Duke’s improvements on defense this season weren’t good enough to stop Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels and the emerging Jayhawks on Saturday.
Daniels threw four touchdown passes before running for a fourth-quarter score as Kansas remained unbeaten with a 35-27 win over the Blue Devils at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Playing before just their second sold-out home crowd in the last 13 years, the Jayhawks (4-0) burned Duke with 528 yards of total offense to hand the Blue Devils (3-1) their first loss. Despite public address announcements against doing so, Kansas students and fans poured on to the field to celebrate the win and posed in front of the scoreboard that read “4-0.”
“He’s a good athlete,” Duke defensive tackle DeWayne Carter said of Daniels. “I feel like we had a good game plan. We didn’t execute. At the end of the day, we didn’t play well enough to win.”|
Daniels completed 19 of 23 passes for 324 yards. His touchdown passes covered 6 yards to Trevor Kardell, 73 yards to Daniel Hishaw, 19 yards to Luke Grimm and 36 yards to Lawrence Arnold.
That production pushed Kansas to a 28-20 lead over Duke in the fourth quarter. Daniels put the game away when he scored on a 3-yard run with 4:42 giving Kansas a 35-20 lead.
Daniels led Kansas in rushing with 83 yards on 11 carries as the Jayhawks gained 204 yards on the ground.
Their success on third down did Duke in. Kansas converted six of 10 on third downs while also converting 1 of 2 on fourth downs.
“I just think we didn’t do a really good job communicating,” Duke coach Mike Elko said. “We knew they were a big motion team. They motioned a lot on third down, and a couple of times they got into matchups that were very favorable for them. Just a couple of times, we didn’t do a great job of executing what we were trying to get done.”
Duke’s Riley Leonard, who threw for 324 yards while completing 24-of-35 passes, fired a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jalon Calhoun with 2:40 to play leaving Duke down 35-27. After Kansas punted with 1:15 to play, Leonard connected with Calhoun on a 40-yard pass.
The Blue Devils reached the Kansas 31, but Leonard’s fourth-down pass to Eli Pancol bounced incomplete, and the Jayhawks closed out the win.
“That was fourth-and-7,” Leonard said. “So, obviously the cornerback is going to sit at the sticks and drive that ball. So I tried to keep it low and outside. I did, but I think it was a little bit too low. Those are the 50-50 plays that hopefully turn up in our hands.”
In winning their first three games in a season for the first time since 2018, the Blue Devils recorded a shutout while beating Temple, 30-0. But Kansas’ offense was the best Duke had faced thus far.
The Jayhawks led Duke 21-13 at halftime after gaining 329 yards over the first two quarters.
Averaging 53 points per game this season, Kansas reached Duke territory on its first five drives. The Blue Devils stopped the Jayhawks at the 1 with a goal-line stand in the first quarter and Jaylen Stinson recovered a Kansas fumble, forced by defensive lineman Anthony Nelson’s hit on running back Devin Neal, to stop another at the Duke 21.
But Kansas found the end zone on the other three drives that covered 57, 76 and 75 yards.
Daniels completed 11-of-12 passes in the first half for 200 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 62 yards as the Jayhawks gained 129 yards on the ground, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt.
Duke’s poor tackling played a big role in Kansas’ success in the first half. That was most on display when Hishaw scored on a 73-yard pass play from Daniels.
That play occurred on a second-and-7 play from the Kansas’ 27. Daniels threw the ball to a wide-open Hishaw, who caught the ball near the 35. Darius Joiner was the first of four Duke players who missed tackles on the play when he missed Hishaw and fell down at the Kansas 45.
Duke freshman defensive end VJ Anthony appeared in position to tackle Hishaw from behind near the 50 but failed to grab him. Next, freshman defensive back Chandler Rivers attempted to tackle Hishaw with his arms but Hishaw slipped through to pull away.
Finally, Duke’s Datrone Young missed a low tackle attempt and Hishaw sprinted untouched to the end zone to give Kansas a 14-7 lead.
That was an ugly flashback to last season, when Duke allowed 39.7 points per game while going 3-9.
Daniels’ other touchdown passes in the first half went 6 yards to Kardell and 19 yards to Grimm.
Leonard completed 9 of 13 first-half passes for 140 yards. Jaylen Coleman scored Duke’s lone touchdown and Charlie Ham kicked field goals from 22 and 37 yards.