s not just a lapse on defense, either; against the Cougars, the Jayhawks went three-and-out on their first two drives before scoring. “We all know we can’t keep functioning that way,” defensive coordinator Brian Borland said.

2. Keep him clean: Kansas has not allowed a sack through three games and is one of only four teams (Oregon, TCU, Georgia Southern) to have done so. Credit the protection as well as the offense’s ability to stay out of unmanageable situations, like third-and-long. “When bad things happen in a football game, it’s because there’s a lot of little things that go wrong,” offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said. “That stuff’s not happening.”

3. Rabbits in the hat: Kotelnicki showed off a bit of wizardry with some of his play calls against Houston, including an end-around run by redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quentin Skinner that converted on fourth down and a touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore fullback Jared Casey in which redshirt senior backup quarterback Jason Bean was used as a decoy. Those plays may not work again this season, but the Jayhawks certainly have others at their disposal.

Spotlight on …

Riley Leonard: The sophomore enters the weekend ranked ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 72.7 completion percentage, and he’s 15th, and tops in the ACC, with 15.1 yards per completion. He accounted for four of Duke’s seven touchdowns in a 49-20 win against North Carolina A&T last week. Leonard has only failed to complete one of 17 pass attempts in the first quarter this season and eleven of his 48 passes have gone for 20 or more yards. Kansas will need to be disciplined to disrupt him as he’s protected by an experienced offensive line that has allowed just three sacks.

Inside the numbers

1.67: Duke’s turnover margin, which is tied for ninth in the FBS. It also has recovered an FBS-high six fumbles.

2: FBS teams that have rushed for more than 200 yards in every game. Arkansas is the other next to Kansas.

22: Touchdowns scored by Kansas through three games. It scored 32 touchdowns in 12 games last season.


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