LAWRENCE, Kansas – As the last seconds of the clock ticked by, Kansas students poured onto the field to join their triumphant football team on Saturday afternoon.
It’s hard to pretend you’ve been there when it’s been *so* long since Kansas football was a successful program.
Behind quarterback Jalon Daniels, Kansas defeated Duke 35-27 in front of a full house on Saturday and achieved a 4-0 win for the first time since 2009.
Daniels put in another outstanding performance with 407 yards and five touchdowns. His 3-yard touchdown run with 4:42 on the game was what finally made the difference. Afterwards, Daniels said while the nation was delighted to see a “basketball school” gaining traction in football, the early results had happened in the locker room, as expected.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Daniels said. “I would definitely say it’s good to know that the amount of preparation we’ve put in is paying off.”
To put into perspective how unlikely Kansas is 4-0 right now, Kansas hasn’t won more than three games in any season since 2010. The futility has been enough to make Kansas the punchline of many jokes about its football program.
But when Leipold came last year, he saw an opportunity. Kansas has had successful seasons in the past, and he knew the Jayhawks could do it again. So he began changing the culture and mindset in the dressing room, holding players accountable and holding themselves to high standards while instilling the confidence and belief this team could win.
Although Kansas won 2-10 last season, there were signs that this program could take a turn. Kansas upset Texas on the road and then ended the season with a point loss to TCU and West Virginia.
Players approached the offseason with a newfound competitiveness.
“We expected that,” said recipient Luke Grimm. “We wanted that. We came out after the winter and we thought we’d earn that, and the stuff we did in the spring over the summer, all the hard work that everyone put in, we’re earning, what we worked for.”
Daniels is the focus. His performance against Duke made him the first player in school history to have multiple games with at least five touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information Research.
Daniels completed 82.6 percent of his passes on Saturday, the highest since Todd Reesing in 2008.
With a rejuvenated offense, Kansas has 27 touchdowns this season. In 2021 there were only 32.
Overall, Kansas had a season-high 528 yards against Duke and recorded 500+ yards in offense in three of four games this season.
That’s enough to get Daniels national attention and mention his name in connection with the Heisman Trophy.
“He’s a damn good player. So yes, I’m for it. Who ever runs the campaign? Let’s get it started i don’t vote All I’m saying is, he did a damn good job of getting a lot from people to take note of this program and take it seriously,” Leipold said.
Kansas hasn’t had it easy. Although the Jayhawks got off to a much quicker start this game compared to the last two, Duke never gave up. After Riley Leonard threw a 27-yard touchdown pass with 2:40 left, Kansas went three and out. Daniels said he missed a read on a game he believes could have gone for a first down.
Duke got the ball back on his own 5 and Leonard immediately threw Jalon Calhoun down a 40-yard pass to Duke 45. From there, the defense was able to hold Duke with just a first down (on a penalty) to seal the win .
Kansas has now won three games in which they had to either collect or hold on to win, and the confidence Leipold saw in those moments is one of the biggest things he learned about his team in the early days.
“The constant belief in what we do when times are tough, how we get through those tough moments, things that we saw late last year, I’ve seen how it goes with body language and things like that on the sidelines played probably better than I expected,” said Leipold.
https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/34657747/confident-kansas-jayhawks-improve-4-0-win-duke-blue-devils Confident Kansas Jayhawks improve to 4-0 with win over Duke Blue Devils