Kansas drops heartbreaker to TCU, 24-23

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Senior kicker Matthew Wyman’s game-winning 54-yard field goal attempt was just narrowly wide right as Kansas football dropped its Big 12 Conference home-opener in nail-biting fashion to TCU, 24-23, Saturday afternoon inside Memorial Stadium. 

The valiant effort by Kansas came one point short as TCU junior Brandon Hatfield closed the contest with a 34-yard field goal on the heels of an eight-play, 59-yard drive with 1:21 to play.
Kansas sophomore quarterback Ryan Willis engineered a 38-yard drive in just over a minute to get within range, but two sacks and an incomplete pass cost Kansas a closer shot to win as Wyman had to attempt from 54 yards away.
The Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2 Big 12) led TCU (4-2, 2-1 Big 12), 23-14, heading into the fourth quarter after a 21-yard touchdown run by Willis. TCU answered right back when quarterback Kenny Hill found receiver Jaelan Austin for a 25-yard score to cut the lead to 23-21 in favor of the Jayhawks.
Like the entire game had gone, the two teams would slug it out down the stretch before TCU’s game-winning drive.
Included was a fourth and 22 call where KU sophomore Steven Sims Jr. caught a Willis pass and lateraled to junior wide receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr. for a 26-yard gain. Willis then hit Sims again for a 23-yard gain setting up the long Wyman field goal attempt.
For the day, Kansas amassed 470 yards total offense to 366 for TCU holding the Horned Frogs to 170 yards below their season average.
Kansas got off to a better start than in its previous three games, taking a 7-0 lead after the opening period. The lead marked the first time the Jayhawks held an advantage over a Big 12 Conference opponent since leading TCU on Nov. 15, 2014.
The KU offense was able to convert on 3-of-5 third downs in the opening quarter, and on its third drive, sophomore running back Taylor Martin carried the ball into the end zone from a yard out to push the Jayhawks in front 7-0.
Willis, who started for the first time in 2016, completed 14-of-19 passes in the first quarter. He established a strong connection with senior wide receiver Shakiem Barbel, who hauled in a career-best five receptions for 40 yards after one period of play and ended the day with nine catches for 94 yards. Willis set a career high with 348 yards going 31-for-45 for the contest.
Sims tied Barbel for the team high with nine receptions and his 101 yards receiving marked his third 100-yard receiving game of the season. Junior wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez had eight catches for a career-high 131 yards for the contest.
The Jayhawk defense, despite missing four starters due to injury, kept the explosive TCU offense at bay. Led by an inexperienced group, the Jayhawks forced four turnovers and allowed just 366 yards on 66 plays.
TCU tied the game up at seven on a one-play drive with 9:54 to play in the second quarter on a Kyle Hicks three-yard run following a fumble by KU’s Willis.
With the score tied, the two teams traded empty possessions, before Kansas again took the lead on a 50-yard field goal by Wyman. Trailing 10-7, TCU took its first lead on the ensuing drive. The Horned Frogs traveled 64 yards on six plays capped by an 18-yard dash by Hill. The score put TCU up 14-10 heading into the break.
The two squads traded points until Hatfield gave TCU the final lead of the game on his 34-yard strike with 1:21 to play. The Jayhawks came inches short of winning on Wyman’s field goal attempt to close, but fell to the Horned Frogs, 24-23.
UP NEXT: Kansas will hit the road to Waco, Texas for a 2:30 p.m., kickoff against Baylor. The contest will be televised live on FS1.

DAVID BEATY: You know, tough loss. Nonetheless, it’s still a loss. When you don’t come away with the result that you’re looking for, it should do one of two things for you. You’re either going to get motivated and continue to work to get better to get the result you’re looking for, or you’re going to pack it in.

I’ve said a long time, for a long time now, I like this team, and I like these kids. Just watching how they handled Matt (Matthew) Wyman was pretty cool. Pretty cool. Those guys are united and they believe in one another.

Man, I was proud of a lot of things that those guys did today. They fought and they believed that they were going to win the game all the way until the end.

Some good things today, but obviously we’re going to look back at it and see a lot of things that were things — we wish we could have those plays back.

Let’s take some questions.

Q. The 54-yard field goal, what did you think when that was in the air?
DAVID BEATY: Well, I was praying, just like the rest of our team, and man, we got in a position to where we could take a shot at it, and as a coach that’s all you really want. When you don’t have a lot of time left on the clock and you’ve got to execute a two-minute drill against Gary Patterson’s defense, that’s tough, now. That dude is a good football coach.

Man, we got down there and we gave ourselves a chance. I mean, for that I’m elated. I’m so fired up that we’re starting to grow a little bit as a team. We gave ourselves a chance to win, but man, I am burning inside with the fact we weren’t able to get the win because I felt like we gave it away in a lot of ways, so we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and not just let some self-inflicted things keep costing you.

Q. Three of your biggest defensive players sat out today, yet their backups spent all day in the backfield. What do you make of that?
DAVID BEATY: Man, I’m so proud of those kids. Proud of our coaches because I think that means we’ve evaluated pretty good, and those guys are starting to make progress, which is good. You hope young guys by the time you get to the fifth or sixth game you’re going to make some progress, and they did. Just watching (Keith) Loneker run around out there again, man, I love that kid’s attitude. That’s something we saw right here when he was a local player. It’s great to see a local kid playing that well. He’s kind of taken Joe’s (Dineen) place while Joe was out and really kind of left us with not much of a void there, so it’s been fun to watch him play. (Cameron) Rosser is a guy we don’t talk about a lot, but man, we couldn’t block him. I figured it might be just a matter of time before he gets to the backfield and makes some TFL’s and sacks. I want to say he had four today and he had a couple sacks. Some good production there.

Q. Can you talk about Ryan (Willis)?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, you know, tough day from a perspective of turning the football over. There was no point where we talked about changing quarterbacks because like that run he made for the touchdown, that cap was going to get to the end zone. He was very determined. I love the spirit. I said it last year, I love the spirit. He’s doing to continue to improve. He got a lot of experience today versus — they’re just like everybody else. They didn’t show anything in practice. They showed single high man three the entire dadgum day. They mixed in a little bit of man.

Man, that’s a tough show for a quarterback that hasn’t started really, and they’re throwing all kind of different things at you, and he handled it pretty well. He still had some nice production. But the thing I love about him, man, is spirit. That dude, he controls the huddle well, but we’ve got a long way to go because there’s a lot of good teams in this league, and we’ve got to play at a high level. If not, we won’t get the result that we’re looking for.

Q. What’s kind of your biggest regret on some things that went wrong in the fourth quarter?
DAVID BEATY: I think the thing that’s probably going to be keeping me up tonight is not putting the ball in the end zone from the 1-inch line. That’s a big deal. I mean, we had the ball down there, and that play that knocked us back where we had to kick the field goal, we’ve just got to be more disciplined as a group. If we can get my man Taylor (Martin) just to stay right up inside, we only needed about an inch, and you’ve just got to continue to stay disciplined.

That’s not Taylor, and I’m not blaming that on Taylor. Taylor, man, he made some great plays. He had that touchdown that got called back. Did some great things today.

But when we do exactly like it’s designed, we tend to have success, and when we don’t, sometimes you might get away with it and you might not. More times than not, you’re not going to. We took a chance there, and he wasn’t able to make it happen, but we did put it through the goalposts and gave ourselves some more points, which was good.

Q. Your thoughts on going for it when you were on the 1-inch?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, we’d have been on the 1-inch line again, we would have went. There’s no doubt. But when we lost yardage and we got back to a 4th-and-4 situation, there was really no decision to make there.

Q. Is this another step? It’s not going to be easy. Everyone knew that. Is this another step?
DAVID BEATY: You know, I want to say no, but the truth of the matter is, yes, it is. The pride in me wants to say that it shouldn’t be, but you know what, we’re developing. I love our team, like I said before. They’re showing improvement in a lot of different things. If we continue to do that, I think we’ll continue to play competitive football and give our fans something they can be proud of. We’re going to stay the course.

Q. How long has the hook-and-ladder been in the arsenal?
DAVID BEATY: We’ve had it here for — I mean, it dates back to my Rice days. It’s been in for a while. We’re about to get free on that thing.

But we executed some things today to get us down there to get in position to win the game, which was great. I mean, that play that Kenny (Hill) made — what a good play, man. I mean, what a heads-up play by that kid. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. I’m not sure anybody in here has ever seen that, either. I asked the officials out there; I said, I don’t really know what to say because I’ve never seen that, and they said, Coach, we don’t really, either. It was crazy. It was a crazy play because we grabbed Kenny by his facemask, and the tendency there was to kind of hold up, and the ball came out and there were so many crazy things, but that was a big play in the game. He made a big run out of that.

You know, he made a lot of mistakes today that really kept us in the game at times, but man, when they needed him, he scored a touchdown, he scrambled to go get that ball down there and get it — and they scored a touchdown off of that. That’s what real players do, man. He’s a real player.

I mean, the one thing that just sticks out to me from our defensive standpoint is I think we held them somewhere around 200 yards below their average. With guys like this and teams like this, that’s really hard, so I’m very fired up about that.

Penalty-wise, I thought we were smarter than them. The bad thing is the penalties we got, man, they hurt. So it’s not okay to have low penalties when the ones you have are really, really bad. I don’t think if there’s such a thing as a good one. But we said going in, this team is in the lower category of every four areas of penalties, and we can’t play that game, and we didn’t, but we had five penalties for 61 yards. I think every one of them were pivotal in the game.

We have to learn from those things so we don’t let them happen.

Q. I know you like to look at film, but the final couple minutes, the crowd was so frantic, so loud, and your guys are not used to being in those situations very much. Do you think they handled it with poise? Was it normal?
DAVID BEATY: I mean, that’s why you play, why you coach, because that’s fun, man. That was so much fun. We had more fun over there. Our guys, when they went in and kicked that field goal, our guys over there, you would have thought they had four minutes left in the game. They were ready to go, which that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for them to have that kind of belief.

I’ve got to take my hat off to the offensive line. I thought they did a nice job protecting Ryan for the most part today. There’s some sacks that we gave up that was Ryan’s fault. He’s got to get rid of the football, and he’s learning, but there’s no such thing as a sack on our offensive line, not from what we did offensively. There was a way and a place to get the ball out, and we weren’t able to do it a few times, but for the most part those guys handled that pretty well, so proud of that.

Q. The officials huddled up for about 15 seconds before TCU kicked that last field goal. What the situation there, were they reviewing the fumble?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, a little bit. I thought they were about to review that and see if we actually had possession of the ball. There was some talk about whether or not we had possession of the ball. Yeah, I’d love to have that few seconds back, no doubt about it. But we had to move on with it. We still got in position to — we kept that last pass and we don’t bobble it — I didn’t see the ball, but I guess he bobbled it. That ball is up there five yards closer, and that makes a big difference on a 54-yard field goal.

I mean, you’re going to have those and you don’t need to talk about those because those really don’t matter. The story of the game is what the scoreboard says, and then we’ve got to go to school on the parts in between to get better for next week, because we’re in the Big 12. Our league, a lot of great football teams.

Proud of our team. We’re moving forward. But there’s a lot of things we wish we could have back, but we don’t get them back.

Q. Shakiem Barbel had some big moments in the offense today. Can you talk about that?
DAVID BEATY: Yeah, really the thing that I was really proud of about that was Shak (Shakiem Barbel) started from the first snap and played for us. That was big. He had a couple of nice catches on third down and some middle yardage type situations that he made a couple of tough catches. You’ve got to make the tough contested catches in this league. You’ve got to do it. They made a couple, and then we made some today, which was really good.

You know, that was a change we made to move him over there, and it worked out pretty good for us. Coach (Jason) Phillips does a great job with those guys.

Q. Is it hard for you to gauge that when you guys end up losing a game like this?
DAVID BEATY: We lost the game, but there are still going to be questions whether you win or lose about whether you are getting better or whether you’re not. The answer to that is absolutely. We have to continue to develop, and the win and loss will be a byproduct of us doing things right in our life and on the field, and once we get all that right, we’ll start closing the gap even further and we’ll get in the win column.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Sophomore running back Taylor Martin
On Ryan Willis’ performance against TCU:
“Ryan (Willis) did a great job today. He stayed in there, he was poised and he made smart decisions. We just didn’t get the results we wanted to.”
On what today’s team performance says about the Jayhawks:
“We grind every day and we see that we are taking the next step each week. We all believe in the process and can get the job done. Next week, we are going to come out and be prepared for Baylor.”
Senior wide receiver Shakiem Barbel
On the positives from today’s game:
“Any time that you can come into a game as the underdog and make a statement – make some positive plays on offense and defense – it’s definitely a step forward. There are two positives from this game that our defense did a great job against such a high-caliber offense and our offensive line did a great job all day.”
On the quarterback play of Ryan Willis:
“All I can say is that Ryan did a great job back there. He made great reads, he made great calls and performed well making routine plays, like he does all week.”
On what today’s performance does for the team:
“I think its motivation for our team. Like I said, being able to perform the way we did against such a high-caliber team is definitely motivation for our team to come back and work harder next week.”
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Willis
On what can be taken away from today’s offensive performance:
“For our team right now it hurts, but we can improve on a lot of good things that happened and a few mishaps. I don’t think our team realizes how good we can actually be once things start clicking.”
On today’s game being a step in the right direction:
“Definitely. We believe that we can do it and you saw on the field today we had a chance, but sometimes things don’t fall your way and you have to bounce back. Our focus this week is going to be all on Baylor and we aren’t going to dwell on this game. We are going to get after it and prepare for Baylor next week.”
On what Willis learned about himself today:
“I am going to give it all up for the team. I love the state of Kansas, I love this university, and I’ve lived in Kansas my whole life. I am going to put it all on the line for Kansas.”

Kansas senior LB Courtney Arnick
On his mom performing today’s coin toss:
“I mean having my mom on the field at the start of game, I’ve never experienced that before and I know it meant a lot to her. On top of that I just lost my godmom to breast cancer not too long ago and all praises to my God, rest in peace, she’s resting heaven right now.
“It was very special, it kind of took me for a loop because it’s a college game on ESPN and emotional. I know she was happy and it made her day. She was pumped up. She’s a big college football fan. She keeps up with every game, my games, all the games around the Big 12, everywhere. If I mess up, she’s on me worse than my coach. She was pretty energetic about it. I was on her like, ‘You know you can’t mess up, you’re on TV.'”
On the defense’s play today:
“I feel like we always play hard. All credit to TCU, those guys came out and played great. I believe our defense really stepped it up this game.”
On the team being without usual starters:
“We’re older guys so it’s kind of expected, we just keep the juice going on the team, keep the energy going. Just step in when we’re needed.”

Kansas sophomore LB Keith Loneker Jr.  
On today’s game plan:
“We came in pretty confident with our game plan and we went out there and executed pretty well, bottom line.”
On his individual performance today:
“I think I did pretty good. Coming out of games, there are always plays you wish you could have that one back, but as a whole, as football goes, you bounce back and I think I did pretty good as well as the defense too.”
On next week’s game at Baylor:
“Going into next week we play another team that will probably be in the top 10, so it’s the same thing: being gap sound, make sure coverage is right, make sure we’re sound as a team is the biggest thing we work on so we can be a team.”
On earning a starting role at the same school his father played at:
“I didn’t think about it too much. I just thought about playing at the same school as my dad, it’s pretty sweet, being at the same school, but I didn’t think about it much today.”
Kansas sophomore CB Brandon Stewart
On the team’s depth:
“Across the board I think we’re pretty good. We all pay attention at practice, we all watch a lot of film, it worked out for us today. We just have to get the win next time.”
On the key to slowing TCU down:
“Watching film and looking for tendencies, if a receiver lines a certain way, you can tell stuff. I think I did that and I think the corners and linebackers across the board did too. I think we were just prepared. We should have made a stop on the last drive and we would have won the game, but hey, shout out to TCU, they came to play.”

On the four pass breakups today:
“You get a sense, like, ‘This is mine, this has got to be my week, this game, this game.’ It worked out for me this week and thank God, really.”
On gauging the team’s progress:
“I think we’re pretty good. We just have to go out there and focus and play. When we do that, it shows. I think if we keep doing that, I think we’ll be all right.”

TCU head coach Gary Patterson
On three straight close wins vs. Kansas:
“The bottom line is Kansas has always played us well. With Coach Perry over there you could tell when I blitzed they ran man route beaters. The long play to the two yard line, they knew I was going to blitz. After that long pass I changed my signals and they got better. On defense, I thought Coach Bowen and the defensive crew did a great job, for the past three years he has done a great job. On offense they did what they needed to do to win. Credit to Coach Beaty this is a much improved team this year compared to a year ago.”
On stepping up in the 4th quarter:
“We are two to four plays away from being 6-0. Offensively, you can’t play when you’re behind the sticks. Defensively, you’ve got to make plays and we didn’t in the first half.”
On the Kenny Hill fumble play:
“I thought it was a fumble and everyone was standing around. Once I saw the replay, he didn’t go down and the ball went backwards. The only thing I knew was the whistle didn’t blow. It’s one of those where someone is going to be a bad loser when it comes to a play like that because you’re mad at what happened. We had one of those plays last week against us. Usually when you win those plays, you get a chance to win the game. It was definitely a play that helped us in the end.”

TCU junior K Brandon Hatfield
On the winning kick:
“It’s an amazing feeling. This is a great feeling to get out of Lawrence with a W. It’s a great group of guys, from specialists, from offense, defense, coaching staff, everyone.”
On how the last field goal felt compared to the first missed attempt:
“The first kick felt good, the wind got to it a little bit. I thought I hit it all right. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
On Coach Patterson wanting the ball higher on kicks:
“All I know is if my number is called, I go in and try to perform to the best of my abilities. The kicks will take care of themselves.”
TCU senior DE Josh Carraway
On the last defensive series:
“I was exhausted, but it was the last plays so you have to leave it all on the field. As one of the leaders and one of the captains they’re looking at me to make a play so I try to go out there and do that to the best of my ability.”
On Brandon Hatfield’s game-winning kick:
“It was huge. I couldn’t even watch it. I was going to wait and hear if it was really loud I would know he missed it. It was a soft yell so I knew it was our guys screaming and he made it.”
On TCU’s pass rush:
“The coaches have been letting us go after it and go have fun. We have  a lot of older guys and a lot of guys who have more experience. We know the flow of the game and how to get to the quarterback better.”

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