Miscues cost Kansas at Memphis, 43-7
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Three first half fumbles – two on its first three drives of the game – and six turnovers overall, put Kansas in an early hole it couldn’t escape as the Jayhawks dropped their road opener, 43-7, to Memphis Saturday afternoon at the Liberty Bowl.
The Tigers tallied 394 yards of offense – 205 rushing and 189 passing – with an average drive start at their own 48-yard line. Kansas’ freshman running back Khalil Herbert accounted for 35 percent of the team’s offensive output with 74 rushing and 35 receiving yards, to go along with the Jayhawks’ only touchdown of the day.
Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart threw 13 completions on 22 attempts for 87 yards, but tossed two interceptions. Also taking snaps behind center were sophomore Ryan Willis (9-of-13, 80 yards) and redshirt-freshman Carter Stanley (4-of-6, 26 yards). Senior running back Ke’aun Kinner toted the ball a team-high 12 times for 49 yards, while junior transfer wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez caught a game-best six passes for 44 yards.
KU’s defense kept the Jayhawks within striking distance in the first half by flying around to the ball as 11 defenders posted at least three tackles. The defensive effort was bolstered by senior linebacker Marcquis Roberts’ five stops and two tackles for loss, as well as sophomore defensive end Dorance Armstrong’s two-sack, three-tackle-for-loss performance.
Two Kansas fumbles and an 84-yard touchdown pass from Memphis helped put the Tigers up 13-0 after the first quarter. The Jayhawks were held to 84 yards in the first period, while the Tigers gained 160, but the deficit could have been worse as Memphis’ average drive start in the first 15 minutes was its own 41-yard line.
KU’s defense bent but didn’t break in the opening stanza, only allowing the one long touchdown to trail, 7-0. The big stops to keep the game in reach happened on Memphis’ two possessions beginning inside KU’s 25-yard line due to the turnovers. The Jayhawks only allowed two field goals, going down 13-0 at the beginning of the second quarter.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to put their second touchdown of the game on the board at the beginning of the second quarter, going on an eight-play, 74-yard drive, highlighted by a 32-yard rush up the sideline. One play later the score was extended, 19-0, with Kansas stuffing the two-point attempt at the 13:46 mark of the second quarter.
Herbert broke loose on KU’s first possession of the second quarter as the rookie took a carry 66 yards off-tackle up the sideline to the end zone, getting Kansas on the board, 19-7. Herbert’s rush was the longest by a Jayhawk since 2014.
With new life, the Kansas defense played inspired football forcing consecutive three-and-outs. On the contrary, Memphis punted KU into bad field position on the next two drives, stalling all momentum.
More bad luck for Kansas occurred after moving the ball down the field to its own 41-yard line. KU lost its third fumble of the first half as Cozart rolled to his right and the ball slipped out of his hands, this time giving Memphis the ball on KU’s 41-yard line.
Armstrong provided the spark to get the ball back to the offense with a chance to cut into Memphis’ 26-7 lead before halftime. The Houston native recorded his second sack of the game on second down and then sniffed out a draw play for a loss of five more yards, forcing a Tiger punt.
The special teams unit then caused a bad snap by bull rushing through the line and tackled Memphis’ punter at the Tigers’ own 38-yard line with 1:36 to play in the opening half.
As with most things in the first half, Kansas couldn’t get out of its own way and on the first play of the drive, Cozart lobbed a pass that was intercepted and returned 61 yards for another score, giving Memphis a 33-7 advantage heading into halftime.
Neither offense was able to effectively move the ball in the third quarter as there were five combined punts between the two teams. Memphis got on the board by tallying three more points with 35 seconds to play in the third period, 36-7.
Memphis put its 43rd point on the board, by way of a six-yard touchdown rush, after gaining possession by stuffing a Kansas attempt to go for it on fourth-and-short from its own 34-yard line at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Tigers’ offense kept the ball on the ground for the remainder of their possessions, while the Jayhawks still struggled to move up and down the field. The remainder of the fourth quarter saw both teams go scoreless as Memphis claimed a 43-7 victory.
Up Next: Kansas hits the road for a rare mid-week game against Texas Tech on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m. The Jayhawks and Red Raiders will be televised on FS1.
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