Air Raid offense propels Kansas to 38-16 win over SEMO
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas football opened the 2017 season with a bang as junior quarterback Peyton Bender connected with junior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. for a 77-yard touchdown on his third attempt in a Jayhawk uniform. Taking a 7-0 lead just 2:19 seconds into the game, Kansas never looked back, going on to beat Southeast Missouri State 38-16 in front of 32,134 fans inside Memorial Stadium.
Bender went 23-37 on the night and connected on three more touchdown passes throughout the night, including a highlight-reel one handed grab from sophomore wide receiver Chase Harrell with 8:57 remaining in the opening quarter, a 16-yard completion for Sims’ second score of the night with 13 seconds remaining in the first half, and a 57-yard catch and run from senior tight end Ben Johnson in the third.
The 2007 Kansas football team was in attendance for its Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame induction, and among those that made it back to Memorial Stadium for the halftime ceremony was Jayhawk legend Todd Reesing. Bender’s four-touchdown night was the first since Reesing’s four-touchdown performance against Missouri in 2009. In that same game, he threw for a Kansas record 498 yards, and while Bender’s night didn’t quite match that, his 364 yards was the most since the Border Showdown performance from Reesing eight years ago.
Aside from Bender’s four passing touchdowns, the Jayhawks scored on a 10-yard rush from freshman running back Dom Williams with 10:17 remaining in the third quarter to take a 28-10 lead, before Bender’s final touchdown of the night to Johnson. Senior kicker Gabriel Rui made his debut in the Crimson and Blue and went a perfect 5-5 on PATs and recorded his first-career field goal, a 25-yarder with 14:14 remaining in the game to cap the KU scoring.
With all of the excitement of the Jayhawk offense, the Kansas defense impressed by holding the Redhawks to just 264 total yards, which was the lowest opponent total since last season’s opener against Rhode Island. Redshirt junior Joe Dineen Jr. led all players with 15 total tackles (11 solo) to match a career-high set against West Virginia in 2015.
The Jayhawk defense forced SEMO to two three-and-outs to start the game and prevented the Redhawks from scoring on their first five drives of the contest, but a fumble from junior Tyler Patrick on a punt return gave the visitors the ball at the 24 yard line. SEMO got on the board with a five-play drive that was capped with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jesse Hosket to Trevon Billington.
A 45-yard field goal from SEMO’s Nicholas Litang brought the score to 21-10 with 11:26 remaining in the third, but three-straight scores from the Jayhawks stretched the lead to 28.
Hosket connected on another touchdown for the Redhawks, this time to Kristian Wilkerson with 12:17 remaining in the game, but it was too little, too late for SEMO as the Jayhawk defense ended the visitors’ next two drives without a score and KU was able to run out the clock for the victory.
The Jayhawks will continue their non-conference slate on September 9 by welcoming Central Michigan to Memorial Stadium for a 3 p.m. kickoff. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Network, but single-game tickets and multi-game flex packs are available. For more information on tickets, visit KUTickets.com.
Kansas Head Coach David Beaty
DAVID BEATY: Good to be in here after a win. There’s going to be half the teams in the country that are going to start off 1-0 and the other half are going to be 0-1. From that standpoint just thankful and grateful that we’re 1-0 after that game. I think I said it just a few minutes ago, I take my hat off to Coach Tuk; his staff does a great job. There’s a lot of Kansas boys on that staff. Their defensive coordinator is from Hays, Coach Wiemers is a guy that — he wouldn’t stop. I mean, every time we’d plug a hole, he’d move to something else. He’s a good football coach. I mean, he kept trying, kept moving, and we had to keep solving. That’s something that I’ve got to take my hat off to those guys. I do believe that they probably out-energied us as we went down the stretch there, and that’s something that we control. We’ve got to get better in that area.
A lot of self-inflicted things that I think if we can get them shored up, which I know we can, we’ve got a chance to be a decent football team, but those things can’t show up. We talked about playing a clean game before we started. Several penalties, several of the big variety that is something that we can’t have. Those are all mental mistakes that we can prevent, and then turning the football over, we can’t do that. We can’t throw it to the other team, and we’ve got to be better situational awareness on that last drive. But some really positive things, too. I thought we did some nice things. We’ve got to do a better job of covering punts. We’ve got to get off blocks at the line of scrimmage. That was disappointing to see. But I know Coach Deforest and those guys will get that solved, and we’ll definitely be better next week. And take my hat off to them; they did a nice job there. They put the ball in jeopardy and we weren’t there to capitalize on it, and that’s disappointing, but we’ll get there. Let’s take some questions and make sure I answer what you want to hear.
Q. What did you see out of Peyton (Bender) out there?
DAVID BEATY: You know, he did get off to a quick start. That was something that everybody wants to do, right, but you don’t always do it, but he did. He got off to a quick start. He’s a guy that we thought was going to be a very, very talented guy, and you could see glimpses of that tonight. I think he had four touchdown passes and 300 and some change, and I think that gets close to some records out there in terms of some guys that have done it pretty well to get on that wall over there that I think is here. Two interceptions, I know he wishes he had a couple of those throws back, but he’ll learn from them. He also made some great throws. I mean, he’s obviously got a quick release that our offensive line did a great job tonight, I think. I think they did a really nice job. I’ve got to watch the tape and see. But the thing that Peyton helps you with, his release is so dadgum quick, it’s different than most. He can get the ball off a lot. You know, he got hit a few times and you almost don’t see it because he can trigger it quick.
Q. What was your view of Peyton’s pass to Chase Harrell?
DAVID BEATY: You know, I saw it, but he’s (Chase) done it a lot in practice. He’s a long body, big ol’ hands. Looks like a defensive end. I know, man, he was sick. He was sick when he didn’t get that second one down there. He’s down there doing push-ups on the sideline, and I had to like get him to calm down because he knows he had another one there. We need him to play that role right there. We really did. I thought Ben (Johnson) had some good plays tonight. I know he wishes he had that one down the sideline back, but just using him in some versatile situations was good. But being able to use Chase down there, that was an unbelievable catch. I thought he was out of bounds until we saw the review. It was a great play.
Q. That throw to end the first half, did that get Bender rolling?
DAVID BEATY: Well, I thought it would, and then we came out in the second half and we had a dadgum penalty on the kickoff return and put us inside the 10, then we get another holding call or a pass interference call. Those are just things that just so disappointing because you get off that goal line, and it would have been nice to see if he could have stayed on that role there, right. But I was very pleased. I think it was a 52-second drive or something like that. I can’t remember. But that was good to see. With Meach (Doug Meacham) calling plays and Meach running our offense, I looked at him tonight and I said, how much time do you need, he said, 27, 29, as he’s in a squat position, just calm as could be. I said, all right, we’ll give you 58, is that good. He’s like, yeah, we can do that. He’s fun, man. Those kids really responded to him well down there tonight. I thought Jesse Williams and his guys did a good job, and to see him interact with our staff on the sideline was good to see tonight.
Q. What was it like to see Ryan Schadler back on the field?
DAVID BEATY: Well, honestly it’s almost a miracle if you know really what he went through, which I think it’s been talked about a little bit, but you’re talking about a guy that if he played last year, I’m not sure what would have happened. Unfortunately you don’t want to think that way, but to see him out there and doing what he’s doing, man, that’s just a — I mean, shoot, it’s one of them deals where it’s in somebody else’s hands. You know, there’s a higher being there and it’s there for him, and I just enjoyed watching him go out there. It was fun to see.
Q. Did you guys talk beforehand or afterward about what it meant to him?
DAVID BEATY: You know, the thing he said right before we went out, he’s like, man, do you remember a year ago? I was like, yeah, I was in your living room. We took the jet out there to come see you, and I wasn’t sure you’d ever play football again to be honest with you. I was really worried about whether you were going to take another breath at times because he didn’t look good. But he’s a tough dude and he’s a faithful guy, and I knew when he got out of that surgery, you could just see in his eyes he was not going to be denied. He’s a married guy. He’s one of our guys that’s married, and he’s got a terrific wife. She’s awesome, and man, I don’t think he could have done it without her support.
Q. When you look back at the 58 or however many it was when you first got here, that scholarship number, crawling and climbing and continuing to climb like you are, is this the year you need to have that rotation show up and do what they do there? I know you’ve got a bunch of them, but it’s got to be a nice thing to see.
DAVID BEATY: I don’t think you could say it any better. Guys like Chase that have been here for three years, that was a young guy that really didn’t know a whole lot when he first got here, have got to show up right now. They’ve got to show up. And being able to see him show up was a huge advantage for us. You know, we didn’t get everybody in the game tonight, but Clyde McCauley has come a long way. I don’t know if he got in there for very much tonight. Larry Hughes has come a long way. I mean, you’re talking about Khalil Herbert has come a long way. Taylor Martin has come a long way. He went out midway through the game there.
But some of those guys that were in that original recruiting class, Steven Sims, doing some of the things that he’s doing, and I thought he did a really nice job in the return game tonight.
That’s something that we needed. But watching those guys develop, some of those guys that we’ve had, Josh Ehambe, he was here when we got here, but watching him produce the way he’s producing, Derrick Neal playing just about every snap out there, those are all young ‘uns back there, and seeing them develop has been fun.
Q. Can you talk about the rushing production?
DAVID BEATY: Well, you’ve got rush the ball to get any rushing yards. The thing about it is you — you can’t just say I’m going to run the football when they’ve got nine guys sitting in the box. They’re a double eagle team, which I’m sure y’all know what that is, right, double eagle team? They’ve got basically the guards and the center covered, and then they’ve got their best two players are always playing the buck and the spur, which are the outside guys. I mean, they’ve got seven in the box just by pure alignment whether they’re one high or two high. You’re outnumbered. You’re going to have to run the football outside; they’re not going to let you get in the A gaps. It’s very, very difficult to do.
And I thought Meach did a really nice job of sprinkling in the true freshman at tight end tonight. (Earl) Bostic has been playing tackle for us, and we moved him out there. Seeing Ben Johnson go on the line and getting in some double tight sets and trying to help us with that odd front, and that’s where a lot of that comes is when you’re playing teams that — they’re not going to let you get the football in there, so you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to produce yards.
Q. Five touchdown drives, just five minutes and change combined. Talk about that.
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, I mean, I would say a lot of the drives do end up like that. I think we still have to do a better job of being a little bit smarter as a team and doing a little bit better job with the clock. I think we may have played a series or two extra tonight. If we’d have been a little bit smarter with six or seven minutes left on the clock, we may not have had to go out there again defensively. There’s just a lot we can learn from this game, which is good. You love to learn from wins, not from losses, which is good. So I’m just grateful that we got the win. But there’s a lot of good things that happen. When I walk out of this room I’m going to go in my office and I’m going to enjoy it for about five seconds and then I’m probably not going to sleep over penalties and turnovers. But that ain’t going to fix it. Fixing it is getting out there and working on trying to get those fundamentals down so we don’t have that happen again.
Q. We saw a little bit tonight out of the tight end production, is that part of the Meacham offense?
DAVID BEATY: Just another — it’s another facet of Coach Meach’s mind that he brings to the table that’s really good. I mean, he did a bunch of different things tonight with a bunch of different guys. Watching the way he used the true freshmen Quan Hampton back there, who’s a real talent; Kerr Johnson, another guy that made a great catch there on that dig route. He utilizes all those guys. Watching Daylon Charlot going in there in his packages and all those guys coming in — guys, I told you we’ve got a bunch of receivers. We’ve got bunch of guys now, and every one of them probably could be the starter. I mean, we’re about three deep at every spot, which that speaks to kind of what Matt said, we’ve finally got some experienced guys here that can do — I think they’re pretty good players, and if they keep giving Peyton time like that, it could be a fun year if we can get out of our own way with some of the things we did tonight, and I think we can fix those.
Q. What was the reason for putting in Tyriek (Starks)?
DAVID BEATY: We’re not sure we’re going to have — we’re not sure how many opportunities we’re going to have to use the young kid, right. We didn’t know if there was one drive left, and he hadn’t played a lick of football, and we’ve already used his redshirt, so we wanted to hand the ball off a little bit to Reese Randall. Reese did a great job getting that 1st down there. Great kid, great story of a guy sticking with it, and I wanted to see what Tyriek can do. I would loved to have seen him throw the football, but we were in a situation where we didn’t want to do it. But we’ve seen Carter (Stanley) play, and he didn’t — Carter didn’t need to play in that situation. We don’t gain anything from it, not in that situation.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about just having everyone back? You mentioned Aqib spoke to the team, what was that like?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, you know, Nick Reid came into the locker room just a second ago, and I grabbed him as we were coming in. He was the defensive Player of the Year here, and he’s hanging up out there in the front of that stadium, and quite possibly might be one of the toughest dudes that ever played here, and just having him come in that locker room and hug those guys tonight and be proud for them and with them, we tried to get as many of those legends in front of them as we can. We want them to see the shoulders of giants that they’re standing on, and we want them to look them in the eye because Nick Reid is a guy that was sitting on the bench with a screw coming out of his foot. I mean, coming out of his foot. It wasn’t like some talk. The screw was coming out, and he played through that. That’s a tough dude. And that’s the example that they need to see of what true toughness is. It was good to have all those guys back, how cool was that tonight, Anthony Collins, I’m just sick that he wasn’t able to make it here. I hope everything is okay with him and his family. But to see Bear (Mark Mangino) and those guys, I would have loved to have seen him at halftime, to see Coach back here and going into Hall of Fame — I saw him last night, got to spend a few minutes with him. Man, it does my heart good because they deserve it, and what a great time that was in KU history here, and the good news is for us, we know exactly how they did it, and I’m not afraid to steal it for sure.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Kansas Junior QB Peyton Bender
On his reaction to being named the starter in the first game:
“I didn’t think too much of it. I thought that I had done everything that I could do and I was confident that they were going to choose me. It is nice to know that they have faith in me and they chose me to be the guy.”
On throwing four touchdowns for the first time since Todd Reesing in 2009:
“I didn’t know that until just now, but you just have to attribute the players around me. They made great plays, like the one Chase (Harrell) made on the fade route that was incredible. We have a lot to improve on and we left a lot out there to be honest.”
On scoring early and the benefits of having Steven Sims Jr., as a target:
“I threw him a slant route on the first play of the game and he made two guys collide into each other, then took it the rest of the way. I didn’t do much on that play. I threw a 5-yard pass and it shows up as 70 on the stat book, which is always nice.”
On getting a quick start:
“It felt good. It got my confidence going and reassured myself that we could play. It was nice to see us clicking as an offense out of the gate. Like I said though, we need to be consistent. We showed we can be explosive and (we) need to play like that all the time. We put the defense in some tough spots a few times tonight and they did a great job bailing us out. They played tremendous all night. We need to do better on first and second down to not put ourselves in tough positions.”
Kansas Junior WR Steven Sims Jr.
On setting a new career high 142- receiving yards:
“It is what it is. I’m not satisfied with it. I want to do more and make more plays. I feel like we left a lot out there tonight. We need to continue to work.”
On the mentality going into week two:
“We need to bring the same energy. If we keep the energy level high next week in practice and bring that into the weekend against Central Michigan, then we will be all right.”
On Chase Harrell’s one-handed catch for a touchdown:
“It was sick. Chase makes that catch every day in practice. It wasn’t a big surprise to us, but it was a big catch in the game.”
Kansas RS-Sophomore Joe Dineen Jr.
On playing for the first time after sitting out with injury:
“It felt good. (It was) A long time waiting and it was good to get out there and hit somebody who isn’t a teammate.”
On the defensive effort:
“We will have to look at film, but I was happy with how we played. We made some dumb mistakes for sure, but you know that happens in the first game and we will get it corrected.”
On the 2008 Orange Bowl team being honored tonight:
“Aqib (Talib) came and talked to us last night and I talked to Nick Reid after the game tonight. It’s just good to have those guys back because they are what we strive to be and seeing them in person was pretty cool.”
Kansas Junior DT Daniel Wise
On how he and DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., feed off each other:
“I wouldn’t say it’s just us two, it’s whoever’s in. We just feed off each other and whoever makes plays, makes plays.”
On the team’s hot start to the game and its anxiousness to play:
“All summer long, all camp long, (we’ve been) banging up on each other. I just wanted to hit someone different than my teammates today.”
On the team’s new players:
“They fit in just right, like the missing pieces of a puzzle. We have seen them all camp and all summer. I think the game went well, they handled themselves pretty well.”
On Joe Dineen Jr.’s return to the field:
“It was awesome having my good, old pal Joe Dineen behind me calling plays. (There’s) Nothing like it.”
SEMO Head Coach Tom Matukewicz
“I told the guys I’m proud of the way they fought. (We) Won the fourth quarter; outscored them in the fourth quarter. There were times it could have gotten away and we didn’t let that happen. I think the turning point of the game was when it was 14-7 and we had it in the red zone and got a P.I. (pass interference). That just seemed to really change that (the momentum) and they were able to get in right before half. So that’s really a 14-point swing. All of the things that happened negatively I felt like are correctable things we can do. They’re obviously talented and made some plays out in space off some deep balls. I thought our O-line did a nice job. That’s a really, really good D-line. The hard part when you have a really good D-line is it’s hard to throw it and run it. I thought we held our own a little bit there. They were certainly good and I think they’re a way better KU team than when we played them three years ago. Hopefully they go on and compete in the Big 12.”
On KU’s big play to start the game and how SEMO responded:
“We faked a punt that we didn’t get the first down on and it could have got away from us, but this team’s not like that. They’re all about doing what it takes and they settled in nicely. Al (Young), that long catch was on him. That’s kind of the corner’s life, when you’re a sophomore they’re going to make some plays on you and you’ve got to have that mental toughness to be able to come back in the game.”
On adjusting to KU’s tempo:
“We left a tight end wide open on a shift. We had never seen that. They showed us some stuff we didn’t have any prep for. We’ve got a young secondary so they didn’t handle it very well. It was a little bit of everything. I don’t think the tempo bothered us as much as that we saw some things that we weren’t prepared for and left a couple guys open. We played great on third down. They didn’t run the ball when they wanted to. I think we held up against the run. I really think it was just the big plays. Take the big plays out and it’s a one-score game probably.”
On the punt and forced fumble to a TD:
“That’s what you appreciate about this team. They just kept fighting and found a way to get back in the game. That was a huge play by Omar (Omardrick Douglas) on that punt.”
On Trevon Billington:
“He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s always been able to catch the ball, but he’s done a good in the offseason and kind of had his coming out party. I’m happy for him.”
On where the team progressed from start to finish:
“They moved the ball well. You end up stalling out on a couple drives. The defensive line did a nice job. We moved the ball, we just didn’t execute down in the red zone on some things. It gave me confidence that if our O-line can hold up, I think we’re going to be good for the rest of schedule.”
On Jesse Hosket and a couple of his misses:
“He made some good checks. That’s why we watch the film. I thought it was a good day. People don’t realize how good KU’s defense is. It’s hard to put those balls right where you need them when there’s a lot of pressure. I thought it was a good day.”
On winning the turnover battle:
“It’s something we harp on all the time. (We) Did a nice job. I think our secondary made some plays in space, that was good to see. Then (we) made a play on special teams, we’ve got to continue that.”
SEMO Sophomore WR Trevon Billington
On the offense as a whole tonight:
“We just had a few kinks to knock out, then once we got set we started getting it rolling. So we’re going to pick it up from now and keep it rolling through next weekend to hopefully come out with a ‘W’.”
On his touchdown:
“It felt great. That’s what I’m supposed to do, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates and everybody executing to perfection and doing their job. I just had to do my job and catch the ball.”
On the mentality of the team:
“Even when they (Kansas) went up 14-0, we never thought this game was going to be over. We knew we had to compete, we knew that football games have ups and downs. So we just kept it positive on the sidelines and kept lifting each other up.”
On what it was like to play an FBS opponent:
“It opened my eyes and made me compete at a higher level than I’ve ever played before. Overall, it was just a great experience.”
On preparing for the Redhawks’ next game against Dayton:
“This week it was really all about Kansas. We have to take it one week at a time, so hopefully tomorrow we can get together in the film room to study our opponent and get ready for next week.”
SEMO Senior OLB Chad Meredith
On trying to change the momentum after SEMO was down 14-0:
“We gave up too many big plays, but once we settled in and started playing our (kind of) ball, we contended with them. But it just came down to giving up too many big plays.”
On KU’s drive at the end of the first half and how that distanced the game:
“We have to win those situations. It was a two-minute situation and that’s big time. Especially going into the half, but you know that didn’t affect us as much, just because we were ready with that six-second mentality to move onto the next play.”
On the coaches’ takeaways from this game moving forward:
“We didn’t play well enough and we didn’t play consistently enough. We let up on those big plays, but we saw those glimpses of what we can be and hopefully if we can work to that we’ll be all right.”
On winning the turnover battle:
“The DBs did a great job getting the ball out and getting turnovers. We capitalized on that muffed punt and got that turnover, so I’m proud of the guys.”
On the mood in the locker room:
“Obviously, any loss is going to sting, but we can’t let it define us. We have to move on and get ready for Dayton.”