Jayhawk Insider: Secondary shines vs. Heisman Hopeful, WVU
The Kansas defensive backs shook up West Virginia quarterback and Heisman hopeful Will Grier with three interceptions on Saturday, Oct. 6 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Jayhawk defense had recorded eight interceptions on the season by eight different players, and after West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen made comments that seemed to belittle the accomplishments of the KU secondary earlier in the week, the defense set out to prove him and the nation wrong by pressuring Grier into multiple mistakes.
Kansas junior Hasan Defense made an impact starting at cornerback his last season for the Jayhawks, and one season later, the Kilgore College transfer has transitioned to safety where he has played the last few games and continues to gain confidence in his new role.
“I told coach I’m starting to get comfortable and I’m able to see the ball a little better,” Defense said. “I know how the offense is trying to attack me and knowing that, I had to come in here with confidence.”
Up 14-0 with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter, West Virginia intercepted a pass by KU quarterback Carter Stanley and took over possession at the KU 28-yard line. With their backs against the wall, the Kansas defense needed a stop to prevent the potent WVU offense from taking a three-score lead. On the play’s first drive, Defense broke up a pass, but Grier ran for 13 yards on second-and-10 to pick up a first down. Two plays later, Grier took a shot at the end zone, but Defense came away with the pick, returning it 28 yards to give KU the ball back, where the Jayhawks took over and marched down the field for their first score of the day.
Trailing 21-7 with just over eight minutes to play in the first half, the KU defense took the field looking to come up with another stop early. The WVU offense took over at their own 12-yard line, but marched down the gridiron all the way to the KU 2-yard line before senior defensive tackle Daniel Wise recorded a four-yard tackle for loss on second-and-goal. On third down, Grier again looked for the end zone, but for the second time Defense picked him off, this time taking it 60 yards down the field before being pulled down by the WVU signal caller.
After giving the ball back to the Mountaineers two plays later, the defense was forced to take the field yet again, this time with just 2:20 remaining in the half, and yet again they were able to come up with an interception in the end zone off the Heisman hopeful, this time by sophomore Davon Ferguson.
Ferguson, a safety in his first season with the Jayhawks after transferring from Hartnell College, grew up in Baltimore, just a three-hour drive from Morgantown. Being so close to home energized the first-year Jayhawk to pick up a career-high three tackles and his first interception.
Although West Virginia ultimately came out on top in the game, the Jayhawk defense held Grier to a season-low 332 yards and his second-worst completion percentage of the year (68.3 percent), and also dropped the quarterback for five sacks in the game.
The Jayhawks have now intercepted 11 passes on the season, with 10 different players recording a pick, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
Kansas will use a bye week to prepare for its third Big 12 road game of the season, when the Jayhawks travel to Lubbock, Texas to take on Texas Tech on Oct. 20.