Here are grades for all three Kansas units, a highlight from Saturday’s 52-33 loss to Duke and a look ahead to next weekend’s game at Iowa State.
Play of the game
Like Randy Moss: Receiver Trevor Wilson probably made KU’s play of the year with his improbable second-quarter catch against Duke.
— Jesse Newell (@jessenewell) September 25, 2021
Wilson showed exceptional concentration and ball skills while bringing down a long pass behind Duke defender Jaylen Stinson’s back. Wilson also secured the reception to the ground while grasping it around Stinson’s jersey.
It’d be surprising if ESPN’s SportsCenter doesn’t put the effort in its Top 10 plays from Saturday.
Offense: A. After last week’s debacle in a seven-point home outing against Baylor, this couldn’t have been much more encouraging. The Jayhawks’ offensive line easily had its best game while opening up holes for backs. KU’s tight ends and receivers displayed highlight-level blocks at times, while quarterback Jason Bean took advantage of extra time in the pocket to post his first 300-plus-yard passing game with the Jayhawks. Bean did have two interceptions — one was costly and a bad read, while the other was appropriately trying to make a play on fourth-and-goal — but outside of that and finishing red-zone drives, there was little to nitpick with KU’s offensive performance. The Jayhawks’ 7.4 yards per play, by the way, was the team’s highest total since an October 2019 victory over Texas Tech.
Defense: D-: The only thing keeping this effort from an F was the defense accepting two turnovers early that — essentially — were gift-wrapped by Duke players. Following a poor tackling week against Baylor, KU struggled mightily in the same area Saturday, with a lack of fundamentals turning modest gains into bigger ones and some potential losses into huge gains. Duke gashed KU for big plays with both the run and pass, and the Jayhawks’ inexperience at linebacker and cornerback was exposed frequently. The red zone was a disaster for KU too, as Duke scored five touchdowns and one field goal on its six trips. KU coach Lance Leipold vowed afterward that his team would continue to work on its technique, physicality and toughness, but given the roster constraints, a major turnaround this season seems unlikely at best.
Special teams: D. Punter Reis Vernon followed up his best performance with his worst, averaging just 33 yards on four punts in a game where KU’s defense desperately needed the field-position help. Kenny Logan also had an off day as kick returner (18 yards per tote) after entering the game as one of the Big 12’s best. Kicker Jacob Borcila bounced back from a 37-yard miss on KU’s first drive, putting through a career-long 50-yarder before adding a 29-yard chippie later. Tabor Allen was perfect on kickoff touchbacks, while Kwamie Lassiter picked up KU’s first punt return yardage of the season: three attempts for 25 yards.
KU will play against Iowa State at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. The game will be televised on FS1.