At first, it looked like a big play.
Freshman Jayhawks quarterback Cole Ballard, who had replaced injured Kansas starter Jason Bean, threw a nice pass to tight end Jared Casey.
For a moment, Casey had the football in his hands. But instead of a significant gain, the pass was intercepted when Texas Tech defender Dadrion Taylor ripped the ball from Casey’s hands.
The sequence encapsulated the afternoon for KU: In a conference game that was always within reach but never quite in their control, the Jayhawks (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) fell 16-13 to the Red Raiders (5-5, 4-3) on Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
KU has now lost four straight to Texas Tech.
Red Raiders kicker Gino Garcia made the game-winning field goal with three seconds remaining.
Before that, the Jayhawks — who trailed 10-0 at halftime — scored 13 straight points to pull even. Ballard had led the Jayhawks on a 14-play, 77-yard drive that culminated in a game-tying field goal by Seth Keller.
Late in the first quarter, Bean was hurt on a 6-yard run. After holding his head for a bit, he jogged off the field.
KU freshman QB Ballard replaced him for two plays before Bean rejoined the game. But Bean’s return stint was short-lived. He got shaken up on a fourth-down run and Ballard replaced him for good on the next drive.
Ballard finished 9-of-20 for 124 yards and one interception. KU running back Devin Neal rolled up 137 yards on 19 rushing attempts, scoring one big touchdown on a burst of 60 yards.
REAL DEAL DEVIN NEAL HOUSE CALL
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) November 11, 2023
KU will play host to in-state rival Kansas State in another iteration of the Sunflower Showdown next Saturday.
Here are some takeaways from Saturday’s game:
KU defense holds its own
Texas Tech came in averaging 25.7 points per game. And KU certainly struggled to stop Red Raiders running back Tahj Brooks throughout the first half.
But time after time, the Jayhawks’ defense halted drives that began with excellent field position for Texas Tech.
Texas Tech QB Behren Morton was 19-for-26 for 176 yards and one interception. The Kansas defense sacked him three times.
Devin Neal reinvigorates KU with TD
KU running back Neal had one of the game’s biggest plays early in the fourth quarter.
Kept mostly in check to that point, Neal finally got loose: He found an opening on the outside and was gone for a 60-yard touchdown run.
That play — the Jayhawks’ first points of the game — altered the momentum and awoke the slumbering KU crowd. Without it, KU would have had no chance for a comeback.
KU’s offense struggles early
The Jayhawks had a poor first half offensively.
Yes, Kansas was down to its third-string quarterback, but Bean had struggled before departing from the game: He completed just one of four passes Saturday for 13 yards.
KU’s biggest strength, its running game, was contained, too. KU had just 82 rushing yards, averaging a meager 3.2 yards per carry, at halftime.
And having contained KU’s ground game, the Red Raiders’ defense could turn its attention to pressuring Ballard, the Jayhawks’ freshman QB.
It was the first time this season that KU’s been held scoreless in the first half.