Kansas junior running back Devin Neal gained 137 yards on 19 carries and had a 60-yard dash for a touchdown, passing Hall of Famers John Riggins and Gale Sayers as well as Clark Green to move into fifth place on KU’s all-time rushing list in Saturday’s 16-13 loss to Texas Tech at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Lawrence High graduate also attempted a pass — the first pass in his college career — one that fell incomplete on a third-and-goal call from the Tech 3-yard line with 33 seconds left, KU down 13-10.
The incompletion led to KU electing to kick a game-tying field goal with 26 seconds to play. Texas Tech quickly advanced the ball into scoring position and won the game on a 30-yard field goal with 3 seconds reamining.
“We worked on it all week. We have a (full) complement of plays. That’s what we do,” Neal said after a game that dropped KU’s record to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the Big 12. “We called it. They just played good defense on it. They read it. That was that,” Neal added.
Neal accepted a direct snap and after rolling out, passed to tight end Jared Casey, who was covered by a pair of Red Raiders (5-5, 4-3).
“Torry (Locklin) was out in the flat too. Like I said they played good defense and covered it well,” Neal said.
“That was my first time in college (to throw a pass). We played around with trick plays in high school, too,” said Neal, who now has 2,762 rushing yards in his career. He has had 10 career 100-yard rushing games, four this season. He has 27 rushing touchdowns, the fourth most in program history.
KU coach Lance Leipold was asked about the decision to have Neal throw the ball on third down from the 3.
“We wanted to be aggressive and go win the game. That was the whole mindset. We’re going to find a way,” Leipold said. “Obviously when they don’t work we can always talk about 10 other options we could have had. We could have run the ball, run the clock down. Our thing was we we’re going to get a touchdown. It didn’t work. From my angle it’s hard to say what was there or not. I’m not going to give any other thought on that right now. Kick a field goal and on to the kickoff and us trying to get a stop.”
KU did get the field goal, and Texas Tech called a fair catch on the kickoff at the Tech 23 with just 26 seconds to play. The Red Raiders quickly advanced the ball to the KU 12 in three plays leading to Gino Garcia’s successful boot for the win.
“As frustrated as I am now,” Neal said, “there are things we can continue to improve. The sky is the limit for us. We’re going to go in the film room tomorrow, look at what we need to correct and get back out there this week.”
Of his advancing into fifth on the all-time rushing list at KU, he said: “It feels really good. It’d feel a lot better after a win of course. Like I’ve always done, I give my credit to my people who block for me. It’s been a great journey for me so far in my career. I’m super blessed to be in this position for sure.”
Neal also gave credit to freshman quarterback Cole Ballard, who played three quarters subbing for the injured Jason Bean. Ballard complete 9 of 20 passes for 124 yards. He had a 31-yard completion to Lawrence Arnold. Ballard also rushed for 20 net yards on 10 carries with a long run of 15 yards.
“That was extremely impressive,” Neal said. “The weird thing about it is we all expected it from him. That’s kind of our standard as a team. It doesn’t matter who goes out there. He was super calm. He was cold as ice out there. I’m super proud to see what he was able to do.”