Kansas linebacker Craig Young called his shot on Tuesday.
“We feel like our defense should be the one that wins the games and closes out the games,” Young said, “honestly.”
Well, the defensive performance matched that statement on Saturday. Kansas defeated BYU 38-27 to improve to 4-0 on the year, 1-0 in Big 12 play.
Notably, KU’s defense scored 14 (counting extra points) of KU’s 38 points in the win at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks are now 4-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1914-15.
“It’s a very special moment for us,” Kansas safety O.J. Burroughs said. “We had this opportunity last year, we know how it felt, so we’re not going to let it get away like how (it) did last year. We’re not going to be complacent. Keep continuing to get better.”
Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels finished 14-of-19 passing for 130 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. KU running back Devin Neal ran for 91 yards and had 14 yards receiving. The Jayhawks forced three BYU turnovers.
It didn’t take long for Kansas to get on the scoreboard ... only it was the KU defense that struck first.
After KU failed to convert on fourth down, BYU’s offense took over at its own 33-yard line.
Two plays later, Kansas cornerback Cobee Bryant blew up Cougar wide receiver Parker Kingston, which forced a fumble. Bryant recovered the ball and ran it back for a touchdown.
On its next possession, BYU (3-1) answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kedon Slovis to wideout Darius Lassiter, brother of KU’s Kwinton Lassiter and former Jayhawk Kwamie Lassiter.
The teams traded touchdowns, and the score was tied 14-all with 11 minutes left in the second quarter. The Cougars added a late field goal and led 17-14 at half.
The KU defense stepped up again.
Less than 30 seconds into the second half, KU safety Kenny Logan caught a tipped ball for an interception and took it to the house to put KU up 21-17. That came right after KU safety O.J. Burroughs nearly had an interception of his own.
BYU answered with a field goal, but then the KU offense came to life. Kansas put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive ending with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Daniels to Luke Grimm.
Then, Bryant intercepted an underthrown pass. Kansas responded with another long offensive drive that led to seven points and a 35-20 lead.
After getting the ball back, still ahead 35-27 with 5 minutes, 34 seconds to play, Kansas methodically marched down the field, burning the clock and icing the game with a short field goal from Seth Keller. With almost no time left to answer, BYU turned the ball over on downs.
Here are three takeaways from the KU win...
KU’s defense makes game-changing plays
It wasn’t always pretty, but Kansas’ defense made timely plays. BYU’s Slovis threw for 357 yards and had multiple big-yardage plays, but Kansas’ defense did an excellent job forcing turnovers that gave KU momentum.
First, Bryant’s hit led to a nice scoop-and-score and put KU on the board.
“Cobee is a competitor,” Leopold said. “He will compete in anything at any time. He likes to win. He took the challenge.”
Then, when Kansas trailed coming out of the half and needed a defensive stop, Logan did even better. He picked off Slovis’ pass and took it to the house. The pick-six put Kansas up 21-17.
KU’s defense has a lot to clean up — namely preventing third- and fourth-down conversions — but it’s clear the defense has taken a massive step forward from last season.
KU’s penalty issues continue
After committing seven penalties for 53 yards against Nevada, Kansas’ players and coaching staff emphasized all week that limiting penalties would be pivotal against an experienced BYU team.
It didn’t show on the field.
By the end of the first half, Kansas had committed five penalties for 50 yards. Multiple times, the penalties extended drives and led to eventual points for the Cougars.
Midway through the first quarter, KU defensive end Tommy Dunn Jr. jumped offside on a third-down. Not only did it extend the Cougars’ drive, but it led to seven points.
Kansas finished with seven penalties for 70 yards. Even so, Kansas coach Lance Leipold said he was proud of the overall effort.
“You can tell that team plays ... physical, well-coached (and) to the end,” Leipold said. “We overcame some penalties. We’re in a heavy penalty deficit again, and we found a way to make plays when we needed too.”
Daniels shows off the wheels in the second half
After not scrambling much in the first half, Daniels showed off his dual-threat ability in the third and fourth quarters.
He had multiple tough runs that not only extended drives but showcased why KU’s offense is so dangerous. On option plays, he made the correct decision nearly every time.
He finished with nine rushes for 54 yards. He also ran for a key first down late to help the Jayhawks bleed the clock.
“The emphasis was to finish the game, no matter which play was called,” Daniels said. “We came into halftime and we just said that, ‘We need to go out there and empty the clip. Finish the game.’”
It wasn’t his most eye-popping game, but it was another effective home performance for Daniels.