Kansas drops season opener against Nicholls, 26-23
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas football’s fourth quarter comeback in the 2018 season opener was cut short by Nicholls in the final minutes of regulation as the Colonels forced overtime and scored the game-winning touchdown to down the Jayhawks, 27-23.
It was the Colonels’ rushing presence that outdueled the Kansas passing game Saturday night at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. NSU finished the game with 187 yards on the ground and were led by junior running back Kendall Bussey, who tallied 123 yards and one touchdown.
Kansas threw for 199 yards, with 187 coming from starting quarterback Peyton Bender. Bender threw for two touchdowns, including a 15-yard score to Kerr Johnson Jr. late in the fourth quarter to give KU a 20-17 lead. Johnson finished the night with 54 receiving yards and the score.
Defensively, seniors Joe Dineen Jr. and Daniel Wise combined for 25 tackles; each tying their career-high marks for stops. Dineen recorded his 16th career game with 10 or more stops after tallying 16 total tackles on the night.
HEAD COACH DAVID BEATY // Complete David Beaty quotes
Q. On 3rd down, the play obviously didn’t go as planned. What kind of broke down there?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, you know, we got into a set where we knew we could possibly crease them on a little run play in there with him. As we look back at it, we felt like we were in pretty good shape. They twisted on us a little bit. We should have been able to pick it up, we weren’t able to pick it up, and he got us tackled for a loss. But if we were able to pick that up, we were going to crease them pretty good. Just got to execute better.
Q. Their mistake gave you the safety and then they give you the ball on the 10, you cashed in on that. Do you feel like you let one slip away?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, I mean, as much as they had some situations that let us back in the game, we let them right back in the game as things turned around. We certainly can’t make those kind of mistakes down the stretch. You know, Joe was hustling. I’m not — I certainly would never want him to grab a facemask. But I know he was hustling, and the Bussey kid cut back and he just got him by the facemask. Those happen from time to time, but we’ve got to bow our neck and we’ve got to be able to stop him right there, right. They had a couple of really big plays in the passing game down the stretch there that we’ve — those are mano-a-mano plays, and you’ve got to go make that play, and he made it and we didn’t. We had a big call down there in overtime with the pass interference that was critical, and we’ve got to be better there. You’ve got to be better.
If you do that, you’re in pretty good shape. If you don’t, they don’t get that fresh set of downs.
Q. David, big picture, can you speak to that? Where do you see the program right now?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, well, I’ll tell you this: The sun is going to come up tomorrow, and this team is going to continue to work towards the goals that they have set. We knew coming in it was a good football team. We knew that. We knew it was going to take every single thing we got, plus overtime, maybe six, seven, eight quarters if it was going to take that, and it came to fruition. We knew that they had a bunch of talent. We knew that they were dadgum good on defense. We knew that they were going to be very, very difficult to handle with the way that they max number the box in the run game, and you’ve got to hit some play action behind them to be able to loose them up, and I thought we did it at times. We didn’t do it enough. We’ve just got to get better in that area.
KANSAS PLAYER QUOTES // Complete KU player quotes
PEYTON BENDER // SENIOR QUARTERBACK
On hitting Kerr Johnson Jr., for the touchdown:
“It’s a momentum swing for sure. We went up by three there late and feeling like we were about to win this thing. That’s why you need to play to the end. Nicholls came out and they executed well. We just need to take better advantage of the opportunities that they gave us tonight.”
ALEX FONTANA // SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN
On not capitalizing on Nicholls’ mistakes:
“I think that everything was self-inflicted on our part. Obviously, I had three bad snaps and that is unacceptable. That, in and of itself, makes me feel responsible for this loss. I think that as an offensive line we could have played a lot better. There were just a lot of self-inflicted mistakes and if we could limit those mistakes, we could be a much more successful team.”
NOTABLES // Complete KU game notes
- Senior Steven Sims Jr. caught the first touchdown reception of 2018. Sims now has 16 career touchdown receptions, which is tied with Mark Simmons (2002-05) for fifth all-time in Kansas history.
- After catching a 31-yard reception in the third quarter, senior Kerr Johnson Jr. bested his previous career high of 29-yard reception last season against Texas.
- Senior Joe Dineen Jr. recorded his 16th-career game with 10 or more tackles after recording 16 tackles, which ties his career-high mark.
- With eight tackles on the night, senior Daniel Wise matched his career high with his most tackles since 2016 against Ohio.
- Senior Gabriel Rui made a career long 54-yard field goal, his previous career high was a 50-yard field goal against Oklahoma State in 2017. His career-best kick is the longest since 2009 when Jacob Brandstetter made a 57-yard field against Oklahoma
- A career-long 54-yard field goal by senior Gabriel Rui gave KU its first lead of the night, 10-7, with 13:00 left on the clock in second quarter.
- A high snap by Nicholls was swatted out of the back of the end zone for the safety with 13:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, bringing Kansas within one possession of the Colonels.
- The Jayhawks blocked a Colonels’ punt to take over on the NSU 38-yard line with 10:51 to play in the fourth quarter.
- Colonels’ muffed a punt and the Jayhawks recovered the ball on the NSU 22-yard line with 5:49 to go in the fourth.
- Junior Peyton Bender completed a pass to Kerr Johnson Jr. across the middle for the 15-yard touchdown reception to take the lead, 20-17, with 4:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Kansas will travel to Central Michigan on Saturday, September 8 for a game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Kickoff against the Chippewas is slated for 2 p.m. (CT), with the broadcast designated to ESPN+.